I have been asked by several people to write an account of my time in the work, and a little about my life. Therefore, I will try to do so. Nothing I write is to elicit sympathy. The fact is, many folks I came to know in the truth (workers and friends) were very fine people- some of the best I could hope to meet anywhere. Not all of them were “the best”- but many were.
Recently, I saw a photo in the newspaper of a couple looking back at the wreckage of their home. The destruction had been caused by a devastating tornado. They were wondering, “Did this really happen? Did we go through that and somehow survive? How did we get through it all?” Well, the texture of professing and being in the work are somewhat like that for me.
Was that really my life? Did I really survive that? And the devastation! At the very best, there have been areas of destruction in my life. The ruin has been mainly directed toward my health. To be brief, I had loss of hair (Alopecia Areata), loss of vocal cord use, and irritable bowel syndrome while in the work. To then color my entire world, I developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)*. These encountered illnesses were entirely foreign to me because I had excellent health in my earlier life. I will comment later on the health issues.
Recently, the issue of “core beliefs in the truth” was brought up. My immediate thought was- it would depend in which decade you were referring to.
There was not much change from the 1920s to the 1950s. The changes started in the 1960 to 1980s era. Then, the 1990s accelerated the changes. This was confirmed by a visit some time ago with an elder, a man with whom I’d grown up. He was encouraging me to return to Meetings. In effect, he said that there were “big changes in the truth the last five years- changes leading to an easier, softer way”. Perhaps he meant more liberal styles, values allowed, accepted places to go. Before leaving the religion in 1995, I could sense that was and would be the case.
Where I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), there was a rigid code, with no gray area. Up was up; down was down; right was right; wrong was wrong. No questions regarding what was allowed or not allowed were ever considered.
Meetings came before anything else- weather, school or work. Milwaukee was a city field, and all the friends were expected to attend meetings several times a week- especially Gospel meetings.
So where did all of these rules, guidelines, requirements and need to conform come from? It came not always from the Scripture or the workers’ “spoken” word. Somehow the message was “breathed in”. Meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year. I call it the “Osmosis Factor”. We absorbed it into every cell of our being. That is why I knew as a child that our neighbors were “lost”. Sure, they read the Bible and went to church, but they were still lost. Their charitable works? Sorry, they didn’t count. We were told that those kinds of works extended “only to the grave”.
This mode of thinking was accented a few years back when I was at the vast Union Station, downtown Chicago. I had been out of the religion a few years. While awaiting the arrival of my brother from Wisconsin by train, I happened to see Barry Barkley (head worker Illinois- Indiana). His train was coming in from central Illinois about the same time. Perhaps he recognized me; I’m not sure. Anyway, we met. We did shake hands and passed a few pleasant words. At that point, he indicated that he needed to move on. It occurred to me that Barry, being about my age, would have grown up about the same time. He was raised in the East; I in the Midwest. He probably grew up under the same rules, regulations and impressions as I had. For instance, Barry, by sheer honesty in his belief, would classify the conductor as “lost”. So even though the conductor on the train was efficient and pleasant–and perhaps a Christian–he was still going to the bad place.
Sadly, the belief that most people were headed the wrong direction would also apply to the engineer and fireman running the train. With a step further, that status would apply to everyone on the train, everyone at Union Station, all of Chicago, all Cook County, and while we are at it, all of Illinois! Unfortunately, only the few “chosen” who were following Irvine’s “way” would be going to Heaven. I realized that, because that’s how I had believed merely a short time before.
In doing research after I left the truth, I learned my professing peers felt the same. This belief comes from what I call the “Osmosis Factor”, which extends to every cell in our body. That means, whether directly taught or only hinted at, folks in the truth grew up with that sense of exclusion. The Osmosis Factor extended to a multitude of other beliefs the system (truth) had. This is the truth’s belief, but not what the simple teachings of Jesus teach.
