A Trip Around the World in 1935
My grandfather was born in May 17, 1921 in southern Korea where his father was a missionary. In 1935, his family took a furlough year. He describes the journey in his memoir. The published version of his memoir is available here; this is taken from the original manuscript.
By far the most “educational” two months of my life took place in the summer of 1935. It was a furlough year for our family after seven years in Korea. My parents had saved their money, researched travel plans, and prepared to take the long way back to America by sailing around the by “the ports.” This meant traveling by ship via Japan, as far south as Singapore, through the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea to England, and across the Atlantic to the U.S. Two weeks in Palestine and two weeks in the British Isles were carefully scheduled, and we would be on shipboard 56 nights during the summer. My Aunt Margaret Hopper traveled with our family, making six in the party.
Before departure my parents encouraged me to keep a daily diary, so I bought a little book for that purpose and faithfully recorded events and sights along the way. It was a fascinating and quite detailed account written from the viewpoint of a 14 year old boy and I would pay a good price to have it for reference now. Unfortunately it was one of the casualties of the Korean War. When we suddenly evacuated from Chonju in June of 1950 and could bring only one suitcase apiece along with us, it never occurred to me to pick up that little diary. Hence it was left behind, and very likely was used to start a fire or paper the walls of some little Korean house. It is therefore necessary to reconstruct our experiences that summer entirely from my memory which, after 55 years, is not to clear on all the details.
Our journey began by train to Pusan, night ferry across the Japan Straits to Shiminoseki (Japan), and train along the coast of the scenic Inland Sea of Japan to Yokohama where we boarded the British P.& O. passenger ship “Mantua.” She was a World War I vessel and was now on her last voyage before being scrapped… and looked like she was ready to retire. Nevertheless she was sea-worthy and comfortable and in every way thoroughly British, from the cabin “boy” who announced that our “bahth” was ready to everyone standing to sing lustily “God save the King” before the showing of a movie. This was the year of the three month celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George and Queen Mary. Great Britain was at the height of her imperial glory, and celebrate she did that summer! Pictures of the royal family were everywhere while newspapers and magazines could think of nothing else. Almost every place we visited during the summer was controlled by the British, and we could not help but sense the pride and patriotism of the subjects of the empire upon which the sun never set.
But there were also dark clouds on the horizon. Beneto Mussolini had become the dictator of Italy, and this was the summer his troops were invading Ethiopia. As we sailed the seas toward the Suez Canal there was talk that Great Britain might close the canal to shipping in order to hinder the Italian military movements. This, plus whatever dire consequences might be the result of these international tensions in the regions we expected to travel, caused my parents considerable concern. Fortunately nothing happened to interfere with our plans, but as we look back now, it is with the realization that history-making events were occurring which continued to escalate until World War II began.
In all we touched 19 ports that summer, from the time we left Pusan until we reached New York. When we were in port, our nights were spent in our cabins on board ship, but days were crammed with as much sight-seeing as possible. For many of them I can recall only one or two outstanding impressions. After sailing from Yokohama, Japan, our first stop was Shanghai, China. Here, even after leaving a land as heavily populated as Korea, we were impressed by the enormous crowds thronging the streets. I remember that we walked along Nanking Road, which was literally wall-to-wall people. Right in the middle of the crowd on that street we met a missionary family serving in China (the Yates with their three daughters).
The next port was Hong Kong where we enjoyed our first glimpse of British colonial life. It was not quite the modern city then which it is today, but it was rich and prosperous in appearance. We drove in a taxi of some sort up along the crest of the mountain overlooking the city and enjoyed views out over the harbor and islands. Father saw in the newspaper that the famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein would give a concert at the roof garden of the Victoria Hotel on our one and only evening in Hong Kong, and he was determined that we should take in this musical treat. We were properly cleaned up and dressed in our Sunday-go-to-meeting best and went to the roof-top of this prestigious hotel where we found ourselves with the elite British and Chinese residents of Hong Kong… all decked out in the latest and most fashionable evening attire for this occasion. Though dressed in our very best and trying to act as though such occasions were old stuff to us, in reality we were about as crude and ill at ease as peasants from the farthest reaches of inland China would have been! We took inconspicuous back seats where we could not only take in the concert but have a sight-see of all the other illustrious guests. Rubinstein was a little short man, and for us children, the most entertaining feature was how, in order to reach all of the keyboard, he had to bounce up and down the piano bench with the tips of his swallow-tailed coat flapping around. So much for our “cultural event!”
