My name is Richard D. Armstrong II, most people who were in the W.W.C.G. knew me as a youngster as "Dicky". I've been called Richard, Rick or Dick for more than 30 years now and it amazes me how time has flown by. I began looking for ways to reconnect with classmates of mine from Big Sandy Texas recently and ran across this blog and found some interesting things here. After writing the editor James, I decided I'd contribute some things when I have time - I'm very busy working now, driving for Swift Transportation. I'm able to get online several times a week, though sometimes only for a limited time.
I would just start by saying that I have had many great opportunities in my life and many of my occupational endeavors have kept me busy day to day, but some have offered me plenty of time for reflection on my life. I lived in the Chetco, Illinois and Wild Rogue River wildernesses of Southern Oregon for many years in the early 1980s, working as a Forest Service caretaker at a historical guard station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. in the 1930s, I also worked in the same area at McCaleb Ranch. During these times I was able to form myself as a young adult and decided who I was and what I wanted to be in life. In 1985 I reunited with my grandfather Herbert W. Armstrong and was blessed to spend much of the last year of his life with him, living with him for a time at the Ambassador College Pasadena campus. I attended college there in 1985 and left after his death in 1986.
I have many great fond memories of the church and the people I knew and grew up with. When I look back on my memories of the Church, Imperial School and Ambassador College, I'm reminded of how blessed we all were to have the fellowship we shared. The tumultuous things that have transpired over the years since the late 1970s and especially since my grandfathers death in 1986 are sad and it's a shame that the Church organization was not able to continue into the future with the same goodwill and co-operation that was the hallmark of the Church and it's people from inception until the breakup and selling off of the Church and it's holdings. I think there may be a time and place to write about some of the really bad things that have transpired within the Church over time - I have personally been affected by things like Stanley Rader influencing my grandfather into terrible decisions, also the much publicized personal turmoil of my uncle Garner Ted, the accusations of abuse by grandpa by my late Aunt Dorothy, the receivership by the state of California in the late 70s, also - perhaps most disappointing to me - the way the Church was handled by those who took over after my grandfathers death in 1986. However, one thing I have been able to do with my adult life, is to not dwell on negative things any longer than is beneficially necessary. Sadly, I know many people who have been hurt and have not been able to pick up and move forward. I have had to work hard my whole life and I'm still working on my own personal dreams and goals. My purpose in writing here is to share what has been a wonderful upbringing and life within the church from my birth in 1958 until the day I left my job at the college library in Pasadena in 1979 and moved to Oregon to "find out who I was" and make a life for myself and my family. I too have been close to the negativity and harm that has happened within the Church and it's affiliated organizations - the reason I left my job at the college library in Pasadena that early summer day in 1979 was that people there were constantly trying to talk to me about "what was going on" and some were trying to convince me that my own Mother was complicit in a plot to overthrow my grandfather and put Garner Ted at the helm of the Church - NOT TRUE and I knew better. My family is very loving and supportive of each other - for the most part. In any case, I would be glad to relate these things I experienced at some point - but for the most part, I have great memories I'd like to share of happier times and that will be the purpose of my writing here. I am not ignorant of the negative things that transpired within the Church and it's affiliations, yet there were so many fine things to recall and that is what I'd like to share with people. Lots of water has gone under the bridge, so I am choosing to recall the good things, I'll let God sort out the bad things as I don't feel it's my job to focus on the negative black hole that so many people get caught in.
My intent in writing here is to share memories with any interested readers of what it was like to grow up in the thick of the Worldwide Church of God, Imperial Schools and Ambassador College. My memories are of wonderful people, wonderful gatherings, people working together and helping each other. I will share with you how lucky I feel to have experienced growing up on the campus in Bricket Wood England, then Big Sandy Texas and eventually Pasadena California. I was blessed to be part of the Church and it's workings during a wonderful period of time and my memories are 99% great memories.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of growing up at my grandfather Armstrong's home in Bricket Wood England, then eventually living in the cottage next door to the Raymond McNair family after my Mom remarried to Ben Chapman. My Mom has related to me how she basically "blacked out" upon the death of my father, after they had a very special and almost "fairy tale" relationship. It is understandable that this would devastate anyone - and it was especially hard on my Mom who was a new mother with a 6 month old baby. My grandfather suggested to her that it would be best if she got a new start in Bricket Wood and we were moved there and initially lived with Grandpa Armstrong at his home. As my Mom got involved with the Church and College there, I had allot of babysitters from the college (college students) and I remember very much of these experiences from ages as early as age 2. I distinctly remember being pulled through the snow in a cardboard box my Mom had rigged up with rope, so she could run through the snow, pulling me behind her - of course I thought life could not get any better than that! I also vividly remember being looked after by Andrew Silcox and his father, who was the groundskeeper in Bricket Wood. I'm sure that like any young boy with a tricycle and a ton of energy, I must have been a real pest - though Mr. Silcox always seemed to love having me around. He would give me "missions" to go on - "Dicky, take your tricycle out and get me as many worms as you can find!". I was so happy to go digging around the rich English soil and come back with a trunk (my tricycle had a trunk on it) full of night crawlers. I also have fond memories of my grandpa telling me he had gotten 2 shetland ponies that I could ride and at a very early age I was out riding with Andrew Silcox who was so good to me - we had an absolute storybook good time, out riding the English countryside looking for lost swords and treasure - how could a kid forget wonderful things like that? I certainly remember more than I have time to write about here, but my early life in Bricket Wood was very special and I've talked to my Mom many times about the things we did - she has been amazed that I remember that far back and I've reminded her of many things that she had forgotten. I remember playing with Ruth and Bruce Mcnair at the cottage next door - so great to have kids to play with from the church. I also remember that the McNairs had taken a trip to the English countryside and somehow ended up bringing back a wild goat, then tying it up in the back yard. One day - I think after a day at Church, they returned home to find their back yard very much re-arranged by the goat and I'm pretty sure they ate it after that, but I'd have to ask Raymond about the particulars - he might not want to admit to whatever the goats fate was - HA! I also remember every day of a car tour we took as a family in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in a Jaguar my dad Ben Chapman had purchased. Along with the spectacular scenery we saw, I remember Mom and Dad kicking me out of the back seat where I slept, when their air mattress gave way on a rainy English night. I remember being very frightened for my Moms safety as she made her way along slippery rock steps at a waterfall in Wales. We camped at Loch Ness and drove through the mountains in Scotland - I remember seeing it all like it was yesterday.
There came a point where my Grandpa thought dad (Ben Chapman) would be a good fit for the campus in Big Sandy Texas, so we packed up and boarded the S.S. United States for an Atlantic Crossing. The story has been told to me, that grandpa would have had the presidential suite, but the President happened to be on board for this trip - this is true, Dwight D. Eisenhower was on this crossing and I remember seeing him. I also remember the theatre on board, where we watched a Johnny Weismueller Tarzan film, also I recall dad tossing me into the water (sink or swim) in the Olympic pool. What a ship this S.S. United States was - the ring toss on board was very cool too - I remember stopping from the ring toss game and just staring out at all that water - it seemed so magical and so infinite. As we approached the New York Harbor, grandpa Armstrong got me out of bed early to see the sun rise on the statue of Liberty - I will never forget him telling me the story of Lady Liberty and what that meant to Americans. After a trip through Immigration, we were in an apartment in New York City for a time, then we drove the Jaguar across the U.S. to Big Sandy where we set up camp in a home that was still being worked on. I will write more later, picking up there when I have time next. Best Wishes to you all and I'd love to reconnect with anyone who I knew from the Church, College or Schools.