What about Jean Nicolett, the first explorer in the State of Wisconsin? He was not necessarily religious, but he was an explorer. There were two mentioned that did bring religion to the area, Marquette and Joliet. They were two Catholic missionaries, who brought a religious doctrine that many would not have accepted. They passed through the upper peninsula of Michigan, then down to near Green Bay in Wisconsin. Then they went down the Fox River to the Wisconsin River to the Illinois River. And what were they doing? They were charting (drawing maps, etc.) and hoping to evangelize the Indians–to Christianize them. I used to wonder in school–had the workers done that also?
Since studying them in school, I have always had great interest in the American Indians. I wondered how the Indians heard the truth. Where were the workers in those earlier days? Were they in an Indian encampment, having some type of Gospel services? Nah. We would certainly have heard it if that had been the case. Can you imagine the value of a worker’s list in long-hand from from the 1600s or 1700s? It would be a framed centerpiece at one of the Convention grounds! But of course, it doesn’t exist. Today, we have the facts and figures from 1897 on. And the truth-worker era began in 1897.
However, I understand the way is changing. Workers are now allowing God to decide the fate of “the lost”. Visiting with two sister workers in our home a few years back, I asked them about the truth’s history. One of them, who had been in our area for several years said, “We (workers) can’t be interested in history.” She in turn asked me further if I was offended that William Irvine’s name was never mentioned in a workers’ meeting in my twenty-plus years while in the work. I said, “Yes, I do find it rather offensive that a magnitude of facts were covered or omitted.” Irvine called the movement his “Great Experiment” of 1897. There had never been a hint of these facts mentioned to me when I chose the work for my life.
Another time after leaving the ministry, I had a visit with a brother worker about the truth’s beginning. He replied, “Well I wasn’t there (in 1897), so how could I know what happened?” He also commented that even if events had been printed, not every printed item is necessarily true. The subject didn’t come up, but if this line of reasoning were used, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the American Revolutionary War couldn’t necessarily be believed- not only because the worker wasn’t there, but also the material documented could not be trusted.
In our small office, there is a portrait of a young woman painted about 1850 on the wall. I had obtained the painting at an antique art fair. The date of the painting would have placed the lady’s birth about 1830. This would virtually be a lifetime before William Irvine came onto the scene, because he first appeared at the first convention (in Ireland) in 1897. Also, she would have had to lived another ten years after 1897 to have been able to attend her first Sunday morning meeting in a home. There were no meetings in the home the first ten years of Mr. Irvine’s experiment.
I was seven when my Mother professed, so I do vaguely remember Sunday school and Christmas presents in the Methodist Church. My Mother went to high school with two professing students. Eventually, a contact was made through my Mother’s sister-in-law. At that time, my sister was five, my brother three. The Gospel meetings were held in a tent in Sturtevant, Wisconsin by Albert Gravel and Clarence Arquette. I highly esteemed Clarence, who much later was a companion of mine.
My Dad never attended meetings. My Mother shed tears the night she professed, and I knew by the tears that this event had a very serious meaning to her. Henry Gorden, a very nice, quiet man, drove my Mother and us children to meetings south of Milwaukee. Incidentally, prior to that Henry was in the work in Iowa. He died at age 49 from a heart attack. My Mother’s professing brought changes to our home and living circumstances. All kinds of meetings now came first—above weather, above school, above work, as I mentioned. My father died when I was thirteen. He never professed. We children went on living with Mother in the same home; Mother worked in the school cafeteria to meet expenses.
A strange quirk I experienced began happening most Sundays of my growing-up years. I would become ill with stomach pain while traveling to the meetings, and during the meetings. We took two city buses to get there, and often I was severely nauseated. The strange part of it is that I at that time had no responsibility in the meetings, such as taking part. (I didn’t profess until age 17.) I noticed that I would be “well” again Sunday afternoons. This nausea and stomach pain continued intermittently, but frequently during my professing years. I will address that later.