Singapore was another jewel in the necklace of British colonies we visited that summer. It was clean and neat but I remember very little except that we drove from the island on which it lies across a causeway to the mainland of Malaysia to visit a rubber plantation. We continued sailing up the west coast of Malaysia to the port city of Penang, an island off the northern corner of that nation. Among the sightseeing attractions was a famous “snake” temple. It was a weird place, filled with clouds of incense smoke and vertical poles on which were racks of live snakes. How poisonous they were I do not know, but they appeared to be very heavily drugged… perhaps by the incense which was enough to anesthetize any one. The place was crowded with people who moved among the snake “roosts” bowing and worshiping these reptiles. Forever afterwards when Father preached about the “heathen in his blindness” he used the snake temple of Penang as his most graphic illustration of pagan worship.
Columbo is on the western coast of the island of Ceylon (now the Republic of Sri Lanka) about 2 0 miles south of the Indian mainland. The island is noted for tea, spices, precious stones and rubber, but more than anything else our parents wanted to see the “cinnamon gardens” about which they had read. The driver of the rented car seemed perplexed about the where-abouts of this place and we never found it, although in wandering around looking for it we saw many beautiful tropical gardens and parks. I think Father wanted to see the source of the familiar lines in Reginal Heber‘s great missionary hymn, From Greenland’s Icy Mountains:
What though the spicy breezes Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though ev’ry prospect pleases,
And only man is vile:
In vain with lavish kindness The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness Bows down to wood and stone.
I don’t recall sniffing any “spicy breezes” or detecting that “only man is vile” but certainly it is an isle where “ev’ry prospect pleases!” Our only port-of-call in India was Bombay, an enormous and densely populated city. Like many of the ports in the British Empire, it is situated on an island off the west coast of the mainland. Besides the crowds, I remember that much of the city was filthy and unpleasant. For some reason Father wanted to see the “towers of silence” for which the Indian Parsees are famous. This ancient cult belongs to the Zoroastrian religious persuasion and takes its name from the old Persian province of Parsa. The towers are about 30 feet high and built over a pit. The bodies of the Parsee dead are laid on the top of the towers on an open grating over the pit. After the vultures have swooped down and eaten the flesh, the bones drop into the pit below. It was pointed out to us where this gruesome custom was carried out, but we did not actually see the towers themselves. Why in the world this fascinated Father, I do not know.
As we approached the Holy Land, the tempo of our “orientation” in preparation for this tour accelerated. Every day we were called away from deck tennis or whatever else we were doing to sit on deck chairs in some quiet spot where one of our parents would read to us for an hour or so. They had brought along books such as H. V. Morton’s “In the Steps of the Master” which was a detailed travelogue describing his visit to various places in Palestine along with the historical significance of each place. As a Bible scholar, Father was already well acquainted with much of this material, but he too, wanted to make the most of this trip by being fully prepared in every way. This reading and study was more than worth while, and I know contributed to making our trip far more than mere sightseeing.
At Aden on the south-western tip of the Arabian peninsula we were conscious of touching the borders of Biblical territory. We docked for a day at this city which is now the capital of Yemen. It was fiercely hot and the sun seemed twice as brilliant as usual. Very likely this impression was intensified because, after the lush green vegetation of the southern ports, here there was no vegetation, trees, or shade. Buildings were made of white stone, increasing the glare of a burning sun. The travel books had told of “Solomon’s Pools” here, and it was imperative that we see anything associated with such an important Old Testament character. A car and driver were hired and we drove out of town into the entrance of a deep valley or ravine, and were shown large reservoirs sealed with some kind of white plaster to hold water. Since there is almost no rain fall in this arid region, these “pools” acted as cisterns to catch the waters of sudden flash floods when the rare rains fell in those valleys where there was only bare rock and no vegetation to hold the water. The legend is that some of Solomon’s commercial ventures were based here, and, given its strategic location, this is entirely possible.
Sailing north up the lengthy Red Sea was one of the most unpleasant parts of the trip because of the almost unbearable heat. When there was a breeze it only made matters worse as it carried the surrounding desert hot air with it. Of course in those days air-conditioning was unknown, and all we could do was endure it. This discomfort was somewhat relieved by watching the distant shore-line, particularly toward the east where lay the Sinai Peninsula. It was bare and forbidding, filled with rough rocky mountains, and from a distance completely devoid of all life. We could visualize how Moses had fled from Egypt to this desolate region, married the daughter of Jethro, kept the flocks of his father-in-law, and heard God’s call from the burning bush. We could imagine how the Children of Israel must have suffered for lack of food and water for 40 years in such a wilderness. Some of the mountains were extremely high and we kept trying to decide which was Mt. Sinai (at about 75 miles away and probably invisible from our ship).
