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Love and Sacrifice tells the stories of the Reed family as they traveled across the U.S. and around the globe through the first half of the 20th century in military service. The book culminates in unimaginable tragedy overcome by inner strength and spirit. Their stories are told through letters among family members, personal diaries, and the vivid recollections of wife and mother, Mildred Reed. Their experiences are illuminated by more than 300 images interwoven into the text.Love and Sacrifice is appropriate for all ages, particularly young adult and older. Readers with interests in 20th century American and military history will find much to enjoy in Love and Sacrifice. Of special interest are military families who know of the sacrifices required in service.The book is driven by the voice of Mildred Reed, a woman born on the Kansas prairie at the turn of the 19th century, who raised a family while constantly uprooting for the next duty assignment. Mildred never complained, simply looking forward to the next adventure. It was her strength of character that carried a family through the decades and that carried her through tragedy into a life of service to others.
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LOVE AND SACRIFICE
A World War Brings Double Tragedy
to an American Family
Copyright © 2014 by Dennis Whitehead
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Second Edition, Revised 2017
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014919496
Arlington, Virginia, US
This book is dedicated to the men and women of my parents’ generation. It is their quiet dedication and sacrifice that laid the groundwork for the riches enjoyed by subsequent generations.
True love is selfless. It is prepared to sacrifice.
- Sadhu Vaswani
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE: Norton, Kansas
CHAPTER TWO: War on the Horizon
CHAPTER THREE: New Life Begins
CHAPTER FOUR: The End of the War to End All Wars
CHAPTER FIVE: Germany - The Army of Occupation
CHAPTER SIX: The Inter-War Years
CHAPTER SEVEN: Professor Ollie Reed
CHAPTER EIGHT: Back to Benning
CHAPTER NINE: Command and General Staff School
CHAPTER TEN: Back to School, for Bud’s Sake
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Duty, Honor, Country - West Point
CHAPTER TWELVE: Welcome to the World of Tomorrow
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Sailing to a New Horizon
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Philippine Islands
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: War Closes In
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Laura
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Starting a New Life
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Departures
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Safe Landings
CHAPTER TWENTY: Italy
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Normandy
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Love and Loss
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Epilogue
Love and Sacrifice
“Go west, young man,” a phrase attributed to newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, summarized America’s drive for westward expansion - Manifest Destiny. Telegraph lines followed the advance of the wagon trains, and towns sprouted up along the dusty trails. Progress would not be made sitting still. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the appeal of a new life brought settlers to homestead the open lands on the windblown Kansas prairie. Where native Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes once hunted buffalo, towns began to grow.
Towns grew with their families, such as those of Ollie Reed and Mildred Boddy. Some stayed to work the land, while others moved on to new chapters in their lives, such as Ollie and Mildred.
From their humble rural Kansas roots, Ollie and Mildred went on to live extraordinary lives with a pioneering and adventurous spirit, all the while holding fast to their simple ethos of dedication to God, country, and family.
Ordinary people have the potential to live exceptional lives, and the Reeds proved this to be true. Whether Mildred was teaching a church group the lessons of the Christmas season through the ornaments on a tree, or Ollie was in charge of a regiment of young men heading into battle, the Reeds readily accepted leading roles without expecting credit or adulation. They were raised in the tradition of making personal sacrifices to benefit others, and to expect nothing in return.
The Reed family - Ollie, Mildred, Ollie Junior, and Theodore, were an exemplary American family during a time when Americans had faith in their political leaders, institutions, and the essential goodness of everyone.
In this book, we are privileged to join their travels through the first half of the twentieth century, guided by the intimate words of Mildred Reed’s memoirs, and the personal letters among family members through courtship, love, longing, and loss.
What makes this story truly unique is Mildred Reed’s remarkable compilation of historical family materials - letters, photographs, clippings, and artifacts. All of Mildred Reed’s collected memories were graciously made available to this author by her grandchildren.
This is a story of dedication, love, and sacrifice; one that blossoms straight from the heart of the American character.
Norton Junior High School 8th grade class, 1911.
Mildred Boddy, seated, second from left and Ollie Reed seated, left on the ground.
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Youth sped past with the carefree abandon of “the good old days.” Hayrack rides, ice cream socials, box suppers, taffy pulls, slumber parties, run-sheep-run on summer evenings, ice skating on the creek in winter. There was a lot going on and I didn’t miss much.
—Mildred Boddy Reed
In 1896, Nortonwas a small northwest Kansas town born of hardscrabble pioneers struggling against harsh elements and fickle economic times. They made the best of what they could from what little was given and thanked the Lord for their blessings. The 576,000 acres in the thirty square miles of Norton County are situated about twenty miles south of Nebraska and fifty miles east of Colorado. A 1901 issue of Western ResourcesMonthly magazine described Norton in glowing terms:
The climate is all that could be asked. The county has an elevation
of about 2,300 feet above sea level, and the air is dry and exhilarating, free from malaria of all kinds. The land is very fertile,
easily tilled, free from stone, stumps and weeds and very productive.1
Mildred Boddy, age seven (Courtesy Patricia Tharp)
Closer to reality, Norton’s ten thousand inhabitants endured extremes of heat and cold, tornadoes, hailstorms, floods, and infestations. The fortunes of the region’s wheat farmers hung on every incoming breeze.
By 1896, the bright lights of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago had not yet reached Norton. Horses and buggies plied the town’s one main street under a gas-lit glow, in a year when the thirteen gasoline-powered vehicles were built and sold by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. Around that same time, Henry Ford was building his first automobile behind his Michigan home. But Norton, remote as it was, remained untouched by these developments for sometime to come.
On August 9, 1896, Mildred Boddy was born into the windblown prairie town of Norton to Della Sarvis Boddy, a twenty-year-old local beauty, and Bert Boddy, a clothing store clerk. Della’s mother, Lucinda Biggs Sarvis, was born in Illinois, but her American roots went back to the seventeenth century when Richard Whitaker crossed the Atlantic from England in 1666 to join the Fenwick Colony, a Quaker settlement in New Jersey. In the Civil War, Lucinda’s husband, Samuel, fought with the Iowa Volunteers for the Union. In the late 1870s, Samuel, Lucinda, and three of their children, including Della, traveled by wagon train to settle in Norton.