My Grandfather on my Dad’s side was a Milwaukee fireman who died in action fighting a fire. My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was an Eastern Orthodox Catholic Bishop. At one point in his life, he was offered a position as Director of that church over Canada. He declined the offer, and the family ended up being re-located several times in Eastern U.S. areas. My Mother was growing up at that time. As a side note, the Eastern Orthodox priests were allowed to marry.
One time I was giving Gospel meeting cards door to door in Stockholm, Wisconsin. One lady I gave a card to said, “Do you know who you are talking to? I’m the daughter of the Methodist Minister here”. Thus, I told her that I was a grandson of a Catholic Priest. I told her that I did not believe what he represented.
Growing up, workers would often say to me, “Perhaps someday you will be with us in the work.” Most young men in my home area chose other options in life. So, whatever the reason, going into the work seemed to be the likely avenue my life would take. I prayed that decision was truly God’s will.
Mother had received special permission to attend the convention at Seneca in 1957—needed because of her work schedule. I had finished high school and professed a year before, and I planned on a Wisconsin convention. On her way to that convention, my Mother was killed instantly when a gravel truck hit them. One of the tragic factors was that she was only one mile from convention grounds. My professing aunt was placed in the hospital with injuries, but she fully recovered.
When this occurred, my sister was fifteen, my brother thirteen. My siblings and I stayed with our maternal grandmother in her large house. Mother believed in insurance, so the settlement that was given to us children was a better-than-average start in life. The child-rearing duties were distributed to my uncle, grandmother and me. My brother did later profess; no other immediate family members professed.
Grandma enjoyed visiting with the workers and friends when they stopped by to see me. Would the “truth about the truth” information have stopped me from attending meetings? It probably would not have kept me from attending meetings, but I would have seriously reconsidered going into the work at all. What the information would have done for me is to give me some substance- real information that had been kept from us. This “true information about the truth” would definitely have impacted my plans for my future.
I was drafted in 1961. I spent six months in San Antonio, followed by eighteen months in Germany. Of course, I faithfully attended meetings in both locations. In Texas, a sergeant overheard us discussing a meeting some of us professing boys were planning to attend. He asked, “Will George Walker be there too?” Apparently, he had heard us often mention George’s name. Along with forty professing soldiers, I attended Jeanette Coker’s very first Gospel meeting. Jeanette is still in the work. I believe she would remember that meeting.
I was stationed at Baumholder in Germany–the largest U.S. base in Germany. At the time, I was the only professing soldier at that site. Ten miles away, two professing boys were stationed, and we three (along with some other professing Americans) met together on Sundays. Attending meetings there took quite an effort- three trains and a taxi each way. I had permission to leave the barracks early to catch the first train. I don’t believe I missed more than four or five meetings in the eighteen months there. Once in a small city, we attempted to attend a special meeting. We had no address, but we described it to the taxi driver, who believe it or not found it!
Two sister workers were in the area in Germany- Olga Hastings and Margaret Van Den Berg. We met at Cecil and Eva Clark’s. Cecil was a U.S. Army Captain, and he lived with his family in their fourth floor apartment. We were all Americans, so English was used. The workers were with us one time a month at the Sunday morning meetings. Also, we attended a full convention in Stuttgart, plus two Sunday meetings in Austria.
We had in the barracks a full-blooded Cherokee Indian named Courdey. He was very nice when sober, but he was violent when drinking. One evening he came in after drinking and he stumbled over me while I was praying. I possibly would not do it that way again, but during my Army experience I felt it proper to kneel when praying. I had no intention of making a show of it. After the incident, I wondered, “What next?” But Courdey only called out, “Everyone be quiet! Mattison is praying.”
Another experience before returning to the States was visiting Wayne Lehrman, a professing soldier stationed ten miles away. We vacationed in the snowy Alps at Hitler’s Eagle Nest Hotel (renamed General Walker Hotel). The facility had been taken over by the U.S. Military for R&R. We sat by the huge fireplace in the lobby- talking about our futures. He was returning to his father’s fruit business in Washington. And me…? I’m not sure why, but I still had the feeling that I should go into the work.