Like other ships waiting to enter the Suez Canal, we anchored off the port of Suez (at the south end) until the schedule allowed us to proceed. At this point we knew we must be very near where Moses led his people through the Red Sea on dry land and could imagine the surroundings and situation of a flight of thousands of refugees with the mighty Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit. No doubt our parents saw to it that we examine the account in Exodus of this great miracle which was forever such a monumental high-point in Jewish history and religion and is commemorated by numerous references throughout the Bible. Traffic through the canal was one-way, so convoys north and south were scheduled and could pass each other only in lakes along the way. The canal itself seemed to be just a big ditch through the sand which stretched away on each side. Ships had to sail very slowly lest their propellers stir up waves and wash down the sand from the banks. When the canal turned slightly and we could see other ships around the bend but could no longer see the canal itself, it looked as though ship superstructures were sailing majestically across the desert sands. Occasionally we could see Arabs along the bank, and camels carrying burdens or working.
We docked at the northern end of the canal at Port Said and took a train half-way back down the west side of the canal. In those days Egypt and Palestine were part of the British Empire, and crossing national borders was no problem at all.
It was dark when we reached Ismailiya and crossed over the canal to the other side to catch a night train to Palestine. I remember nothing of that trip except how excited we were the next morning when we waked up to find ourselves in a railroad station where the sign read “Gaza.” We were right in the heart of the Philistine territory and remembered the exploits of Samson and how he carried off the gates of this city one night. We continued through olive orchards and vineyards up through rough hills and deep rocky ravines towards Jerusalem, mindful that in this region David had faced Goliath and killed him with a stone from his slingshot and later with his band of desperados lurked while playing hide and seek with King Saul’s army.
Arriving in Jerusalem we stayed at the American Colony which was a sort of hostel for people interested in visiting the Biblical sites. It also entertained some of the scholars doing research or engaged in archeology. It was located in the northern suburbs of the city, and through its offices Father had worked out a schedule of tours and arranged for a car and driver to take us about. It was comfortable, provided good American style meals, and was friendly and helpful. Father was now in his glory, and all of us were anxious to see as much as possible in the ten days allotted for our visit.
Of primary interest was the area where Solomon’s temple and its successors were built and where now the Moslem “Dome of the Rock” or “Mosque of Omar” is located.
Some think this was Mt. Moriah where Abraham was told to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. Here was the threshing floor of Araunah which David bought to avert the pestilence God had sent. Much of the history recorded in both the Old and New Testaments took place around this spot. Jesus Himself was brought here to be circumcised and after He was 12 years old must have returned quite often. It was to claim this site that the Crusades were organized and fought, and where tensions are still very much alive between Jews and Moslems. We were sad that the quirks of history have now brought it under the control of Islam no matter how magnificent and gorgeous the mosque itself is. We entered and walked around the great rock under the dome and entered the cave in its side where we saw an inverted bucket-sized depression overhead, said to have been caused when Mohamed the prophet rose from kneeling in prayer and the ceiling receded to keep him from bumping his head.
Going south from the American Colony into Jerusalem we normally passed through the Damascus Gate. One day our guide took us to a small entrance near this gate which led us down into a cave-like passage way under the city. There we found ourselves in the extensive “Solomon’s quarries” which many other tourists never visit. We walked quite a long distance through glistening man-made white caves which are actually a quarry from which in ancient times building stone for the city was carved out of the chalk rock which underlies much of Jerusalem. The rock is so soft that it can be cut with a pocket knife, so I cut a small piece to take with me. When brought out into the air and sunlight this stone quickly hardens and turns a delicate pink shade. It is thought that I Kings 6:7 refers to the way in which stone for building Solomon’s temple was quarried underground here so that the chiseling could not be heard above ground. “And the house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built.”
On the day when the rest of the family visited (among other places) the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditional tomb of Jesus, I was confined to bed with “the bug,” that common scourge of tourists in foreign lands who eat food or drink water that doesn’t agree with them. Fortunately the people who ran the American Colony were most kind and looked after me so that the others could continue sight-seeing. However, the family was not particularly impressed by what they saw at this church, surrounded as it is with so much elaborate decoration and ritual and squabbling clerics.
