Another Great Oral History Recorded
Barbara Fuller, 92-Year-Old, Takes Us Back in Time
By Jeannette Quinn Bisbee
Religious Science as an Institute, as a religion, as a church wasn’t built just by Ernest Holmes. Nor, was it built just by the ‘famous’ of Religious Science: Reginald Armor, William Hornaday, Frederick Bailes, Raymond Charles Barker, or Louise Hay. Nor, was Religious Science built only by practitioners and ministers.
Religious Science was built by the hundreds of thousands of people who have attended lectures at the Wiltern Theater, or sermons at Founder’s Church, or subscribed to Science of Mind magazine for decades, or listened to radio sermons in far-flung parts of the United States. Religious Science has stayed alive due the love and dedication of thousands of faithful people who have contributed numerous things as part of their faith and sacred service: handing out programs before the Sunday service, manning bookstores all over the world, attending Asilomar and national conventions, playing music in Religious Science churches or Centers for Spiritual Living all around the world.
Today, this column spotlights one of those ‘regular’ people, and if this is what the ‘regular’ members of our congregations look like than we have been very blessed throughout our 87 years of history. Barbara Fuller was an actress from the time she was 11 years old appearing in over 25 radio programs by the time she was 18 years old. She went on to star in a number of “B” movies, appear in TV shows like Lassie, My Three Sons, and Perry Mason, and, most importantly, she was the character, Claudia, in the long-running radio program, One Man’s Family, that was on the airwaves from 1932-1959.
She discovered Ernest Holmes and Religious Science in 1952. She and her beloved mother were both troubled by personal problems. A good friend of Barbara passed on a copy of Science of Mind magazine to assist her. By the time she was done reading it, Barbara knew she had to know everything there was about the religion and philosophy behind the magazine.
“I still remember the first time I ever met Ernest Holmes. I was walking down Wilshire Boulevard on some errand when I realized that I was right in front of the Institute of Religious Science. I wanted to go in because I wanted to get three books: Science of Mind, The Keys to Success, and Creative Mind and Success. But, that was the 1950’s. I was dressed in pants. Now women don’t think anything of going places in pants, but in those days you didn’t enter some place like a church dressed in pants. I still remember them—the pants were white flannel and I had on a hand-painted blouse, very fancy, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But, I really wanted to learn everything I could about Religious Science, and I had to have these books, so I walked in. I went up the three stairs, through the two sets of doors, and the bookstore was to the right, and across from it were the offices of Reginald Armor, Dr. Bill Hornaday, and Ernest Holmes. And there was Ernest coming out of his office with two “little old ladies from Pasadena.” The two women were all dressed up and kind of looked me up and down, and then Ernest spoke, ‘Well, petticoats must have gone out of style.’ I could have just died; I was so embarrassed to meet someone like Ernest dressed in such a disrespectful manner. But, the woman manning the bookstore knew me, and she chided Ernest and said, ‘He’s just teasing you. Ernest, she’s buying three books. Could you take a moment to autograph them for her?’ And, of course, Ernest was just teasing me! He didn’t care at all what I was wearing, but I felt a little intimidated. He laughed and said, ‘Oh, honey, if you’re buying three books that’s different!’ and kind of winked at me and made me laugh and feel okay. But, I had seen him up in front of these enormous crowds, giving his lectures, so it was a little intimidating to run into him like that. Ernest was small in stature, but he had a huge presence, and he was a giant in what he believed and what he accomplished. His life and all that he created changed the whole course of my life.”
Another key moment that stands out in her memory was Barbara and her mother’s first meeting with Reverend William Hornaday, who she affectionately calls “Dr. Bill.” Dr. Bill was beginning to take over some of Ernest’s role at the Institute and at the Wiltern Theater speaking to the huge crowds of 2,500+ from up on the platform. When her mother and Barbara first heard Dr. Bill speak, they were determined to have a practitioner session with him. They were told he didn’t see people for treatment sessions anymore due to the press of his duties at the church, but Barbara’s friend, Irma, the organist for Ernest Holmes, arranged for Barbara and her mother to have a session with Dr. Bill.