Finally I wrote the letter to Peter Hunter to offer for the work. However, I really felt hesitant in mailing it. Elwood Simmons was our mail clerk. He was a small, very quiet type of person- not at all forward. That morning, I stood at the mailbox with the letter in my hand. I was not sure what to do, so I continued just standing there, holding the letter. As he was coming to pick up the mail, Elwood quietly took the letter out of my hand. And do you know? I instantly felt that this was not the thing I should do! I was surprised at my feelings, but I let Elwood mail the letter.
Upon returning to New York by ship, I had planned to spend a few days there- to tour, but also to see Leslie White, who I had been with earlier in Texas. Andrew Abernathy thought it would be good for me to stay there for the upcoming special meetings, where I could meet a few Black friends. I had never met any in Wisconsin. And some of the friends said that I should tour the East Coast since I loved history so much. But I really am naïve and felt I should hurry back for the upcoming Milwaukee special meetings. I worked that summer.
Then in September 1963, the experience of what I call my time in the “Roving Monastery” began. I was picked up and driven to Marion, Wisconsin convention. There was one somewhat unusual incident. Perhaps you remember how the friends and workers would stand around talking in the early evening. I was standing in a small group that included Peter Hunter and others. Marvin Rheumling (I believe he was an elder) asked Peter Hunter a question. He said, “Who did George Walker profess through?” Peter, a well-thought-of worker from Scotland, stammered and stuttered and then mentioned three possible names- none of which was William Irvine. I remember thinking that night- this doesn’t sound right. Peter, an older worker from Europe, is not even sure who George professed through? His answer didn’t have the right ring to it.
It was time to take the bus back to Milwaukee and forget about the work. The only problem was that I didn’t. I stayed. The Naivety Factor was in full swing.
That first fall as I entered the work, I was to be with Charles Preston after the inevitable work project at Marion convention and then the convention itself. (There were two Charles Preston’s. The one I’m referring to was from the Mid-west, and is now deceased.) During that convention, I had what I feel was a genuine panic. Panic was a new thing to me and I believe it was a “real” panic attack.
Charles P. liked to travel a lot and to write a lot of letters. He would stay up late at night. On one of our first trips, we were going somewhere about 9 PM. He was driving, and a policeman stopped him for speeding. Upon return to the car, he said he possibly could have gotten out of the ticket if he had told the cop that he was a minister.
Charles P. had a dental appointment one day in early November 1963, my second month in the work. He did not return that afternoon. We were staying at Gilbert and Caroline Kolbeck’s, who had meeting in their home. We were all wondering what had happened to Charles. Around supper time, a policeman knocked on the door. I was doing laundry in the basement. The policeman asked if a Charles Preston lived there. The Kolbeck’s replied, “No, he doesn’t live here, but this is one of his mailing addresses”. The officer then told us that Charles was in jail, and that he would remain there all night. He explained we needed come to the jail for more information.
Gilbert and I went to the jail that night. Charles P. was there, and he looked rather shaken. We were told he had exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl in a park and a Hearing would be held. The officers said it would be in our best interest to obtain a lawyer. Gilbert and I located an attorney through the phone book who agreed to take the case.
Charles P. was released the next day with his Hearing pending. The thought crossed my mind that possibly the pain and trauma at the Dentist had caused Charles P. to do something out-of-character. I contacted Peter Hunter, and he came well ahead of the Hearing. I visited with Peter, who had doubts about the truthfulness of the charges against Charles P. I, on the other hand, could not get the thought out of my mind: a 12-year-old girl would have no reason to lie. I discussed this thought with Peter. To my surprise, Peter did not even stay for the Hearing. I don’t remember who was at the Hearing in Wausau, Wisconsin. A small article in the local newspaper appeared regarding it. I don’t remember if any friends, the girl, or her parents were at the Hearing. But I was there, along with Charles P., Gilbert and the lawyer. We three sat in the front and center row of the Courthouse. There was a fine, which was probably taken care of by Mr. Kolbeck. The Judge said that since this was Mr. Preston’s first offense they knew of, there would be no jail time. The Judge did strongly suggest that Charles P. get counseling. The result? Charles P. was simply sent to another state (Iowa).