Later I did see a tomb which was far more “natural” and fully in keeping with the Biblical account of the type of tomb where our Lord was buried. This place was called the “Tomb of the Kings,” although I don’t know just which kings. It was a bit out of the city in some sort of garden where there was a rock cliff which we approached from the lower level. The small opening for a “door” had been cut into the cliff face near the bottom, and was perhaps two feet wide and four feet high. It would have required the disciple John to stoop in order to look into such a tomb, as recorded in his gospel: “. .and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.” (John 20:5)
Running from just below the door on a gradual incline to the right up along the cliff face was a sort of narrow shelf with a long groove in it. Beneath the door and also at the upper end of this were slight depressions in that groove. Resting in the upper depression was a large round stone, like a mill stone, perhaps five or six inches thick and big enough in diameter to cover the door of the tomb. That stone could be rolled down the groove which served as a track until it rested in the lower depression and completely blocked the door. It might not be so difficult to roll it down, but to roll it up that track would take several strong men. It was exactly the situation described in Mark 16:3-4. “And they [the women] were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.”
We entered the tomb and found ourselves in a large room with a stone table in the middle, just the right size upon which a body could be laid out. We could imagine that in such a tomb, Jesus had been hastily placed on Good Friday evening, and that the cloths seen by His friends on Easter morning would be easily visible, lying right there where the now Risen Lord had lain. I am sure this tomb was far more realistic than the Holy Sepulcher, and has always been the mental picture I have carried whenever reading of the resurrection.
One day we drove down to Bethlehem and Hebron, some 10 and 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Like most of Palestine the region was bare and rocky without much in the way of vegetation. Yet on the hills around Bethlehem there were shepherds tending flocks of sheep, very much like the boy David had done, or others a thousand years later were doing on the night Jesus was born. We entered the Church of the Nativity which is rather depressing due to the multiplication of trappings and ceremony involved, to say nothing of the childish disputes over “rights” on the part of various Christian sects. The presumed birth place itself is deep down in a sort of cave under the church where it is surrounded by candles and burning incense. Perhaps it is the true place of His birth, but it is hard for me to picture that as the setting of an Oriental Inn with its stable, conveniently located to care for the animals of travelers. At Hebron we were shown the mosque which has been erected over the cave of Machpelah where the patriarchs of Genesis were buried. Given the meticulous care with which Abraham secured the deed to that property, and the veneration of eastern people for graves, I am inclined to believe this is truly the spot. However, the Moslems have not permitted anyone to enter and verify all this.
Another day we drove eastward down through the wilderness of Judea to Jericho, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea. This required descending from the Jerusalem elevation of about 2500 feet to the Jordan Valley depression which is about 1300 feet below sea level. The wilderness is exactly what that word implies… a region of rocky cliffs and caves and dry gullies (or wadies). When Satan came to tempt Jesus who had fasted for 40 days, he could point to innumerable white stones, some of them loaf shaped, and tempt Him to turn them into bread. When Jesus told the parable of the man who fell among thieves as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho through this region, He was without question drawing from actual fact because in that lonely and forbidding region, thieves and thugs of all kinds could hide and pounce upon travelers to rob them. Here again, the pages of Scripture came alive to us. We saw the mound where Jericho had been, but in 1935 there had been little excavation by the archaeologists to expose any ruins for us to see. Of course we remembered how “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumblin’ down.”
A few hundred yards away was the Jordan River, which was a bit disappointing after some of the hymns and poetry we had heard. It was a rather small muddy stream which would not have been difficult to ford… but we knew that when Joshua led his people across it was flood season and required the miracle that God performed. We stepped on, but did not cross, the Alanby Bridge connecting Palestine with the nation of Jordan which, being under French control, would have required another visa. We drove from there several miles south to the Dead Sea which lives up to its name. With all the salt and chemicals in it, there is a sulfuric smell. I stuck my hand in the water up to my elbow and when I drew it out it was salty and oily and refused to dry off despite the super intense heat of the day. It is said that a swimmer literally cannot sink because of the heavy concentration of salt.
Frankly, we were glad to leave and return to Jerusalem where it was cooler. On our return trip we passed through the village of Bethany, just two or three miles from the city. There is nothing special to see there, and no one pointed out the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Clearly it was the most convenient place for Jesus to stay when he visited Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels. Its proximity to Jerusalem helps account for the tremendous sensation caused in the city by the miracle performed by Jesus in raising Lazarus from the dead. My most vivid recollection of Bethany is of a man by the roadside hawking “David-y slings.” The fact that this was “Bethany” and not “Bethlehem,” the city of David, did not seem to bother him so long as the tourists came by and bought one.
We visited the Mount of Olives, which is separated from Jerusalem by a small valley. Jesus could have walked out through the “Gate called Beautiful” and in a very few minutes reached the olive orchards and gardens on the slopes of the mountain. We were shown one garden, said to be Gethsemane, where there were ancient gnarled olive trees reputed to be several thousand years old… and they certainly looked like it. Whether or not this particular garden was the one Jesus used as a place of prayer, we do not know, but it was certainly very much like it.