In 1899, Bert was elected Recorder of Deeds after winning a tied race, according to Mildred’s memoirs, by flipping a nickel against Dave Bruner.2As the Norton Courierreported on November 16, 1899, “The official count discovered a tie between Bruner and Boddy for Register of Deeds and at the casting of lot for the place, Boddy won. It was a republican year, you see.”3
Barely a month earlier, on July 18, 1896, Ollie William Reed was born to Orville and Mary Plusky Reed. Orville had come to the Norton area in 1878, as a homesteader, staking his claim in nearby Leota Township. He headed west after graduating from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa.4He completed the business program at the college in 1875, known as Hurd’s National Business College, offering
Mildred and Della Boddy, 1897
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“all that is taught in the leading Business Colleges of this country at one-half the expense.” After completing the six-month business program with a Masters of Accounts certificate, Orville moved into the Normal Department the following year to train as a teacher,5putting all of his education aside to seek new opportunities in the soil of a free homestead in Kansas. In 1880, he married Mary Plusky and the couple settled in Orville’s Leota, Kansas homestead, bringing a son, William, into the world. In 1886, while Mary was pregnant with another boy, Jesse, the Reed family moved into Norton where Orville took jobs as a mail carrier along Route 5 and a custodian in the courthouse. The growing family needed the more stable income the town could offer. Ollie would be the fifth of eight children in a family with five sons, two older and two younger than Ollie.
The births of Ollie and Mildred marked the humble beginnings of two people whose lives would be woven into the fabric of history, one deeply rooted in the Kansas soil, reaching both triumph and tragedy with quiet grace and humility. The future held unlimited possibilities and as they grew, Ollie and Mildred looked forward to a future together, discovering all that life could provide. Experiencing the world beyond the Kansas prairie was their dream, while family and friends remained at the heart of their lives. Ollie and Mildred dreamed big and lived their lives to the fullest, dedicated to God, country, and family.
As the new century unfolded, signs of the new world gradually began appearing in Norton. In 1902, telephone lines were installed, crisscrossing over the streets. The first telephone operator, known as a “Hello Girl,” Miss Clara Stine of Kansas City, was hired to operate the “hello board,” connecting Norton residents with one another and the town to the outside world. Upon her arrival, the Norton County Centennialnoted that Miss Stine was “a bright young lady and experienced.” Three years later, new electric lights illuminated downtown Norton. It would be some time until electricity reached the farming communities outside of town.
Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 as a progressive, populist, and anti-slavery state. Slavery had been outlawed in the western territories under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, so-called as the exception to the rule was the proposed state of Missouri.
The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act reversed this by allowing popularly-mandated slavery in the territories, inciting abolitionists to move west and take a stand. Pre-Civil War skirmishes between the abolitionist Jayhawkers of Kansas and the pro-slavery Bushwhackers from neighboring Missouri were commonplace. Abolitionist John Brown led his supporters against pro-slavery forces in the state, including the 1856 Battle of Black Jack, regarded as the first battle of the Civil War.
Norton County was incorporated soon after Kansas was admitted to the Union, but a tinge of the Old West remained alive in the region. The state song, “Home on the Range,” romanticizes the time when buffalo roamed portions of the high plains, as they still did in the early 1870s.6Wild Bill Hickok became marshal of Abilene, Kansas, in 1871, and chased outlaw John Wesley Hardin out of the state. In 1892, the Dalton Gang robbed two banks in Coffeyville, resulting in a shootout that killed numerous members of the gang and several townspeople.
A 1903 feud between Chauncey Dewey’s Oak Ranch and the sod-busting farm family of Daniel Berry, and his three sons over five dollars owed for a feed tank sold at auction erupted into a gunfight where Daniel Berry and two of his sons were killed, and another wounded in the shootout. When Dewey and his cowboys were found not guilty, the jurors were hung in effigy outside the Norton County Courthouse.7
In 1896, a presidential election was underway. On the day Ollie was born, July 18, 1896, Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan was greeted by ecstatic crowds in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. Bryan was supported by the People’s Party, better known as the Populists, and Kansas, a populist state, enthusiastically supported Bryan over his rival and eventual winner, William McKinley.
On August 15, 1896, Emporia Gazetteeditor William Allen White published an essay critical of populism, titled, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”:
Go east and you hear them laugh at Kansas; go west and they sneer
at her; go south and they cuss her; go north and they have
forgotten her. Go into any crowd of intelligent people gathered
anywhere on the globe, and you will find the Kansas man on the
defensive. The newspaper columns and magazines once devoted
to praise of her, to boastful facts and startling figures concerning
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her resources, are now filled with cartoons, jibes and Pefferian
speeches. Kansas just naturally isn’t in it. She has traded places with
Arkansas and Timbuctoo. What’s the matter with Kansas?8
By this time, Bryan’s Populism had lost steam and his Democratic Party was losing Kansas. In 1896, the state went for Bryan, but in 1900, Kansas helped re-elect McKinley and his vice president, Teddy Roosevelt, who made a whistle stop in Norton during the campaign. With the help of Bryan in the Midwest, Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson won Kansas in both the 1912 and 1916 elections. During the 1912 campaign, Wilson stopped in Norton to deliver a speech from the back of his campaign train.
In 1913, President Wilson appointed Bryan his Secretary of State, but Bryan resigned in June 1915 to protest Wilson’s inching toward war in the wake of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. Despite stepping down, Bryan remained a Wilson supporter, under the campaign banner of “he kept us out of war.”
Politicians were not the only newsmakers in Norton. Documenting the people and events in Norton during the early part of the twentieth century was photographer Charlie Reed, no relation to Ollie. In 1909, he captured the first photograph of a tornado.
