Published in The Coast Star on August 14, 2003
The old Marconi Belmar station in Wall was empty in 1936 when it was purchased by the “Young Peoples Association for the Propagation of the Bible.”
The next five years would be quite different from the days when the Marconi, and later RCA wireless staff, operated a 24-hour-a-day wireless station they left in 1925. Quite different from the time in WWI when the Navy operated the station. And, very different from the days when the Monmouth Pleasure Seekers owned the property. It was a special time when students learned and laid the foundation for their life in the ministry, medicine, engineering and other professions.
“Why Another College,” was the title of the opening article contained in the first bulletin issued by the college in March 1938. The answer followed: “During the past few years the need for an interdenominational Christian college, situated between New York and Philadelphia, has become increasingly apparent to many ministers, business men, and young people of the East. To meet this need, The King’s College is being founded. The purpose of this school is to combine a sane, evangelistic zeal with the highest standards of sound scholarship.”
On Monday, Sept. 19, 1938, approximately 70 young people enrolled as freshmen in the first class admitted by the college. The devastating hurricane of 1938 was roaring up the East Coast that week and those first days at the new campus were dreary days with steady rain outside and the musty odor of a long unused building inside.
The joke of that first week was that there was as much rain on the inside of the building as on the outside, and with minor exaggeration, this was fairly true.
Mr. R. Fenton Duvall, brother-in-law of Founder and first President Reverend Percy B. Crawford, said the 90 acres and buildings were purchased for $25,000.
This was the largest check he had ever written. He handled the lion’s share of the administrative duties that first year in addition to serving as instructor in history.
Another dominant campus figure was Dr. C. Hans Evans. Having just received his Ph.D. degree in Germany, Dr. Evans began an association with the college which lasted his entire life.
Well-known professors from Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and other colleges visited Wall Township one day a week to teach at the college. Tuition at the school was $400, which included both room and board.
The first year all of the students lived in the old Marconi hotel which also housed the dining hall, library, chapel and most of the classrooms. A gymnasium had been erected during the summer of 1938 and the old Marconi power building next to the gymnasium housed the biology laboratory and additional classrooms. The second year, the old Marconi wireless operations building near the bay was converted to a men’s dormitory as was a nearby farm house, affectionately referred to as “the castle.”
A portion of the castle is a home today on the corner of Monmouth Boulevard and Taft Street where in was moved to in 1941.
No one graduated from the Wall Township campus. In the spring of 1941, with three classes enrolled by then, it became apparent that the college needed to build more buildings or relocate. The campus was sold to the U. S. Army and became Camp Evans.
The Kings College relocated south of the city of Wilmington,Del.
In Delaware Crawford would meet and shepherd a young Billy Graham into the ministry. Unlike most college students who could visit their old campus these college students would not get to visit their Wall campus for 58 years.
Finally in 1999 the King’s Kids, now grandparents and retired would be allowed an escorted visit to their old campus.
As they walked through the Marconi hotel they told stories of life as a late 1930s college students. Besides lots of studies there were walks to Asbury Park Convention Hall to attend concerts. The students sang at local churches, enjoyed picnics, held evening programs and skits. With a gleam in their eyes they told of listening to the 1938 radio program, “War of the Worlds,” by H.G. Wells and who thought the martians had landed and who did not.
They told of climbing the 150-foot Marconi towers and crawling across the hotel porch roof to get from the boys dormitory area to the girls after-hours.
Pranks were recounted. As example, students served up ivory soap balls covered in chocolate for a fellow student on April Fool’s Day. Then there was the time students taped a dead fish underneath the faculty table, which was not uncovered for three weeks.
A special time of happy memories in Wall.
Within a few months, after the students left for their summer vacation, the Army would renovate the Marconi hotel and build dozens of new buildings for radar research. Where students once played baseball, football and basketball for recreation, American radar engineers would be battling in a contest for radar supremacy that would change the course of WWII.