The place of Jesus’ crucifixion is not known for certain, but we did see what is called “Gordon’s Calvary” which is a great stone formation just outside the Damascus Gate north of the city. It is just the sort of place which would be suitable for executions, but no one knows the real place. Personally I think God has allowed all the location of the actual “holy places” to become blurred and indistinct through the ravages of time and warfare so that none of them can really become a place to be worshiped.
Our longest excursion took several days, when we headed in our “chauffeured” car to the north. Occasionally along the highway we saw Bedouins in their tents, surrounded by live stock, children, and little gardens scratched out of the dry soil. When we stopped to see them, we were invariably invited to come in and visit with these hospitable people. We stopped near the ancient city of Samaria at Jacob’s well, which is fairly well authenticated. A candle in a little cage was lowered by a long cord while we looked down, and we confirmed that, just as the woman of Samaria said to Jesus, “the well is deep,” (John 4:11)… in fact it is very, very deep.
Along the way various towns mentioned in the Bible were pointed out until we came to Nazareth for lunch. The town was on the side of a hill and rather squalid and dirty. While of course the home and carpentry shop of Joseph and Mary are pointed out for the benefit of tourists, the only spot that seemed real was the well at the lower part of the village where the women were drawing water, washing vegetables and laundry, and gossiping as I am sure Mary would have done. My single strongest memory of Nazareth is that it was swarming with flies, especially in the little cafe where we ate.
In the afternoon we drove down to the Sea of Galilee, about 600 feet below sea level but quite pleasant. There was more grass and vegetation on the hill sides than elsewhere and of course the beautiful and calm sea below us as we drove down. We spent the night at a small convent by the seaside, but in the afternoon walked along the shore to Capernaum. Now we knew we were literally “in the footsteps of the Master” and could imagine Him sitting on the hillside teaching the multitudes, pointing to the lilies of the field and the farmer sewing his seed, or calling to the fishermen who still sail their little boats on the sea. There was no modernization, no tourist busses or hotels, no industrial complexes, no bustling businesses… all seemed very much as it had been since the time of Jesus. Capernaum must have been a very small village, and we were shown the foundation of several houses and that of the ancient synagogue. It did not take much imagination to see where Peter lived and provided a home away from home for his Master. With all this mental picture of this whole region, I am reluctant to ever try to see it again, now that so much change has taken place.
The next morning we took the highway north-east of the Sea of Galilee to Damascus, pausing briefly at the Jordan River border where we crossed into Syria, controlled by the French. Formalities were brief and we drove up through the now famous Golan Heights along the route the Apostle Paul may have taken when he saw his vision of the resurrected Savior and had his life turned around completely. Damascus was more like the oriental cities familiar to us in Asia… crowded and dirty, with shops spilling into the streets and merchants hawking their wares. About my only recollection of the place is walking along the “Street called Straight” which was anything but straight. It was narrow and crooked, more like passing through a busy bazaar than anything else. After eating lunch we drove due west.
Mid afternoon found us at Baalbek in the valley between the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range (which we had crossed) and the Lebanon Mountain range to the west between us and the Mediterranean Sea.1 We spent the night in a large tourist hotel. That afternoon we toured the great temple for which the place is justly famous and were awed by the gigantic size of its construction. Here the ancient Phoenicians had enshrined their god Baal, the Greeks had built Heliopolis (City of the Sun) , and the Romans had erected the magnificent temple about whose ruins we strolled. No one has figured out how they could use in the structure 750 ton stones, some of them set 20 feet above ground. I saw one which had been cut in a quarry but not used and it was about the size of a modern truck trailer. Many of the great stone columns still stand, and one wonders how they could have been carved, let along raised to such lofty heights.
When we returned to the hotel for dinner that evening, there was a large crowd of people in the lobby, obviously Americans. Since leaving Korea we had not seen any Americans, and Father was curious as to who they might be, especially since he detected a “southern” accent. Not knowing how to get introduced he spoke loudly across the room to my Aunt Margaret, “My, how I would like to have some hot biscuits tonight!” That promptly broke the ice and introductions were made all around. We discovered that this party included many people from in or near Charlotte, N.C., some of them Presbyterians with whom my parents had mutual acquaintances.2
Our route back to Jerusalem took us across the Lebanon Mountains. We spotted some snow along the highway, and a few groves of cedar trees, although most of the famous “cedars of Lebanon” seemed to have disappeared. Reaching the coast at Beirut we drove south along the Mediterranean coast past Tyre and Sidon to Haifa and spent the night in some kind of monastery on Mt. Carmel where Elijah had his great contest with the prophets of Baal. Our final day took us back to Jerusalem where we boarded the night train for Cairo, Egypt.