“My mother was extremely depressed because she wanted to get a job. She had retired, but she wasn’t happy, and she wanted to go back to work. She had been all over Los Angeles applying for jobs and going for interviews, but she was told over and over that she was ‘overage and overqualified’—no one would hire her. And, I was depressed and confused because I was going through a divorce, and I didn’t know how to handle the situation—I was trying to turn to God for guidance, but I didn’t really know how—I had dropped out of the Baptist church long ago. Mother said, ‘Barbara, if I could meet with Dr. Bill I just know that I’ll get a job.’ We had our session, and it was wonderful. Dr. Bill led us out of his office, and said to his secretary, ‘Now I want you to set me up with these two women again next week at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday.’ Well, I attended that session a week later, but my mother didn’t. That’s because she got a job the day after meeting with Dr. Bill, and she couldn’t make it for a session! She was so grateful! It was such a demonstration! And, my divorce went through very amicably; it was all so positive and upbeat. I had found my church. I dedicated my life to learning everything I could about Religious Science, and I never missed an opportunity to hear Dr. Bill speak whenever I could. As far as I concerned, my real life began from the point where I discovered Ernest Holmes. I had a good life before that, but I believe it really started after I dedicated my life to living Religious Science.”
Barbara spent a lot of time with Dr. Bill. She loved to drive, and Dr. Bill didn’t like to drive himself, so whenever she got the chance she chauffeured him to various church meetings and appointments. Both she and her mother made donations to build Founder’s Church, and once it was built and Dr. Bill gave both a 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. sermons—she attended both sermons every Sunday. Dr. Bill so inspired Barbara that she was moved to make a substantial contribution to spread his inspiring teachings.
“Later it became commonplace to have cassette tapes of speakers or authors, but in the late 1960’s it was rarely done. But, I really thought it would be great if people who couldn’t get to a church or people who wanted to hear Dr. Bill speak over and over could have something to listen to. A good friend of Dr. Bill’s was the physician, Dr. Omar Fareed—he’d been with Religious Science all of his life. He had just received some cassettes that had medical lessons about new procedures on cassette; he thought that would be a good way to share Dr. Bill’s ideas. Meanwhile, my dear mother had passed away. I had a life insurance policy on me in her name; she had lived with me, and I wanted to make sure that if anything had happened to me—she would have money to assist her. But, once she made her transition,I didn’t need that $10,000 of life insurance. I talked to the agent, and he said I could change the beneficiary or cash out the policy. I chose to cash out the policy. So, I took that cash from the insurance policy—I had Dr. Bill professionally recorded by friends in radio, hired a professional editor, and I was able to create a cassette series of Dr. Bill talking. Those tapes were really professional, and Dr. Bill loved them. He said to me, ‘Barbara, I don’t want one penny for those cassettes, but promise me three things: you’ll do a good job, help people, and help the Church.’ We did all of those things, and I know he was very happy. I’ve had some of those cassettes transferred to CDs, and I still listen to them. They are just as inspiring to me now, as they were 40+ years ago.”
So, this interview is proof positive that “just regular” people can make a significant contribution to the future of Religious Science and the Centers for Spiritual Living. It only takes love, creativity, and a positive intent. That is what wonderful Barbara Fuller did many years ago, and even at age 92—she still dearly loves her connection to all those people and the education and knowledge that changed her life!
Jeannette Quinn Bisbee is currently in the Online Spiritual Practitioner Program and will graduate in 2013. She loves the archives because she has recently moved to Canada where there are not any Centers for Spiritual Living nearby. She is, also, currently involved in a couple of book projects related to Science of Mind and looks forward to sharing more “posts” on the Science of Mind Archives and Library.