Two years later, Reed documented the fatal crash of pioneering aviator John J. Frisbie at the Norton County Fairgrounds. News of the sensational crash made it to the front page of theNew York Times:
September 2, 1911
CROWD GOADS AIRMAN TO
FLIGHT AND DEATH
J.J. Frisbie Goes up in Crippled Machine
Kansas Spectators Call Him a Faker
Wife Denounces People Who Hooted Him
Photographs by Charles Reed,
courtesy of the Norton County Historical Society.
1909 tornado over Norton, Kansas.
Amid the commotion and calamity, Mildred and Ollie lived simple childhoods. Ollie was Huck Finn loose, barefoot in the countryside, fishing in Prairie Dog Creek, and hiking through the hills. His future would be on a farm. Mildred was Becky Thatcher, a self-assured young woman who liked wearing pretty dresses with a bow in her hair. She was taught by her mother to be very much her own person.
The idyllic life in small-town America at the turn of the century could also be mixed with personal tragedy. The Reed family never quite recovered from the sudden death of twelve-year-old Hazel on February 6, 1904. She contracted both diphtheria and scarlet fever, and without the antibiotics available today, passed away on that cold winter’s day.
Mildred’s father, Bert, who had never taken a sick day in his life, fell ill with a fierce headache the day after Christmas in 1903. At the age of thirty-four, Bert suddenly died from a stroke. The morning after Bert’s death, Della came into her daughter’s bedroom, asking her to say her prayers, “Your Papa is with God this morning.”
Mildred, just seven years old, immediately imagined the nice trip her father was on. “I hope he has a lovely time. When will he be home?”
Years later, eighty-three-year-old Charlie Kennedy, a Norton native, remembered Bert in a letter to Mildred:
In my mind’s eye, I can picture him yet as we rested our horses on a
hill top out on the prairies, singing one of his favorite songs at the
top of his voice (and disturbing no one)… “Oh, Kansas land, sweet
Ollie Reed, center, in left photo; Mildred Boddy as a child on right.
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Kansas land, as on highest mount I stand. I look across the fields of
grain and wonder why it never rains.”
While Mildred’s father was healthy until the day of his sudden death, her mother was a frail woman for much of her life. The strain of childbirth taxed her to the point that Bert and Della had only one child; Bert did not want to put his wife through that ordeal again. Della suffered from angina pectoris, a heart condition, and had always been encouraged by her doctor, “to sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam.” In spite of her delicate health, she assumed the job of Register of Deeds upon her husband’s death, and was subsequently elected treasurer of Norton County, later with Mildred as her assistant.
Della grieved the loss of her husband for years, and dedicated herself to raising her daughter. Norton women whispered about Della, “Widow Boddy is like a marble statue to everyone but that child.”
A new Baptist preacher, Thomas Jeffries Duvall, came to Norton in 1914. He caused quite a stir among the town’s women, including Della. Mildred later described Pastor Duvall as “a handsome Kentuckian.”
“He was forty-five, a widower, a smooth-talker, a ‘Southern’ gentleman - an exciting change from the western farmer-type men around Norton,” Mildred recalled.
All of the eligible women of Norton “set their caps” for Pastor Duvall, but he only had eyes for the attractive and devout widow Boddy, and she prevailed, according to Mildred.
Della Boddy and Reverend T.J. Duvall were married on June 14, 1915, some twelve years after the death of her first husband.
Reverend Duvall was born in Nolan, Kentucky, and graduated from Georgetown College in 1893, and the Louisville Seminary in 1895. He served as pastor at several Louisville area churches before his assignment to Missouri in 1903, moving to Norton in 1914. That same year, he authored the book, Better than Divorce. A 1916 history of Norton County noted Reverend Duvall’s place in the community:
[Reverend Duvall] is loved and respected by the good people of the
entire community. He is a tireless worker in the field, and a kind
and courteous gentleman to meet. Rev. Duvall’s father was a captain in the Confederate army but the Reverend is a true union
man through and through in spite of his Southern blood and teaching.9
The town of Norton was enamored with Reverend Duvall, but Mildred resented his attention to her mother. Before they were married, she would eavesdrop on their conversations and was repulsed at the sight of them kissing. She wrote of feeling like a baby bird being crowded out of its nest. “There started to grow in my inner consciousness a resilience that I would need later to cope with what Life had in store for me” she wrote in her memoirs.10
Mildred chose to spend most of her time at her grandmother’s house when the reverend was at home.
Mildred’s romantic interests developed as she entered her teenage years, but very slowly - as dictated by her mother. She and Ollie met through the Sunday school class taught by her mother, though it was some time before they were allowed to court. She recounted this in a 1979 letter to her niece, Patricia Tharp:
Mama taught a high school boys Sunday School class (Baptist) for
ten years or so – most unusual at the time. She called it
Boddy’s Baptist Builders. They had a class meeting once a month
at our house. I can remember them going home singing, “Tell
Mother I’ll Be There in Answer to Her Prayer.”
They made over me when I was little. Then, when I became a
teenager – was I the envy of all my girl friends! I was not allowed to
Boddy’s Baptist Builders - Della, center, and Ollie to her left.
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stay in the room for their business meeting, of course, but helped
serve refreshments – popcorn balls or doughnuts, or once a year
oyster stew! My Ollie was in the class. I was not allowed to go out
with boys until I was 16. Already tagged Ollie when the magic hour
Tall and stocky, Ollie Reed was known for his kind, gentle personality. The inscription next to his senior high school yearbook portrait keenly attested to his true nature:
Obliging best suits this
Doing for others what
Ollie loved playing football, his husky stature making him a natural.
“Tubby” is our star tackle,
About this man we have cause to cackle.
On the tackle swing he hits with a “bing,”
And then you should hear the lines crackle.
Ollie’s profile in the 1915 Norton HS yearbook. (Norton County Library)
1915 Norton County High School football team. Ollie is second from the right, middle row.
(Norton Public Library)
Ollie appeared as the lead character in the senior play, acting the role of Lieut. Jack Wilson.
In their 1915 yearbook “Boneheads” page, Ollie is quoted, saying:
Ollie, after going through the part of the Senior play where he had
to kiss Eva R. suddenly exclaimed: “O, let’s do that again.”