We were in Egypt only two days but two places stand out in my memory. One was our visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx. When we arrived at their location it was decided to ride camels which could be hired for the tour. They were kneeling on the ground and each had an owner who led him (her) around. When we climbed on their backs it took considerable persuasion to get the lazy beasts to stand, and when they did it seemed they stood on their hind legs first and then on their front legs which made us feel we might fall off. They complained and whined as though we were intolerable burdens for them to endure. Their gait was a peculiar circular one as though putting down each foot separately. Our attendants told each of us the name of our camel, such as “Queen Victoria” or “Prince Albert.” Father asked what his camel’s name was and nearly fell off when told, “Whiskey and Soda!”
The size of the stones with which the great pyramid was built amazed us. They are about waist high and to clamber up to the top by what amounts to steps of that height would be quite a feat. As it was we went up the side by an easier route for a short distance and then entered the pyramid, first going down a long passage and then up another quite a distance so that we must have reached a point close to the heart of the structure. The passage by which we went up was not very wide but had an extremely high ceiling. At the top we found ourselves in a large room with a stone sarcophagus and nothing else. The place was looted of all its original treasures long ago. We were told there were other rooms above or below, but they could not be entered. It was awesome to visit this place with its evidence of the engineering skills of a civilization thousands of years ago.
My other particular memory of Cairo is of our visit to her museum where we spent most of a day. The tomb of Tutankhamon, the pharaoh of Egypt who died in 1335 B.C. had been discovered not many years before our trip. Its contents of glittering gold had been moved to the museum and occupied a tremendous area. His mummy had been encased in several nested coffins inside a large room-size golden “cage” which was inside other “cages” along with all the possessions he supposedly would need in the after world. How much gold and precious stones were involved, we didn’t know, but it was magnificent evidence of the wealth and power of ancient Egypt in an era not too far from that of Moses who had been raised in a court of similar splendor to enjoy “all the pleasures of Egypt.”
As we returned to Port Said and boarded our second P. & O. steamer, we concluded our two week visit to the Holy Land. Years later, it seemed that in that short time I had received more education and understanding of Bible geography, culture, and history than in all my years in seminary put together. It made almost all the history and scenes related in Scripture come alive when ever I read about them. My parents certainly got their money’s worth during that time in terms of contributing to my preparation in every way, especially for the ministry.
Sailing across the Mediterranean, we stopped briefly and went ashore for a few hours at the port of Valletta, capital of Malta. The city is on the top of high cliffs that drop straight down to the sea in the harbor and it was necessary to climb long flights of stone steps to the street level at the top. Again we were reminded that the Apostle Paul was ship-wrecked on some part of this island on his way to Rome. We made three other brief stops in the Mediterranean: Marseille (France), Tangier (Morocco), and Gibraltar. I believe the only place we visited during the very short visit in Marseille was a famous cathedral on a high hill.
My outstanding memory of Marseille is that my Uncle George Hopper came aboard there and sailed with us to Tangier. He was a U.S. consul assigned (I think) to Algiers at that time and had made this visit especially to see his siblings (Father and Aunt Margaret) and the rest of our family whom he had not seen for many years. During the days between Marseille and Tangier, where he disembarked, we spent many hours sitting in deck chairs while he regaled us with tales of their childhood and of his many experiences in different lands as a consul. We were not permitted to go ashore at Tangier or Gibraltar, though of course we had a good sight-see of the famous rock of Gibraltar.
With the Silver Jubilee of the Royal Couple in full swing when we arrived, London was in a festive mood. We spent two weeks in England and Scotland, but I have no recollection of where we stayed during those visits. We saw the usual sights of the “Changing of the Guards” at Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, and so on. Father was especially interested in seeing where the Westminster Divines had devised our confession and catechisms, and the tombs of famous men such as David Livingstone.
At the British Museum we spent considerable time but could not begin to explore it completely. Father took care that we should see the Codex Sinaiaticus, one of the oldest Greek biblical manuscripts, which had been found by Tischendorf a century before at the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. Only two years before our visit it had been bought by popular subscription and placed in this museum. We also saw the famous Rosetta Stone, which had provided the key to solving the riddle of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
When we were in St. Paul’s cathedral, Father was reading inscriptions inside the dome far above us, but I was unable to see any writing at all. This alerted my parents to the fact that I was very near sighted, and had probably been that way for some time and did not know it. As soon as we reached America they saw to it that I was provided with glasses. Other excursions took us to Warwick Castle and the Shakespeare Country so that our education in British History and Literature was also enhanced.