After this incident, I felt that I needed a period of time “off” from being a worker. I was starting to realize this life wasn’t really for me. So I returned to Milwaukee and planned a trip out west to see my sister, as well as relatives I’d never met, and a few men who I finished the Service with. Peter’s advice to me was, “Now don’t go out there and fall in love”. So I followed through with going out west. I visited several friends, workers and relatives I’d never before met. I went to Washington State and to California.
I was sitting on a park bench near L.A. one day, near where my sister and family lived. I was thinking that the life of a worker really wasn’t for me—that I just could not do it. But it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be responsible for an older worker (Charles P.) being put out of the work. I felt that if I permanently quit the work, they would “kick” Charles P. out. That was my mixed-up thinking at the time. Therefore, I felt I had to go back.
I arrived back just before Special Meeting time. Peter wasn’t very friendly. He wanted me to attend a distant special meeting. I asked him if I could have at least three days to get settled from the trip and then attend a closer special meeting for starters. He agreed.
One time in Wisconsin in a cold farmhouse during a blizzard, I was lying against a cold bedroom wall. My feeling was that I was going to crack up and I couldn’t go to sleep. What really stressed me was the thought that if I indeed did end up needing an ambulance for any condition, the medical team would be unable to access this country area.
Peter Hunter had his own very serious scandal a year after the Charles P. incident. I do not want to discuss the actual event. When the friends wanted to bring up the subject at preparations later, I would simply change the subject. I had had “my limit” of hearing about wrong-doing in the truth. The incident occurred late 1964 to early 1965.
The scandals in the truth did not leave me bitter. But it did induce what I call the “D-Factor” (depressed, disillusioned, distraught, downhearted, discouraged, and dismal).
In 1964 at preparations for Wisconsin Dells convention, Forrest McPherson said to me, “Stop what you are doing right now! You have already ruined enough around here!” Another time, he lost his tie clip and felt sure that some kids in a recent home had taken it. He harped on it. When I found it under a seat cushion, I asked him if he still thought the kids took it. Then he was angry all over again–at me! Angry.
My second year in the work, we gave out 10,000 invitation cards in Wausau, Wisconsin (a city of 40,000) door to door. We continued doing this all fall, and into winter until spring special meetings. The result was that one lady called the hall where the meetings were, wondering if we were starting a new religion! I understand this door-to-door giving out of cards was not done as much in later years because it’s “too dangerous”.
Clinton Goff was a worker who wanted to be five places at one time. I was never his companion, but I was with him several times (late 1970s). One time when he was driving 65 to 70 miles per hour on a gravel road! Another time, we had just left a Special Meeting, and he was again at the wheel. As we approached a busy highway stop sign, the car brakes began to fail–and we almost didn’t stop. We somehow limped up the hill to a friend’s home, where Clinton decided to leave the car. This experience was another rather physical close call. Four young workers left the work in a row after being with Clinton Goff. One of the friends asked me why I had never been Clinton’s companion. My honest reaction was “my poor health, I guess”. It was a thought, but of course, I could not express it aloud.
I do not mean to speak harshly against Clinton Goff, without offering examples of concerns that other workers had about Clinton. There were other older workers who were also becoming alarmed about the high rate of young workers who were the leaving the work. For example, one time I happened to be seated next to Garrett Hughes, a very highly-thought of older worker. We were in the dining hall at Carsonville, Michigan Convention. Garrett asked me to take a walk with him after the meal, as he wanted to talk with me about something. During the walk, he asked me if I had any idea or thoughts regarding why so many younger workers were leaving the work.