A futuristic front page from the Norton Daily Telegraphdisplayed in the 1915 yearbook foresaw how life would be ten years into the future, May 1, 1925.
The story featured Sheriff O.W. Reed getting into an argument with the manager of the local barbershop over who had known the most in American History during high school. Mildred Boddy, the make-believe proprietor, editor, and publisher of the Daily Telegram, reported the argument under the headline, “Duel in Barber Shop”:
A heated debate ensued ending in a duel of such ferocity that it was
necessary to call in the chief of police. Joe Casey, the well-known
pugilist who with his accustomed ease and grace, intervened and
marched the peace breakers before Judge Pillsbury who collected a
large fine from both men to reward Mr. Casey for his services.
In reality, all three boys were good friends, particularly Ollie and Joe Casey, who were football teammates and served together on the student council, Casey as president and Ollie as treasurer. “Judge” Veda Pillsbury was fellow senior, a serious young woman about whom it was written alongside her yearbook picture: “Virtuous and in conduct moral. Quietly evading every quarrel.”
Left: Ollie, as Lieut. Jack Wilson, is seated between Mildred Boddy, as Frank Burton, and Marie Brown, playing Barbara Burton. Above: Lt. Wilson holds onto Doris Meredith, played by Eva Rhodes, against the desires of Italian Count Andreas Cassivilli, portrayed by Ross Hicks, in the senior play.
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That same faux newspaper published a letter to Ollie from Arley Lockard, who left Norton in his freshman year. Writing from London on April 10, 1925, he opens the letter: “Dear Ollie - Well old man, the war is over and the thought fills me with joy.”
In 1915, Norton was as far from the battlefields of Europe, but there was a sense of America’s growing role on the global stage. Automobiles opened new horizons to young people, and their wanderlust steadily grew with the songs about saying hello to Frisco, doing the hula hula in Hawaii, and visiting Holland for tulip time.
“Poor dear Ollie was frustrated,” Mildred wrote, “because he couldn’t take me away from it all. He was 18, no job, no future without an education. I remember how he bristled when the reverend called me ‘girlie.’ I didn’t like it either but was pleased that Ollie was so protective... Ollie walked me down to Grandma’s, where Auntie [Myra Sarvis] and I were to sleep that night. When I went into the house, Auntie tried to tease a little to cheer me up by saying, ‘I saw him kiss you.’ She really hadn’t and was she ever shocked when I said, ‘If you had kept looking, you’d have seen him kiss me several times’.”
Mildred hadn’t allowed Ollie to kiss her by this point in their courtship, but she enjoyed goading her prudish aunt.
Ollie and Mildred were steady dates in their senior year, but Mildred didn’t like being tagged “Ollie’s girl.” A new boy had come to the school, eliciting the curiosity of all the girls, including Mildred. She figured she had dated Ollie long enough and broke up with him.
To this, Ollie replied: “Alright but listen here - if you ever take me back it’s for keeps, you understand? I’ve had enough of this on-again, off-again business.”
Mildred flatly told him, “Don’t worry, I won’t want you back.”
After dating the new boy, whose name was never mentioned, Mildred decided he wasn’t as fun as Ollie. She tried everything to get her old beau back, but he didn’t respond. Finally, at a Halloween party, boys bobbed for apples to pick their dinner partner. Ollie surfaced dripping wet with the smallest apple in the tub. He told Mildred that he
had hoped it might have her name on it, as she was the smallest girl at the party - and it did.
Afterward, he asked Mildred if he could walk her home. At the front door, he asked her why she had allowed him to bring her home.
“Oh, I discovered I liked you better than I thought I did.”
With that, Ollie grabbed Mildred and kissed her for the first time. He ran down the street, as Mildred wrote, “clicking his heels.”
“In those days a kiss was practically a promise to marry,” she recalled. “I had kept a diary for five years but that night I wrote in it for the last time. I figured it was the highest moment in my life, nothing could ever top it - Ollie had kissed me.”
Soon after high school graduation, Mildred was stricken with tuberculosis: “I discovered that I wasn’t as important in the scheme of things as I had always thought I was. The world rolled right along with me flat on my back.” She wrote to her niece Patricia Tharp in 1979, “All my friends went off to college or to teach - and I who had been the sorta hub of activity - left high, dry, and handsome. Learned I wasn’t nearly as important as I had thought I was. Valuable lesson for the rest of my life.”
Lucinda Sarvis spent long hours with her gravely ill grand-daughter, who was bedridden for six months, telling her stories of pioneer life and of their ancestors dating back to 1666. “It made me realize that I was a link in the Continuity of Ages.”
One early summer day, a year after high school, Mildred’s mother leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“Oh Mama, don’t do that. That’s the way I see you in my dreams.”
She smiled. “Do you think I’m going to die?”
“I do too,” Della replied.
In the evening of June 27, 1916, Mildred was lying in a hammock in the backyard reading Booth Tarkington’s Seventeenaloud while her mother crocheted lace for pillowcases to add to Mildred’s hope chest.
As a circuit preacher, Reverend Duvall would be gone for days at a
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time. At bedtime, they went inside, and her mother immediately fell ill. She went into convulsions and was, as Mildred wrote, in great agony. Della died of heart failure and uremic poisoning the next day.
Mildred cynically prayed, “You are not fair, God, to let her suffer so. She is so good and has always worked hard for you. You’ve got to help her.” Within half an hour, “my precious Mama was dead. That’s the last time I’ve been sassy to the Lord!”
In the safe deposit box, she found a letter written by her mother:
My darling Mildred,
All winter and spring I have had a feeling, foreboding,
premonition, or whatever it may be, that I will not live very long. I
know of no particular reason why this should be but I cannot get
away from it, and in case I should leave you, I know you would
wish to know something definite as to my wishes for your plans.
First - my property. I have just made deeds to leave my real
estate to you. The property all came to us by the forethought
of your father for our welfare, and it is only right that it should all
be yours. It would probably be best for you to sell our house so you
will have funds for a college education.