The “Flying Scotchman” carried us by rail to Edinburgh. This was one of the most famous and fastest trains in the world at that time, advertised as a 12-hour nonstop ride. There were no such inventions as diesel locomotives, and a coal burning train required a special feature in order to have enough water to supply the boilers for such a long time. At intervals along the route water troughs were between the rails, and a scoop under the engine sucked up water into the tanks while the train kept moving. In Edinburgh, we visited the usual tourist places, but again Father was particularly interested in Presbyterian History and we saw everything possible connected with the life and work of John Knox… his home, St. Giles Cathedral, and Holy Rood Palace where he preached to (at) Mary, Queen of Scots. We also took one of the day long excursions to several lakes (such as Lock Lomond) to enrich our understanding of some of Sir Walter Scott’s novels.
We sailed on our third P. & O. steamer from Liverpool across the Atlantic to Boston. After so much time at sea and more than seven years away from America all of us wanted badly to go ashore and see the sights of this city too. But we were told that our ship would only be in port a couple of hours and that we could not go in to town. However, we were allowed to walk up and down the dock and stretch our “sea-legs” for a while. Instead of only a few hours in Boston, the ship stayed tied to the dock all day long, so we were completely disgusted that we had not had the opportunity to tour some of the historic sites in that city. Another short sail and we passed the Statue of Liberty into New York harbor. As we entered one door of the pullman coach that night to travel to Charlotte, N.C., who should be entering the door at the other end but some of the people we had met that night in the hotel in Baalbek, many weeks before!
The first half of our furlough year was spent in Rock Hill, S.C. and the rest in Richmond, Va. Rock Hill was the home of my mother’s family, the Barron clan. Oakland Avenue seemed to be lined with Barron residences. Mother was one of eight brothers and sisters, all of whom (except mother) lived on that street except two who were living in places less than 25 miles away. One brother (Uncle Archie) was a doctor in Charlotte. Uncle John was a banker at the Peoples’ National Bank and was highly admired and trusted because he was credited with saving that bank from going under during the Depression when almost all other banks failed. The other three brothers (Ed, Will, and Earl) ran the Rock Hill Hardware Company along with the three sons (Edwin, Billy, & Caldwell) of the oldest brother… making six “Mr. Barrons” in the store.3
Aunt Lottie Barron was the only unmarried one. She taught history at the Winthrop Training School where I had the fall semester of my second year of high school. Student teachers from Winthrop College across the street were trained there, using us as guinea pigs. Aunt Lottie was a first-rate teacher, and an out-spoken critic of Hoover, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, an ardent supporter of Roosevelt and the “New Deal,” and was seldom lacking in a firm and incontrovertible opinion on nearly any subject. My other teachers were excellent too, and I remember the names of all of them: Miss Poag (English), Miss Rogers (mathematics), Miss Ingram (Latin), and Mr. Blakely (Physical Education.) Miss Rogers once told her student teacher before class that there was one boy who would figure out a shorter way to work a problem in algebra than the illustration in the text book. Sure enough, when I raised my hand to point this out, there was a knowing wink between the teachers and I learned of the prediction afterwards by the grapevine.
I tried going out for football practice a few times, but besides having no knowledge whatever of the game, I was too light-weight and quit after a day or so. I continued in scouting in the local troop and once I walked with another boy to Fort Mill and back to complete the fourteen mile hiking requirement. Father was away most of the fall working on his Th.D. at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Meanwhile we lived in a rented house right behind the Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church and only a block or so from Winthrop College. Now and then we attended that church but we usually went to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church down town. All the Barrons belonged there and as a rule every one of them was present. The session and deaconate was liberally sprinkled with their names. We sang the metrical version of the Psalms, as was the practice in that denomination. The pastor (Dr. Rogers) had served there more than 50 years and frequently repeated his soaring cadenzas of flowery oratory which the younger Barrons knew by heart and could imitate much to our amusement. Irene Barron (daughter of my Uncle Will, and now Mrs. Robert Lee Scarborough) was only a year or so older than I, so my sister Mardia and I especially enjoyed her company.