In effect, I said I was not sure–every situation was different. I did tell him that perhaps slowing the pace (of the older workers’ schedules) would help more workers stay. I told him not all workers could keep up a “90 mile-per-hour” pace. I also told Garrett that some of the workers had a “rough and ready” exterior. Some of them had never developed social skills. Further, I remarked how important understanding, patience, and a “take your time” attitude are when working with a young companion. Workers needed to have quiet visits with folks–instead of seeing how many teas and pop-in-and-out visits could be accomplished in one day. This hurried atmosphere, I said, could have an effect on a younger companion. So we talked along these lines.
My first months in Michigan (about 1974), three of us were together for a short while. I was staying all night in one home- the second companion in another, and the third in yet another home. That Saturday evening about 10 or 11 PM, the man of the house woke me. The parents where the second worker was staying told me over the phone that my companion had crawled into bed with their teenage daughter. The father asked me to get dressed and come to their home immediately, which I did. The parents talked to me into the night’s late hours. I decided to wait until after the meeting the next morning to call Henry Eicher, a nearby older worker.
So after meeting the next morning, I went for a walk. I knew from a previous walk that there was a phone booth not far away. So I walked to the booth and called Henry. As we talked and he was asking me questions, there was a storm in progress and high waves were crashing hard onto the shore. I remember thinking: storms both unseen and seen are abounding right now.
When I returned to where I was staying, both my companions and the friends were gathered around a piano singing a Hymn (not in the fellowship’s Hymnbook). That moment will always be surreal. I was just returning from a walk where Lake Michigan’s waves were wildly crashing, and the wind and rain were howling. But there was a different kind of storm going on in this home. I could hear them singing:
Be of good cheer when storms around us rise, and
My Father’s hand holds both the wind and sea.
The companion immediately acknowledged his wrong, and it was not repeated. He did leave the work soon after this. Not long after, he was married in the truth. No charges were placed against the worker.
In the early 1980s, Earl Newmiller arranged for a companion change during the spring special meetings. He changed Bruce Walters from being with Bill Engle to being with me. (I don’t remember who my initial companion was that year.) Incidentally, Bruce’s father was the Kellog (cereal) family physician in Battle Creek. The reason Bruce was removed from being Bill’s companion was because “I was ready for a nervous breakdown from being with Bill” (Bruce’s words). So for the rest of that season and for the following year, Bruce was with me. About six years later, Bruce, who had been a total outsider, left both the work and the truth.
The next year Bill Engle and I were companions. It is probably an important fact to tell you that when Bill Engle and I were assigned to be each other’s companion, I was charged with the senior status in the decision-making seat. Although we were both about the same age, Bill was an electrical engineer. However, I told Bill at the beginning of our year that I would let him make 50% of the decisions and plans. I did not want to “lord” it over him in any way. But retrospectively, I believe my senior status was a major source of Bill’s resentment toward me.
Example: in Michigan, we were visiting a museum with a lady who recently professed and her husband, who hadn’t. My companion, Bill Engle, wandered off from our group, and he was not with the three of us for several hours. The couple left for home, and the plan was for me to “find” Bill. He and I would then leave the museum and go to another home. I continued visiting the museum until dark when it closed. But Bill had disappeared. Although I received permission from the Museum staff to phone the home where we were to go, I ended up waiting outside of a dark, closed Museum.
Bill arrived with clenched fists, and I really thought he was going to slug me. “He can have the first blow,” I thought. He didn’t do anything physical, but he did have an angry outburst about a mix up “that was my entire fault”. By the time we arrived at the home we were staying, I was shaking and stressed out. During this time, one of the friends’ wives told me they felt the situation (Bill’s overall anger) was getting out of hand. She told me she would like to talk with Earl Newmiller (Michigan’s head worker) regarding the implications; that being with Bill was placing me in a very vulnerable position. I asked her not to, because that would only make it more difficult for me in the long run.