If you sell the house and have plenty to do it, I wish you would
give Mr. Duvall two hundred dollars, and Grandma, one hundred,
as a token of my love for them.
You will have my $500 life insurance, which will more than cover
any immediate expenses. My own last ones I would want very
simple and inexpensive. I would want to be buried in my wedding
dress. I know you will be overwhelmed at first, if my premonition
proves true - but your life is all before you and I pray God the future holds much happiness in store for my darling.
Face things as they are, the bright side out always, make the best
of everything. Take care of yourself, dear; if you do, I believe you
will be well and strong. I do not want you handicapped by poor
health as I have always been.
I want you to go to Ottawa College as we have planned, for at
least two years; if you wish to make other plans then, I believe you
will be old enough to know best what to do.
God has been good to us to spare us to each other so long.
Always seek His guidance in all that you do. You have been so
precious to me, Dearest, and such a comfort.
Even in the other world, I believe I will not be so very far away
from you — and always I will ask Our Father to take care of my
With a heart full of love
The Norton newspapers were effusive in their grief over her passing
The news of the sudden death of Della Duvall, county treasurer,
was a terrible shock to the community, especially to us who have
known her since her earliest girlhood. We met her that evening
going home and she appeared in her usual health and cheerfulness.
By eleven o’clock there naught but the body in death.
Nature’s ways cannot always be fathomed.11
Reverend Duvall was upset that Della had not provided for him in her will. Theirs had not been a happy union, lasting only two weeks past their first anniversary. Not long after Della passed away, Duvall handed Mildred a bill for the expenses incurred when he took Della to Kentucky for their honeymoon. After this, Mildred’s uncle John Stapp had Reverend Duvall sign a quit-claim deed that he would never ask for money again. In 1918, Reverend Duvall married Cora L. Williams, a forty-five-year-old “wealthy spinster,” as Mildred called her, and they were off to his next church in Abilene, Kansas.
With both of her parents gone, Mildred faced an uncertain future.
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After graduating high school, Ollie received news many young men his age would have been thrilled to get. Through the sponsorship of Congressman John Robert Connelly, Ollie was selected for the United States Military Academy at West Point. But, rather than packing his bags and heading east, Ollie spent the summer after his senior year working on a farm and thinking about the course his life would take as a career military man. Was it for him? Mildred later remembered Ollie’s tough decision:
That summer, he told me, “I am giving up my appointment to West
Point. I want you to be my wife, and I wouldn’t ask you to live the
life an army woman has to. She never has a settled home, or
garden, or any of the things a woman likes. I’m changing my plans.
I will go to Agriculture College and learn about stock. We’ll go to
South America and raise fancy cattle.”
During a visit to Fort Riley over the summer of 1915, Ollie met Cornelia Byram Lewis, the wife of Second Lieutenant John E. Lewis, a 1912 graduate of West Point. Her husband was assigned as an officer in the 10th Cavalry Regiment, best known as the African-American Buffalo Soldiers, serving with General John J. Pershing in pursuit of
War on the Horizon
Company K, SATC.
(Kansas State University Library Archives)
Pancho Villa in the Mexican Expedition, Ollie wrote about Cornelia Lewis, ”She had been added to the small list of people I believed in. She is the kind of woman I have always thought you would be.”
Whatever the trusted Mrs. Lewis told Ollie about the life of a military family was enough to convince him to turn down his appointment and pursue agricultural school.
With nothing holding Mildred to Norton, and estranged from her stepfather Reverend Duvall, she honored her mother’s final wish and enrolled at Ottawa University, in Ottawa, Kansas.
“Mama died suddenly when I was 19. I had finished high school at 18 then had rest cure for tuberculosis. Then Mama died. She had plans made for me to go to a Baptist college that fall. I did, but just to kill time until Ollie could support me, Mildred recalled to her niece, Patricia Tharp.
Mildred was one of ninety-six freshmen in a school with two hundred forty-three students, mostly women. After World War I, the student population would double. Located about forty miles southwest of Kansas City, the school was founded by Baptist missionaries as a boarding school for the children of the Ottawa Indian tribe. Congress set aside twenty thousand acres of the Ottawa Indian reservation for the school. In 1865, the name of the school was changed, at the request of the Ottawa tribe, from Roger Williams University to Ottawa University.
Mildred lived in the Charlton Cottage women’s dormitory where she played Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet,opposite her classmate, Helen Park, in the role of Romeo. She and her best friend, Nelle Foree from Tekamah, Nebraska, spent spring Saturdays paddling on the Marais des Cygnes River, careful not to tip over the Otter Dam. She was active in the campus YWCA organization, and was known to have a bit of a sharp wit toward her professors. When, in Freshman Rhetoric, a Professor Ritchie asked: “Why do words have roots?” Mildred chimed in, “So the language can grow.”
A little over one hundred miles away, Ollie enrolled in the agriculture program at Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC) in Manhattan, Kansas. KSAC was the first land-grant college in the
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United States, established by Congress during the Civil War in 1862. Land-grant colleges carried a mandate to provide three basic areas of study: agriculture, engineering, and military science.
Ollie joined the Student Army Training Corps (SATC), renamed the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in 1920. Marching uniformed students were a frequent sight on campus, as was the sound of small arms fire echoing across the campus green.
The crisis across the Atlantic, in its second year by the time Ollie entered KSAC, was drawing greater attention in the American consciousness, particularly after the May 1915 sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitaniaby a German U-boat. Among the nearly twelve hundred passengers and crew who died in the attack were one hundred and twenty-eight Americans. The public was outraged, and what had been an isolationist sentiment took a decided turn against Germany. Wilson resisted calls for retribution against Germany in the wake of the Lusitaniasinking, but at the same time called for the mobilization of American armed forces, causing Bryan to resign. Though Wilson won re-election in 1916 under a campaign banner of “he kept US out of the war,” it wasn’t long before he broke with his slogan.
