There is no letter from Willis on March 8th, so we’d like to share an image of the Photo Album that we’ll be taking pictures from over the next year. In this deep burgundy hard cover photo album are hundreds of pictures that Willis sent to Sarah from Christmas Island (where he’ll be stationed soon) all the way through to Okinawa. In it, Sarah carefully labeled each picture with the information that Willis had written on the back.
Willis met Sarah on November 1, 1940 at a friend’s wedding. Like a good bachelor, he got her name and address. Like a 24 year-old man, he promptly lost it. The next several weeks were spent desperately trying to locate her. I guess it wouldn’t be proper to chase down the groom on his honeymoon to get an address that you’d just received. The letter that follows is the earliest correspondence we have from Willis to Sarah. He must have somehow tracked her down and still made a good impression. During this time, Willis was earning $5 per week as the head pastor of First Baptist Church of Lexington, Illinois. His train ticket from Chicago was $4.95. He was working in Chicago to pay for his head pastor role in Lexington.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 21, 1940
We have much to be thankful for today, don’t we? It’s great to know he is ours and we are his. I cannot help but think of Colossians 1:18 especially the last part of that verse. May Christ always have first place in our lives, that by all means we may win some. (Daniel 12:3).
I cannot help but tell you how happy and thankful I am this day. Your life has and is an inspiration to me, because in even such a short time as I have known you. This one thing for outshines all else, “you are a consecrated Christian and are longing for a deeper experience of God’s Holy Spirit.” This makes me happy. (God’s Joy lasts) And I as you am longing for his infilling of his Power. My prayer is that I may help you as well as others. And of course we can lead others no farther than we ourselves have gone. (Phil 3:9,10).
Sarah! I’m so happy I can hardly express my feelings. I do hope you understand. It seems I’m dreaming, but it’s a great dream.
One must be careful being so happy, for it can be Satan’s opportunity if we are not on guard. Therefore we must be much in prayer and always remembering Proverbs 3:5,6.
Twenty-five young people from our church attended the Thanksgiving Service in Chenoa at seven o’clock this morning. We all had such a fine time.
At ten here in Lexington we had our Union service. The church was filled, and I’m most grateful to God for his blessing and leading.
You are having a fine time I’m sure, but I do miss you. And will be anxiously looking forward to seeing you.
This is full of disconnected thoughts, but forgive me, it’s hard to write when so happy. Words have such a hollow meaning on paper .
May God richly bless you this weekend according to your faithfulness.
Most Sincerely Yours,
On Saturday, we will begin to post the letters again for the next two and a half years. Here’s a picture from 1955 – ten years after the war ended.
On Saturday, we will begin to post the letters again, and will continue nearly unabated for the next 2 and a half years. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Willis’ Officer’s Identification Card that he was issued in February of 1944. Keep an eye out for the reference to it in about a month.
Herbert Glen Price “The Chief,” pictured above holding his daughter Sarah Price (Reed).
Willis’ father-in-law was a dentist. The stories from his kids and grandkids were legendary about the cleanings and “dental work.” They sound more like a horror story. I’ve always wondered how he got the name “The Chief,” as Willis calls him. A military name for a dentist. As I’ve been searching through my grandfathers pictures and other items, I came upon The Chief’s correspondence from several of his patrons. One in particular client stands out. You’ll see why in these two letters:
Am returning bill received to day as evidently there is some error.
Your original price quoted to me, was, as you remember $35.00 including cleaning. It was with this understanding I let you proceed with the work. When it came to cleaning you asked me if I wanted the special cleaning which you do and which I understood to be at a far higher price than the usual cleaning. I told you that I would wait till fall perhaps and have it done. You then asked me, “Do you want the cheap dollar cleaning, then?” I told you that I wanted a good cleaning and you proceeded.
Now, I don’t know whether your bill has been made out in error, not given credit for amounts paid in, or whether you are charging excess for the cleaning. If the latter, I feel that I must take exception.
Very Truly yours,
C. S. Olberg
The next letter, dated over 16 months later was carefully folded in the same envelope.
Believing that your arrogant avarice and undue greediness has had ample time to cool down, I am now enclosing my check for $19, payment in full for alleged dental services.
In doing so I do it knowing that I am paying you, not for services or value received, nor as per your price set on the work, prior to being engaged to perform it which was nine dollars and twenty cents, and which I promptly paid upon receipt of bill, but doing an act of supererogation merely to silence an affair in which your conduct has been nauseously detestable and professionally unethical.
Your puerility in sending your last threat would be laughable did it not display such deplorable ignorance of common, ordinary business law.
Regretting the pain that the contemplation fo your disgusting and non-recommendable behavior has caused me, I am,
C. S. Olberg
The incident (or maybe more than one) had obviously lasted over a year and their relationship had grown quite toxic. While The Chief must have softened after having children, this gives you an idea of the kind of man of whom legends are spoken. It also shows the elegance of correspondence from days gone by, even in relationships that had soured.
I love it… especially since I had to pull out a thesaurus…
This photo was also taken outside 1522 Elmdale where the Price family lived. This is an obviously happy time, even though they knew Willis would be leaving in just a couple of days. It’s amazing how times like these can make us treasure the moments even more. In the letters that Willis writes, he refers to his mother-in-law as “Mom.”
There are no letters for the next two days, but as they say – a picture is worth a thousand words.
Willis finished with Chaplain training at Harvard University on September 23, 1943 and was immediately assigned to Long Beach, California and was to report on September 30th. Because this train route was to take him through Chicago, Willis was blessed to be able to spend a few precious days with Sarah. This means that we don’t have any letters from the 24th through the 27th. Willis and Sarah had a few pictures taken during this short visit, which we will share here and in the gallery over the next few days.
Rejoin the Journey on the 28th and follow Willis as he sends a series of postcards from train depots on the way to Long Beach and then struggles to find his battalion.
Willis did not write a letter on September 18, 1943. So we will begin a new page to share with everyone. It will be a photo gallery of the people that he mentions in his letters. We have tried to do some research on the people mentioned in the pictures, or letters, but because this took place 74 years ago, it is difficult to trace people like the Rileys in Boston, or Wayne Soliday, his friend from Chaplain school. We have been able to make contact with a cousin and we are now filling in many names from old family photographs. This will be a continued project over the course of the next three years. Keep following the gallery page.
One of the chaplains that Willis has a lot to say about is his roommate Gunther Plaut from Chicago. He was the chain smoking rabbi who kept the room looking like “a pool hall,” and talked, “in a half-shouting fashion, and he’s liable to burst out at anytime with something making it hard to concentrate on writing.”
After serving with the 104th Infantry Division in Europe in 1944-45, Rabbi Plaut became a very well-know Reformed Rabbi and wrote a great deal of works including a commentary on the Torah that is still widely used in the Reformed movement. There is a lot of information on the internet regarding his history. He died in 2012.
To see the rest of the photo gallery (or at least as far as we’ve gone) Click Here.
Willis didn’t write a post on September 12, 1943, so once again, we will post an old family photograph. I know that some Reed descendants have been on this site, so if you are able to shed any light on this picture – please share! This photograph would have been taken at the 1927 family reunion in Hampton, Nebraska. James Willis Reed was Willis’ grandfather and he had eight sons and six daughters. Based on a picture of James and his sons, we have been able to identify the following people:
- James Willis (Willis’ Grandfather)
- Earl (Willis’ Father)
- Donald (Willis’ brother)
If you know who any other people are in the picture, just post in the comments below.