We made several visits to Sharon, some 25 miles away, where my Aunt Ola Hunter lived. Her husband, the Rev. Ebenezer Hunter, was pastor of the little rural A.R.P. church there all his life. The church could not give him full support, so he farmed on the side. Aunt Ola kept chickens, raised a garden, did a lot of canning, and sumptuously fed us “country style.” Uncle Eb was chairman of the board of Erskine college for many years, and from all reports ruled that institution with an iron hand. He also headed a committee to edit a new Psalmbook for the A. R. P. denomination and used to practice some of these musical versions of the Psalms on us in the evenings. Although loyal to his church, he also liked to sing hymns with us “ordinary” Presbyterians. He chewed tobacco and we sat for hours in the rockers on the front porch, feet on the rail, watching him accurately hit any target he wanted in the yard. Thereby hangs another tale, too.
In the village of Sharon was a wealthy man who was the “politician type” and very well known by everyone in the vicinity. One day his wife was shot to death. The man was not a member of Uncle Eb’s church, but since they knew each other, naturally Uncle Eb went to call on him. It was a hot August day, and while there offering his condolences, Uncle Eb happened to aim a spit of tobacco juice into the fireplace, where it sizzled on the grate although there was no fire. Later, when he returned home, Uncle Eb began to wonder why on such a hot day there had been a fire in the fireplace. This seemed suspicious so he reported it to the sheriff who investigated and found remnants of the man’s bloody charred clothing which led to the arrest and conviction of the bereaved husband who had killed his wife.
We also visited my Uncle Archie and Aunt Alice in Charlotte. Some years before, just after their marriage when they were getting started in that city, they were staying temporarily in an apartment on the 10th floor of the Charlotte Hotel, probably the tallest building there. One afternoon she was preparing to go out to a party and reached out to an outside window box to pluck a flower to pin on her dress. The rug slipped under her feet and she tumbled out the window. She bounced on two parallel flag staffs, went through the glass awning over the sidewalk and landed with no major injuries. In fact she was able to tell people at once to notify her hostess at the party that she would not be there!
The last half of our furlough was spent in Richmond, Va. We lived in an apartment at Mission Court, the furlough home for foreign missionaries. Father was completing his work on his doctorate while running around making missionary addresses. As I recall the Shive family, missionaries to the Belgian Congo, had the apartment just below us. We attended the Ginter Park Presbyterian Church and I was a member of the young peoples’ group there. I went to the Thomas Jefferson High School which was new and quite a distance from Mission Court, so I somehow acquired a bicycle to ride back and forth. In those days traffic was not nearly as dangerous as today. That school was an enormous square building, three stories high. It seemed to me that each side of the square and all three floors were exactly alike, and with twelve possibilities to confuse me I was completely lost the first day and late for all classes.
The Latin teacher is the only one I remember because she was literally a “holy terror.” The work in her class was about a semester ahead of my previous lessons, and she used to bless me out in rather strong language for being so stupid that I could not recite properly in class. Grades were given out at the end of each of the four months, and they were successively D, C, B, and A so that by the end of the semester she publicly commended me on making such improvement… but I nearly died trying to memorize Julius Caesar in the process. My only extra-curricula activity in the school was playing the violin in the orchestra. Once we accompanied the school choral group putting on the “Mikado” in the “Mosque” civic auditorium in down-town Richmond.
Furlough over, the Hopper family returned to Korea, taking the train across the continent and a ship across the ocean. Such train trips were long, three or four days, but we enjoyed the scenery, eating in the diner, and sleeping on the pullman. Among the fellow passengers on the ship were Dr. and Mrs. P. Frank Price, veteran missionaries to China, and well known all over our church. He had just been moderator of the 1936 General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. and now at the age of 72 was returning to China. It was a rare privilege to be exposed to this great man and learn of his 46 years of experience in China. Mrs. Price was about the same age as he and both were healthy and active. As is often the case on passenger steamers, there was a day of shipboard contests with deck games of various kinds. Both Mrs. Price and I were the finalists in a tournament of throwing rubber suction cup darts at a target on a bulkhead. With a 15-year old pitted against this grand-mother there was enormous interest on ship-board and a great many rooters on hand for the final contest. Both of us made high scores, but youth won out… and I can assure you there never was a better loser than Mrs. Price!
Baalbek has been the center around which much of the fighting between various factions in Lebanon has taken place in recent years up until now (1991). ↩︎
One of these was a high school boy named Harper Beal who was later a year or so at Davidson College. He now lives in Lenoir, N.C. ↩︎
Per the Winthrop University Library, “The Rock Hill Hardware Company was organized on June 4, 1893 by A.R. Smith and John Gelzer, A.A. Barron and his sons R.E. and W.L. bought Smith out in 1896 and by 1907 had acquired the whole firm. The Barron family owned and operated it until it closed in 1978.” ↩︎