On March 21, 1916, Wilson’s former Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, who had resigned over Wilson’s response to the Lusitaniasinking, visited KSAC to speak on the topic “War and Its Consequences to Us.” Three thousand students and townspeople jammed into the college auditorium to hear the famous orator.
“The European war has no parallel or precedent in all history,” Bryan began. “This is a war that some people want us to go into…This war is not a race war, it is not a religious war …The cause of this war is to be found in a false philosophy. . . We should not get down into the mire, as Europe has done today, to conform to a false standard.”
SATC cadets march on campus. (Kansas State University Library Archives)
In the audience that day was Ollie Reed, who wrote to Mildred about the great orator:
Did I tell you that I had the great (?) pleasure of hearing W. J. Bryan
speak last Tuesday. Take it from me - I think he insulted the school.
He talked on preparedness and had the gall to use sarcasm
and ‘catch phrases.’ The nerve of him sure appealed to me, but not
much else. When we sang ‘America’ he stood up there like a clam
wondering how many voters there were in the audience.
As Bryan was making his argument to the students at KSAC against entering the conflict, American troops were mobilizing. This time, they were not preparing for defense of the homeland against invasion. Rather, American troops were training for action on foreign soil.13When Germany resumed its submarine warfare against civilian ships and British intelligence uncovered a plot where Germany was offering Mexico the return of territory lost in the Mexican-American War in exchange for an alliance, Wilson was left with little choice.14
The U.S. Senate ratified Wilson’s declaration of war against Germany on April 4, 1917. The House of Representatives followed two days later. Over the course of the Great War, the Kansas State SATC program provided 431 officers and 1,703 enlisted men to the war effort. Forty-eight K-State enlistees lost their lives in the conflict.12
At the outbreak of the war, little had changed in American military organization since the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. With passage of the National Defense Act of 1916, the U.S. moved away from its reliance upon militias and toward a centralized, well-trained National Guard and Reserves in support of a standing Regular Army. The SATCs at land-grant colleges and other schools helped to supplement and supply the armed forces on the eve of war.
Ollie was one of six students living upstairs in Mrs. Light’s boarding house at 1231 Vattier Avenue in Manhattan, just across North Manhattan Avenue from the KSAC campus. He had a full academic schedule, plus marches, shooting competitions, baseball, football, and leading Boy Scout Troop 3. As a SATC lieutenant, Ollie commanded Company K, which among its accomplishments had the best shooting percentage in the second year of his command.
But a magnetic pull tugged at Olllie’s adventurous side. Seeing
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a covered paneled wagon adorned with a landscape painting, Ollie recognized it as exactly what Mildred would like for a westward adventure. For such an expedition, he agreed that Mildred could bring whatever she wanted as long as Ollie could pack his two rifles, a shotgun, and his hunting duds. The young couple shared a wanderlust reaching beyond the horizon.
In letters, Ollie and Mildred were pictures of American innocence, reading the same Bible passages every day and sharing their dreams for the future. He encouraged her to pursue her interest in writing, and she responded with elaborate stories of children playing in their yard while Ollie sat in an easy chair smoking a pipe. At the same time, she teased Ollie about the attention other men were showing her back in Norton. One letter, about a young man by the name of Crawford, drove Ollie to distraction, but he calmed himself with a Biblical phrase, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
When she mentioned “going with” a fellow named Davis in another letter, Ollie was quick to reply, “I did want to show just where I stood in case of a second Crawford deal.” His next letter finally put a stop to her coquettishness:
You told me yourself that you were in considerable doubt yourself
last summer. I felt that if there were any doubts in your mind at
present that you would think considerable about such a letter and
you would really know whether you loved me or just thought I was
a nice kid etc. I knew that you “thought” that you loved me this
winter and last fall. Right now you are standing out stronger than
ever - and I was not sure. As for “faith” and “trust” in you Mildred,
sweetheart this is a part of my love for you and it will last just as
long and that love will last as long as I do, for it is a very good part
After a spate of teasing, the couple returned to their romantic daydreams of Ollie getting through school, and then earning as much as one hundred dollars a month teaching. They would save enough money and hit the road, as Ollie wrote:
Personally I would like nothing better than to go camping until we
found some place we liked, unless you wanted to live in town or
city, most of the time. Why good lord we won’t either of us be over
24 years old when we start and why not chase around for a year or
two. We would both live longer, know more and not miss a year or
so. For myself I want to have a year or so of recreation before we
settle down for life with a pair of broken down broncho’s [sic] and
girlie for a wife
Then if we fail, we can grin and act like kids anyway—“Tis better
to try and fail than never to try,” and as I tell the kids, the victor has
never came over the pike that hasn’t taken a beating at some time.
And that is time. In fact its just about as much fun in trying and
getting beat as there is in winning. I can’t promise to “keep you in
the style etc” but I’ll sure keep you.
Meanwhile, Pancho Villa’s insurrection in Mexico and incursions across the U.S. border were bringing war closer to home. Villa had invaded Columbus, New Mexico, where the Mexican revolutionary killed eight U.S. soldiers and nine civilians, setting fire to the town. President Wilson reacted quickly by dispatching National Guard troops to the border under the command of Major General Frederick Funston, with General John J. Pershing in pursuit of Villa inside Mexican territory.
After the 1916 school term ended, Ollie was mustered into the 1st Regiment of the Kansas National Guard for deployment into the Mexican Punitive Expedition. The 1st Regiment troops arrived at Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 2, 1916, and marched into the desert to set up camp.
For four months, Ollie served with Company I on the border at Eagle Pass, sleeping in tents and with little to do since Villa was on the run and nowhere near. Ollie patrolled, trained and marched, but his real battle was against boredom and homesickness. The only excitement came in August when a hurricane nearly washed away the encampment.15
The Kansas regiments decamped from the Texas border on
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September 6, 1916, departing by four “truck trains,” a method of troop movement that was innovative for its time. Each of these consisted of thirty-three trucks, traveling caravan-style. The 1st and 2nd Kansas National Guard Regiments arrived at Fort Sam Houston two days later, marking the first time infantry troops had been transported in trucks over a long distance, three hundred twenty-two miles in this case.16
Ollie had quickly risen through the ranks on the front line of Texas. A natural soldier, he was rapidly promoted from private, to corporal, to sergeant, and returned to school as a lieutenant in the Reserves. His easygoing Kansan ways, coupled with a knack for leadership and teaching, drew the attention of senior officers. Contrary to his expectations, Ollie found he enjoyed military service and volunteered for the First Officers’ Training Camp (FOTC).
