By Lucille Gishler (nee Paulson)
Given July 26, 2016 at Willingdon St. Church, Burnaby, B.C.
My name is Lucille Gishler. My husband and I live in northwest Calgary. I am the 5th child out of 7 children of which Philip was the first born.
Philip was born October 29, 1933 in Innisfail Alberta. His parents Clifford and Florence Paulson had attended Prairie Bible Institute and were starting the Christian and Missionary Alliance church. It is a thriving church today. Philip was given Biblical names. Philip was one of the apostles and Timothy was St Paul’s assistant accompanying him on his missionary journeys. On Sept 19th 1934 they left Canada to become missionaries in China with the China Inland Mission now called the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. They left from Vancouver on a Norwegian freighter. Philip was 11 months old. A few years ago I visited a friend of my mothers in Coventry, England who said she had been one of my mother’s Sunday school pupils and had who waved them goodbye in Vancouver.
The Norwegian freighter docked in Shanghai. They then travelled by steamer up the Yangtze River to Hwaing (way-ing ) to attend language school. They attended the men’s language school because they were a married couple. My mother was the only female student and Philip was the only child. He was a happy, social child and would have received much attention from the students. My mother wrote home in one of her letters about Philip wanting to kiss everyone even the Chinese tailor. When he was learning to dress himself he put all his clothes on feet first, even his sweater.
Both my parents were teachers so my mother taught Philip at home. In 1936 Philip’s sister Elaine was born. In 1939 his brother Keith was born. The CIM policy at that time was that at the age 8 the children had to go to the boarding school at Cheefoo in the northwest part of China in Shantung Province. It was a Christian boarding school following the British system. There were 3 houses – Livingston, Carey and Stanley. Cheefoo was on the coast. Philip had a love of the ocean all of his life from attending Cheefoo. It is one of the reasons that I feel I he chose to come to Vancouver later in life. Cheefoo was a hard adjustment for Philip as he was a sensitive child. He had had a happy life at home. There were 2 siblings to play with. Cheefoo had tough discipline. He had teachers from Britain, U.S.A., Australia, Canada, Switzerland, so the children had what was known as the Cheefoo accent, a very distinct accent. In later life Philip went to many Cheefoo reunions in many North American cities.
In December 1941 the Japanese invaded northeast China. After Pearl Harbour all persons of countries who were at war with Japan were interned. The 200 boarders of Cheefoo were marched off to Temple Hill, a Presbyterian compound with only the things that they could carry and then to Weishien and to Shantung Compound another Presbyterian Compound. These were 1,400 prisoners –professors, business persons, prostitutes etc. Schooling in the camp was based on what the teachers remembered. The pages of the notebooks were erased and reused. Eric Lidell, the hero of the movie Chariots of Fire was one of their teachers. Eric had a Canadian wife and she was pregnant and so Eric had sent her back to Canada for the birth. Eric died in that camp. I remember sending Philip a newspaper clipping about the Lidell daughters going back to China and visiting the site of the camp. One of the missionaries who were interned prayed that scripture would be taught on that site in the future. She returned to the US and started a group called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). Today there is a BSF group on that site.
Life in that camp was severe. Roll call was taken twice a day. There was electrified barb wire around the camp. Guards had rifles and bayonets. One day Philip was playing with a ball too near the fence and went over to the fence to retrieve it. A guard bent his arm back so hard they broke it. There were contests as to see who could kill the most rats. There were 12 people to a room - 18 inches apart. Shoes were patched then finally there were no shoes. Their legs were burnt from standing around the fire trying to keep warm. Crushed egg shells were eaten to provide calcium. There was malnutrition. The diet consisted of porridge, soup and horsemeat stews. Phillip never recovered emotionally from this experience.
There was great concern at home for Philip when he was in the camp. The first bombing attack on Japan by the Americans was the Doolittle Raid. The bombers took off for Japan from aircraft carriers but had to land in China to refuel before returning. Many of the planes crashed because the Chinese airfields weren’t ready for them. Our father was the only person there who spoke Chinese and English. He worked for two days with General Doolittle, helping with communication and buying land to provide a Christian burial for the American airmen. There was fear that if the Japanese found out who was helping the Americans, there would be reprisals against Philip; so the Paulson family had to leave China as quickly as possible by military plane leaving Philip is the prison camp. Blake had been born on December 31st 1941.