Another example: after a Sunday afternoon Gospel meeting, I was given my mail by one of the friends. It was a huge stack. Bill Engle was going to drive, and I suggested a route that he may want to take. At this point, I knew the city well, as I had spent five years in the Detroit area. Although Bill was from Eastern Michigan, he let me know that I didn’t need to be giving him directions. So we were riding, and I was reading the mail in the car when I noted that we were slowing down. I was still looking over my mail when I heard the car starting to bump and come to a halt. He had run off the end of a cul-de-sac, and we were in a rough, vacant lot. Bill was very angry, and raged at me that this was all my fault—that I had planned this whole route to embarrass him. Bill had claimed to know the city so well and did not want to accept instructions. It might seem minor but this really affected me.
My year in the work with Bill Engle was the worst year of my life. By the following fall (after twelve months with Bill), I was so sick I did not think I would live to see spring. I had developed PTSD* and irritable bowel syndrome during the prior twelve months while with Bill. Twice, I was taken emergently to the hospital with severe weight loss, stemming from the colitis.
At the start of special meetings that year, I left alone from Detroit and went to Battle Creek by train. The plan was to meet the Rubles and begin special meetings. When I heard their friendly greetings to me, I felt completely overwhelmed by their kind voices- they were genuinely happy to see me again.
The senior workers need money for travel and convention expenses, so they do occasionally have to “handle” it. I was asked twice to handle ten thousand dollars for these purposes, which I did. The first was by Murray Keene’s request, who was a firm, fair, and understanding person. He was traveling from to Michigan to Wisconsin for special meetings. He told me that if something happened to his flight, the suitcase in the closet held ten thousand dollars. The other was after the cleanup day at the Grayling convention in Michigan. Earl Newmiller wanted me to transport a suitcase (same amount) back to the Tanners’, where his address and “headquarters” were. So I did that.
One day years later (about 1984), Jim Morehouse (one of my favorite companions and a dear friend), and I were visiting Dick and Janet Tanner. By this time, the Tanners had professed about fifteen years. Dick “tossed” a book into my lap and said, “You can read this- I don’t need it back.” The book was The Secret Sect. Later, I spoke with Jim about the book. At first, Jim agreed to read it, but later changed his mind and did not. Jim said, “It might destroy my faith if I read it”. I remember thinking, faith in what? For me, discovering facts did not have anything to do with my faith in Christ.
At Grayling Convention preps I burned The Secret Sect after reading it. I wasn’t in the practice of giving out a lot of information at the time. I just wanted to think about things. The book did seem to confirm many suspicions that I had. The Tanners received the book from relatives out west. These relatives all eventually dropped out I believe—Dick and Janet did for sure. They had handled Earl Newmiller’s mail for eleven years.
In closing, I had a few unique and memorable experiences in the work. I am now glad for those experiences.
One time while walking in Wisconsin, I met a black bear on a lonely wooded road near Ogema, Wisconsin. He came crashing out of the woods on my left- ran ahead of me on the trail like a pet dog- then ran back into the woods. The next day, I retraced my steps so as not to lose the courage I had developed on one of my favorite walks.
In Wisconsin after a Gospel meeting, I walked about one mile from where we were staying. This is the same road that Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pa would have taken from their cabin to Pepin in her book Little House in the Big Woods. I heard a crashing sound and saw a Mountain Lion (ie, cougar- the largest wild cat in the U.S.) run out before me. It seemed an eternity before his long tail finally exited the path. In the bright moonlight, I saw that he had circled behind me and was crouched like a housecat in a field not far away. I had in my pocket a bottle of ammonia, which I used to protect myself from vicious dogs. I placed my hand on the bottle, looked back only once, and walked toward home as fast as I could. The people at that home said that they had heard “something screaming” in that area of the woods for several nights previously. I was shaken and told my companion Clarence Arquette that I had seen a Mountain Lion.
More pleasant experiences: I once toured a salt mine, located many feet below the city of Detroit.