When the U.S. declared war on April 6, 1917, the army was facing a severe shortage of trained officers to lead troops, who, with the passage of the Selective Service Act in May 1917, flooded the ranks. Some five hundred thousand “selectees” needed leaders - and fast.17Strategic and tactical planning capabilities were lacking in the existing officer corps, as was actual combat experience. Opposition to a standing army, reinforced by the conviction that America needed only to prepare itself for defense of the homeland, further dampened the supply of qualified officers needed for mobilization. While the draft brought thousands of new men into military service, the officer corps remained static and unprepared.
The officer training program needed a speedy overhaul. Adjutant general Brigadier General Henry P. McCain, great uncle of U.S. Senator John McCain, called for the prompt opening of a nationwide officer training program. At the same time, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker directed construction of sixteen new cantonments, literally military cities, across the country. These cantonments would house each of the new sixteen army divisions of the National Army, numbering seventy-six through ninety-one, added in the American mobilization effort, while training an officer corps sufficient to lead troops into combat. Similar cantonments were built for new reserve divisions.
Private Ollie Reed
On April 23, 1917, just two weeks after the declaration of war, General McCain ordered the first camps to be open and ready to receive their first candidates, just one week later.18On May 14, 1917, sixteen FOTCs began training 30,000 prospective officers. Of these, “The First Ten Thousand,” as the successful officers were called in an April 30, 1917 memo written by the adjutant general, “should be the best the country has.” They would join the half million soldiers in the mobilization effort. The commanding general of the Southern Department wrote that his office had been overwhelmed with applications for commissions.19
Word went out on April 24 about the officer training programs, and Ollie mailed his application to the Central Department of the U.S. Army in Chicago, accompanied by the recommendations of the Kansas National Guard regimental commanders. The commanding general in Chicago oversaw the opening of six programs in four camps - two at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, Fort Sheridan in Illinois, Fort Snelling in Minnesota, and Fort Riley in Kansas, for candidates from Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Wyoming.
Ollie’s acceptance was mailed on May 3, 1917, with orders to report to Fort Riley five days later.
The officer training course centered on building physical stamina and the fundamental skills required of all soldiers: formation drilling, route marching, and basic marksmanship. Candidates without basic military training had to be schooled in the fundamentals of soldiering, bayonet skills, and close-order drilling, as well as signals training, primarily semaphore flag signals. They also dug a lot of trenches. One Leon Springs, Texas FOTC candidate quipped: “When you get discharged from this man’s army you can always get a job as a grave digger.”20
Ollie at Ft. Riley Officer Training Camp
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The first month of training was the same for all candidates, and then the men were divided among infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineering companies. There were fifteen companies in each camp - nine infantry companies, three batteries of artillery, two cavalry companies, and one company of engineers. Two camps had the added specialty of coastal artillery. Candidates were paid $100 per month.
The hastily constructed facilities weren’t especially comfortable. The theoretical and tactical parts of the training were often delivered by a training officer reading straight from an army manual, often in hot or freezing-cold, crowded mess halls. The goal of the training program was to simply prepare new officers not to be completely disoriented on the battlefield. But, how could officers without experience in the European trenches convey this? Camps resolved this by constructing simulated battlefields with trenches, barbed wire, and mock-ups of tanks, and other military equipment.
As candidates progressed through the program, they were required to appear before the dreaded Benzine Board, so-called for a post-Civil War panel set up to remove incompetent officers from service.21“No inquisition chamber in the Dark Ages ever controlled the destiny of people more completely than did the Benzine Board, as it judged the frailties and capabilities of these aspirants for commission,” Officer Training Camp-trained officer Gus Dittmar later wrote. At the program’s end, candidates faced additional scrutiny by a graduation board that examined each candidate’s suitability for commission.22
All of this - training, evaluation, and commission - was accomplished in just three months, leading to the name by which these new officers would be known on the battlefields of Europe - “ninety-day wonders.”
Ollie passed his reviews and had a one-week leave before graduation. He telegrammed Mildred in Nebraska where she was visiting a friend.
“I have leave the week of August 19. I hope you will be in Norton.”
Mildred was certain she knew the meaning of this.
“I bet he will ask me to marry him,” she told her friend Nell. “Let’s go to Omaha and buy me a wedding dress.”
Once home and with obligations to friends and family fulfilled, Ollie finally had time alone with Mildred.
“Now that I have a job, I can borrow a hundred dollars and get you a ring, or I can borrow a hundred dollars and we can get married,” Ollie proposed.
Mildred was quick to respond, “There’s a war on. Men are getting scarce. I’ll take you now.”
A wedding shower was hurriedly organized in Norton. It was a lingerie shower, featuring “teddies, camisoles, combing jacket, blue lisle hose and a gorgeous pink chiffon beaded blouse you could see through. How daring!” Mildred wrote.
After enjoying the spotlight at the shower, Mildred got a ride home from Ollie in his father’s Model T. En route, Ollie accused her of being a spoiled, selfish, and egotistical girl.
“Ollie Reed, if you are trying to make me so mad I call off this wedding, you are off your noodle. I know you are scared - so am I - but you’ll see. We’ll make a success of it and have a good life together.”
Ollie and Mildred were married in her uncle Joe Sarvis’s grove on the edge of town that Thursday. Although Mildred was uncomfortable with the choice of pastor, the ceremony was officiated by Reverend T.J. Duvall.
The August 24, 1917, Norton Couriernoted the nuptials:
At 7:30 o’clock last evening Miss Mildred Boddy was united in
marriage to Lieutenant Ollie Reed, Rev. T. J. Duvall officiating. The
newly married couple departed on No. 5 for Fort Douglas, Utah,
where the groom is to be stationed at present and will make their
Ollie and Mildred on their engagement.
