Clarence Rahn Talks in English
Reverend Clarence Rahn (1898-1977) was a German Reformed Minister (now United Church of Christ). He was a very popular speaker in both Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch (Pennsylvania German) and English. His talks usually included a lot of humor and also a “text” or message. He spoke frequently at Pennsylvania German versammlinge (fersommlinge) where the entire proceedings are in the Deitsch language. He was the most popular speaker among Pennsylvania Germans in the 20th century and his speaking style at versammlinge remains the model for present-day speakers. Regional press described him as the “Will Rogers” and “Mark Twain” of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Rahn was born in 1898 in Temple, Berks County just outside of the Reading. He attended a one room school for 8 years and then took the trolley to attend Kutztown State Normal School. He continued his education and graduated Schuylkill Seminary, which eventually became Albright College. During World War I, according to his daughter, Ruth Schaefer, he became convinced that Jesus Christ and Christianity were the only ways to keep people from warfare and decided to pursue a career in the ministry. He graduated from Lancaster (German Reformed) Seminary in 1923. Before his graduation he had already started as a supply minister at the Jacksonville Charge, a group of union churches (churches with both Lutheran and Reformed congregations) in rural areas of Berks and Lehigh Counties. He remained with this charge for 52 years. Although he was offered larger, more prestigious and better paying ministries, he never wanted to leave this charge.
He died February 8, 1977 in Reading.
Among his many and diverse interests, he was adept at electronic media and made many recordings of his talks.
This file includes three separate types of talks. First, there are English talks he gave at various service organizations and public groups. Second there are recordings that he made without an audience for a tape recorder, mostly humorous stories. Finally, there are also heritage talks, without an audience, about the accomplishments of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Among the talks for groups, there are some famous talks. The “anthem,” “the wheelbarrow,” and “sensible nonsense” are among the themes he was known for. These recordings were made in the 1970s and he sometimes uses the same jokes at different meetings. The humorous stories include many different stories and jokes. Some are jokes used at the meetings. Some can be found in a short article he wrote for the Pennsylvania German Society. I found the jokes on Humor 01 to be quite good, if listeners only want to hear one tape.
Some of the recordings have wav files available. All are in mp3 format. I am indebted to the staff of the Kutztown library for digitalizing these recordings from reel-to-reel and cassettes.
I also am indebted to Clarence Rahn’s daughter Ruth Schaefer and her late husband, Richard for sharing these tapes and agreeing to make them accessible to the public in this format.
People who are interested in Clarence Rahn and his contributions may find the following sources useful.
Donner, William Wilkinson. 2016. Serious Nonsense: Groundhog Lodges, Versammlinge, and Pennsylvania German Heritage. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Rahn, Clarence R., 1966. “Pennsylvania German Humor.” In Homer Tope Rosenberger ed., Intimate Glimpses of the Pennsylvania Germans. Pennsylvania German Society, pages 43-54.
Schaefer, Ruth C., 2014. Rev. Clarence R. Rahn: Country Preacher, Humorist and Philosopher. Pennsylvania German Society, Legacy Series, no. 4. Ephrata: Pennsylvania German Society.
Schaefer, Ruth C., Gregory J. Hanson, Clarence R. Rahn, and Rachel Yoder. 2018. Doh wil ich awer!: the radio adventures of Asseba and Sabina: from the scripts of Rev. Clarence R. Rahn. Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. Morgantown: Mastof Press.
01 Rahn Talk, "Wheelbarrow", Clarence Rahn
02 Rahn Sensible Nonsense, Clarence Rahn
03 Rahn Finger Prints, Clarence Rahn
04 Rahn Stump Hunters, Clarence Rahn
05 Rahn Exercise the Muscle of Your Heart, Clarence Rahn
06 Rahn Speech Thought, Clarence Rahn
07 Rahn We Can Run But We Can't Hide, Clarence Rahn
08 Rahn Nothing is Something, Clarence Rahn
09 Rahn Anthem, Clarence Rahn
10 Rahn Wheelbarrow 2, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 01, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 02 Rose Hill, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 03, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 04, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 05, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 06, Clarence Rahn
Humorous Stories Rahn 07, Clarence Rahn
PA German 01 Rahn Bicentennial Introduction to PA Germans, Clarence Rahn
PA German 03 Rahn The Revolutionary War, Clarence Rahn
PA German 04 Rahn Church and Pennsylvania German Life, Clarence Rahn
PA German 07 Rahn The Pennsylvania German Family, Clarence Rahn