On August 17th 1945 Shantung Compound was liberated by 7 American marines. One marine was a former Cheefoo student. Cans of Beeman’s corn and Delmonte peaches would have tasted wonderful. Philip returned to the US on SS Lavaca troopship with 2,000 marines from Okinawa in uniforms. The bunks were 5 feet high. The ship docked in San Francisco. The Red Cross located Philip’s parents. He stopped in Burnaby to see his grandparents. He was reunited with our father November 11, 1945 in Edmonton. The Edmonton Journal ran an article telling how our father and Philip walked past each other on the platform missing each other because it had been so long since they had seen each other. The family had moved to Three Hills where my father taught the Old Testament at the Prairie Bible Institute. Philip was so undernourished that my parents sent him for a time to a family friend’s farm. Philip attended Prairie’s High School where he met his future wife, Ruth Johnson. He was very interested in cars at this time. After high school he moved to Calgary and worked for the Post Office delivering mail and then worked for the Calgary Fire Department as a fireman.
Philip received compensation from the Japanese government, $1 for every day that he was interned. He used it to take a trip around the world stopping to work when he ran out of money. One of the interesting places he worked was in Coventry, England. He worked on the Cathedral. It was the only Cathedral which had been bombed in Britain during the war. He also worked on a hotel named after Lady Godiva’s husband. The trip was wonderful – UK, Europe, Egypt, Australia, Fiji and Hawaii. I loved to send Philip post cards from my travels because he had often had visited the same places. In Hawaii he had an experience surfing. There were huge waves and he felt he was drowning and so he cried out to God. He promised to serve God all his life if God would save him. I feel that he has kept his promise.
After his wonderful trip he came back to Calgary. My father had been appointed the Regional Secretary of the China Inland Mission for the prairie provinces so the family had moved to Saskatoon. One Christmas on the Greyhound bus going home to Saskatoon he met Ruth Johnson who was also going to her parents’ home for Christmas near Marsden. Back in Calgary they started dating and were married August 7th.1957. Ruth had been the Secretary to the principal of the Prairie Bible Institute and was known to my parents. Their first daughter Julie Ruth was born on June 8th 1958.
Phil and Ruth then decided to move to Three Hills for Philip to go to Bible School at Prairie. Ruth had already graduated. Their second daughter Marilou and only son Jim were born while they were at Prairie. After Philip finished his studies they applied to go as missionaries with the China Inland Mission. They were rejected because of medical problems. Ruth had hearing problems and Phil had thyroid problems. This was very disappointing to them both.
Phil then turned his attention to obtaining a B.Ed. from the University of Calgary. Phil drove cab by night and Ruth worked as a secretary at Shell during the day. Phil looked after the children during the day. I remember thinking what a good father he was. Like his father before him he loved little children. He did many outdoor activities – swimming, skating, and tobogganing with his children. There were not many teaching jobs available with the Calgary School Board, so he used his experience with the Fire Department and his writing skills from university to become a fire inspector. After the marriage broke up, Philip asked for a transfer to Vancouver to be near his beloved ocean. He was always good at his jobs. He never missed a day’s work when he lived in Vancouver and his company recognized that with an award. He travelled the province in his job. He was to marry two more times. Both ended in divorce.
Phil loved the outdoors. In retirement he walked to the ocean every day. He built his own sailboat. He sailed, skated and skied and was a great walker. I often did these activities with him when I visited Calgary. He loved to travel. He especially liked to go to Hawaii. He was a people person. He loved to usher in the churches he went to. He was Head Usher at Willingdon Street Church for many years. It was there that he met his dear friend Gyan. Being a single mother without a car, he used to pick up and deliver things for her. He survived cancer of the mouth. When he was put in the hospital and then in a care home that he didn’t like, Gyan invited him to live with her and her son Eric. She is a wonderful cook and fun to be with. As his Alzheimer’s progressed he needed constant care and was put in a better care home. One of the frustrations of modern society is that we often live far from the loved ones we need to care for. Our family owes a huge debt to Gyan for her kindness and care of Philip and to Phil’s brother Duane who handled his business and visited him regularly from Comox. We would also like to thank his many friends who were good to him all his life and visited him in the care home.
Phil’s ashes will be taken by my husband and I back to Calgary to be buried between our parent’s graves. A short graveside service will be conducted by my husband the Reverend John Gishler who is an Anglican priest.
Today we give thanks be to God for the gift of Phillip Timothy Paulson who loved God and loved his fellow man!
Thanks be to God!
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