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Mr. and Mrs. Reed have the
best wishes of the people of
Norton and vicinity. Miss
Boddy secured an extensive
acquaintanceship throughout the
county during the time she
served as deputy for her mother
in the office of the county
treasurer, and her unfailing
courtesy and consideration won
her the sincere friendship of all with whom she came in contact.
Mr. Reed is one of our self-
made young men, in the best
sense of the word, and possesses
the characteristics which will
cause him to mount high in
whatever capacity he may be employed.
Norton County is proud of this young couple and that each
succeeding day may bring to them added joy is the sincere wish of
Mildred later recalled her wedding day:
The Baptist preacher, my step-father, Thomas Jefferson [sic]
Duvall, tied the knot.23Mae Sarvis and Art Reed signed as
witnesses. Christine’s month-old Betty was the only one who cried.
Maybe she had a premonition she’d have to live with us someday.
We drove Uncle Sam’s wife, Nell Sarvis, and children home to
Dellvale, then went to Reed’s for cake and ice cream. I can still feel
the critical stares of solemn-eyed Eva Mae and ten-year-old
Harold. I was not the one Ollie’s mother had in mind for him. She’d
rather he’d have married Maud Deeley. Her mother was wealthy
and Maud was a healthy, good-looking girl. I didn’t appreciate it
at the time, but years later came to see her viewpoint. I wouldn’t
have wanted my son to marry a puny little individual who’d always
had her own way, and had tuberculosis, to boot!
All of our friends were at the railroad depot to give us a send-off.
It was the girls’ last and only chance to
kiss my Ollie. I didn’t care a bit. He
belonged to me now.
From Norton, the newlyweds rode the train to Ollie’s first assignment as an officer with the 42nd Infantry at Fort Douglas in Utah.24They stopped in Twin Lakes, Colorado for a few days of honeymoon at the Hotel Campion, a large country villa built amid the Rockies. They continued on to Salt Lake City where they made their home in The Covey apartments from August 29 to November 10, 1917.
Freshly minted Lieutenant Reed was anxious to join the fight in Europe. Mildred was aware of his drive and supported him, in spite of her natural wariness and angst.
After graduation from the FOTC, Ollie had the choice of joining the regular army, National Guard, or reserves. He chose the regular army.
Ollie thought it was a sure ticket to Europe.
Fort Douglas an internment camp for German-Americans held for
Second Lieutenant Ollie W. Reed
Mildred on the roof of The Covey.
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interrogation by the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as 320 German naval prisoners of war. Among these was the crew of the German cruiser SMS Cormoran. Pursued by Japanese ships in 1914, the Cormoranset out from Tsingtao, China, taking refuge in Guam in December of that same year to refuel and take on provisions. The American governor of the island denied their requests. Rather than risk capture by the Japanese, the Germans opted to wait it out in the harbor, but when the U.S declared war against Germany, the safe harbor turned hostile. A firefight broke out between the Americans stationed on Guam and the crew of the Cormoran, regarded as the first shots fired by Americans on German forces in the war. When the fighting ceased, the Germans scuttled the ship. Seven German sailors died - two by heart attack and five by drowning. The rest of the crew was taken into custody and transferred to Fort Douglas in June 1917.
Fort Douglas housed approximately forty thousand men of the Regular Army in hundreds of hurriedly-constructed wooden barracks with poor insulation and few amenities.
The newly-constructed facilities covered about two thousand acres with roads, water supplies, sewers, electricity, and facilities. But, with the ongoing recruitment drive and conscription, the fort was already bursting at the seams. By the time Ollie arrived in August, the camp had grown so much that men were sleeping in tents, on the barracks’ floors, and in the gymnasium. Three regiments - the 20th, 42nd and 43rd, plus the Utah Field Artillery, were all crowded into the facilities at Fort Douglas.
To stave off attrition, pay for a private in the military had been increased from fifteen to thirty dollars a month in May 1917. Second lieutenants received $141.67 monthly, or $1,700 per year. Officers attended a School of Musketry, where they practiced throwing hand grenades and performed bayonet drills fashioned on British and French combat styles. They dug trenches and hiked over the arid landscape. In September, the combined forces of Fort Douglas held a massive parade in Salt Lake City, drawing more than thirty thousand citizens to cheer them on.
With cold weather coming and not enough barracks to house all of the men, new quarters had to be found for part of the population. On
October 19, 1917, orders arrived for Ollie’s 42nd Regiment to transfer to Camp Dodge, Iowa.
On Saturday, November 10, 1917, the men of the 42nd boarded three trains that would take them from the Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot to their new assignment at Camp Dodge, Iowa, more than a thousand miles away.
Departure day began on a dark note with the suicide of Sergeant Stanislaus Magreta, a member of Company K, Third Battalion from Detroit. As preparations for departure got underway, the nineteen-year-old sergeant, distressed over the recent suicides of his brother and brother-in-law, pressed the muzzle of his .30 caliber Springfield rifle to his chest in the barracks and fired using a coat hanger rig. A native of Russia who had come to the U.S. with his parents when he was eight years old, Magreta had struggled to sustain his family on his monthly sergeant’s salary of thirty-eight dollars.25
After more than a day of waiting at the station, the 42nd Regiment was finally on their way at 8:35 a.m. the following morning. Ollie penned a letter to Mildred as his train steamed from the mountains
and into Price Canyon:
Somewhere east of Helper, UT
Dear Sweet Loveable Wife
Guess I just want to tell you that I love you more every hour, miss
you more and think of you more. I love to think of your quizzical
laughing sunshining eye, of your golden hair when it’s fluffy and
sparkling in the sun…sweet woman of mine, I love you, Babe, love
you, love you, love you. Tell me that you love me. Think of me
Pardon this writing but they have run me out of my
compartment – are playing pitch there – and I am in the smoker
writing on a suitcase. Bought a pipe and it has almost cured
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