Another time, I sat in the Co-pilot seat of a large jetliner (L1011) going down the runway of Detroit Metro Airport at 3 AM. One of the friends Warren Kohne was a chief Delta mechanic. He needed to warm up the Rolls Royce engine prior to the early morning take-off, and he got permission for my companion and me to go with him.
There was also a time I was in the engineer’s seat with my companion at the head of a 25-car freight train. It was running from Flat Rock to Detroit. We each took turns blowing the horns for road crossings. One of our friends Glen McMillin, who worked for the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, had arranged it. An odd aspect of the experience was that train engineers were known for time accuracy. When I observed this particular engineer, I noticed he wore a Mickey Mouse watch! While this was not winning souls, they are experiences I treasured nevertheless.
Once when I was walking along the water in Wisconsin, five otters “appeared” on my right. They were all sleek and black. It reminded me of a circus performance. They never looked my way- they just all slipped gracefully (immediately in front of me) over a bank into the water. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
I really did not feel well the last few years. Eventually, I needed to leave the ministry. The year was 1987. An opening came about to work for the U.S. Corps of Engineers at the Chicago River Locks. It was one of the busiest locks in the country. However, it was under a contract, and the job ended about ten years later. During that time, I lived on the 5th Floor of a new 55-story building in downtown Chicago. I could hardly believe that the studio was mine, as I had never been on my own like that before. I slept on the floor at first, but the whole experience was wonderful.
Eventually, I met the woman I married. She too had been raised in the truth. Amazingly, we were both having the same doubts regarding the authenticity of the religion at the same time. We moved to a Chicago suburb 35 miles from the City. I worked at Jewel-Osco supermarket coffee shop as a Manager. It was a full-service coffee shop with tables, pecan wood and African slate counters. It was a $70,000 investment the store had recently made. I worked there for eleven years.
In 2006, I retired from Jewel-Osco after having a knee replacement. The surgery went fine, and thankfully, I have been able to walk pretty well since surgery. I don’t walk quite as far, but thanks to God, I still walk almost daily. The walking had started early on when I entered the work, and I believe it saved my sanity.
Prayer is now more meaningful to me. I daily remember the Cross and Jesus’ sacrifice. It is clear to me now that it is not what we do, but what was done by Jesus. In my professing years, that concept was not necessarily taught as the most important centerpiece of our Christian faith.
* PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
As an “FYI”, I should let you know that many of the above details in this narrative have never been revealed to anyone. That is, this is the first time I have uncovered the past- some of which still hurts me. The purpose of writing is not to expose innocent folks. I would like all to realize that dysfunction occurs- even among workers. Possibly reading this may help someone in the future. May God love and bless you.
Note: I haven’t come across any black bears, otters or mountain lions lately!
By Charles Mattison
Revised April 14, 2008
Obituary: Charles Mattison — September 22, 1938 – November 18, 2020
Charles Mattison of Northbrook, IL (formerly of Barrington, IL) passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020; he was 82 years old. He is survived by his wife, Cheri Mattison. He was preceded in death by his brother, Sheridan Mattison (2019) and his sister Sharon Clark (2017).
Charles was born to Charles and Virginia Mattison on Sept. 22, 1938, in Milwaukee, WI. He joined the U.S. Army in 1962 (along with his brother, Sheridan) and was eventually posted in Germany, where he was responsible for relaying messages/communication between officers – his skill and reliability earned him a letter of commendation as “Soldier of the Quarter.”
Charles spent 20 years as a Christian minister, preaching from the Bible in Wisconsin and Michigan. He was a gentle man who enjoyed trains, clocks, long walks, nature. His funeral will be Monday, Nov. 23rd from 12-1:15 pm at Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 185 E. Northwest Hwy., Palatine. Jeff Thayer will officiate. Interment at Evergreen Cemetery. Due to Covid-19 restrictions only 10 people will be allowed in the funeral home at one time and everyone is required to wear a mask.