An Opportunity to be Better - Chapter 7 Page 1

Becoming Friends

Billie Utley's letter to the people back in Morganville only mentioned their June 3 trip to Fèves. Whether they knew about the event planned for later in the month is not known. But the number of French officials present in Fèves on June 23 suggests that preparations had been under way for some time. In a sense, the day had been planned as a response to the R.S.V.P. near the end of Morganville's "Message to Fèves."

The event began at 5 p.m. with officials from outside the village being welcomed by Mayor Berne. A Metz newspaper described the event:

At this festivity of gratitude, the highest personalities of the Moselle Department had wanted to be present: Mr. Perillier, General Inspector of Administration and Prefect of the Moselle; Mr. Cathal, sub-prefect; Mr. Robert Serot, President of the General Council; Mr. Gabriel Hocquard, former Senator and President of the "Road of Liberty;" Mr. Marchand, sub-prefect of Metz; Mr. Barthelemy, General Councilor; Mr. Faessel, Inspector of the Academy; Mr. Lacour, Inspector of Schools; Captain Baujard, commanding officer of the gendarmes [national police]; the following Mayors: Mr. Watier from Semecourt, Mr. Pierre from Norroy; Mr. Gircourt from Plesnois.

Louis Perillier, Prefect - governor - of the Moselle

They were all welcomed upon their arriving at the village by Mr. Berne, mayor of Fèves, surrounded by his Municipal Council and all the population. A pretty little girl, Solange Parisot, handed flowers to Mr. Perillier and expressed the villagers welcome to him.

As she handed Mr. Perillier the flowers, she recited a poem she had memorized:

Je vous offre ce bouquet,
Qui n'est ni beau ni bien fait;
Il n'y manque qu'une fleur,
C'est la fleur de votre coeur;
Mettez-y la main,
Il n'y manquera plus rien.

It was an old poem, thought to be said by a suitor to a young woman. But in the relationship developing between Morganville and her French sister, the words took on new meaning:

I offer you this bouquet,
Which is neither beautiful nor well made;
Only one flower is missing,
It is the flower of your heart;
Put your hand on it,
And it will be perfect.

After the presentation, the band from Maizières-lès-Metz, a village immediately east of Fèves, played the French national anthem. The officials then formed a processional to the war memorial on the west side of the village, where Mr. Perillier laid a wreath in memory of the war dead.

The group then walked to the northeast edge of the village to a stage formed by what had probably been a small farm shelter. It was covered by a wooden roof. The back, which faced the higher-elevation Bois-de-Fèves ridge to the northwest, was also covered. The remaining three sides were open. Six large French flags hung from the front edge of the roof, while an American flag hung farther back in the center. The officials sat facing southeast, with the spectators immediately before them. The newspaper report added, "... the view then extends over the valley to the far off horizon, a most beautiful prospect with the Moselle valley in the distance."

Satellite view of Fèves. Program area was at upper right.

In front of the American flag was a microphone. The program, including recitations and songs by the school children, was recorded and broadcast by Radio Lorraine. Again quoting the newspaper, "It had been prepared with a rare ability by Mr. Torlotting, the schoolmaster, and Mr. Holveck, the curate of Fèves."

Reporters and photographers from several area newspapers were present to record the events of that day.

Gabriel Hocquard, who was instrumental in the "Road of Liberty" effort, is seated second from the left. Near the middle, seated and leaning forward holding some paper, is Louis Perillier, Prefect. Standing at the far right is Mayor Berne.

The following is a continuation of the description of the day's events printed in the Metz newspaper.

First, Mr. Berne, the mayor, expressed over the [radio] waves all the gratitude of the inhabitants for the generous help of the citizens of Morganville. He pointed out very justly that such attitude on their part was eloquent proof that understanding can exist among all people on the earth and all our villages will thus know that there are men in America who have the strong desire to attain this aim.

Schoolmaster Torlotting standing at the microphone. Prefect Perillier, far left, had earlier been welcomed by Solange Parisot, front row, second from the right wearing the Lorraine bonnet. Standing next to her with arms crossed is Torlotting's nephew Gérard Torlotting, who would later become Solange's husband. He would also be instrumental in bringing the villages together again more than 65 years later.

Mr. Torlotting, then, after making remarks on the title of a song called "France is Beautiful," drew a remarkable historical picture of the life of Fèves and pointed out the characteristic features of the habits and customs of its inhabitants, such statements being accompanied by appropriate songs such as "Joan of Lorraine," "Friendly Wine-grower," "You Shall not have Alsace and Lorraine" and a short sketch most perfectly interpreted by the school children, praising the love of their village and of the land.

Raymond Parisot, brother of Solange, stands before the microphone while performing in a skit. Solange Parisot and Gérard Torlotting are in the front row of children at the right. Priest Holveck is at the far right.

And in conclusion, Mr. Torlotting stated, "Morganville holds its hand out to us; we place ours in it."

People present did not spare their praise and applauded heartily the efforts of the schoolmaster and the curate as well as of the children for their fine performance.

In his capacity as president of the "Road of Liberty," Mr. G. Hocquard stated that "On this small particle of French soil, one can feel the heartthrob of the whole country."

Then, in English, so to be heard by the inhabitants of Morganville, he expressed the feelings of the whole population of Fèves and of all the persons present at this ceremony.

Gabriel Hocquard, President of the "Road of Liberty"

In the name of the Government and on behalf of the Moselle Department, Mr. Perillier then thanked the village of Morganville and its generous population for all the sympathy and friendship which they show to the "Mosellans" who have been so afflicted - the symbol of unity of all peoples.

"Thanks to your tangible help as well as your kind friendliness," he said, "the Fèves population have regained confidence in life; they are actually returning to life. And all of you who have accepted to sponsor them, you have put your trust in them. You may rest assured that you have not done so in vain. You have enabled them to take their place in a better world, and thanks to you and with all of us, they try to rebuild. You have helped France to take back its place in the world and its place has always been that of liberty."

Thereafter, the Prefect thanked all those whose collaboration has helped to make this celebration a true success: the curate, the schoolmaster, the children, the mayor.

After that, the officials removed themselves to the "town hall" (or rather the town-room) where they were greeted with toasts and drank some Lorraine wine, and Mr. Serot pointed out that the mayor of Fèves may be proud of all those who surround him and who serve as such a wonderful example. [Note: The village hall was one room in the Torlotting home.]

We wish to add that the broadcasting station "Radio-Lorraine" recorded the whole of this reception and its re-transmission will be taken care of by "Radio-Boston" for the Morganville people.

Robert Serot, President of the Lorraine General Council

A set of 15 discs of the 40-minute program was sent to Todd. No copy of the original discs or the tape recording created from them has been found. But in a letter to Carson, Todd described his reaction to listening to the recording with his wife Clare and Robert Sonkin.

I think that of all the rewarding experiences I have had in town affiliation, the peak was reached night before last when Clare, Bob and I went over to the home of Mr. Franc (Of World Wide Broadcasting Co) and heard the records of Feves' answer to Morganville. It is the damnedest, most wonderful thing I ever heard in my life.

The program was put together by Radio Nancy with an expert cast, including Torlotting and many others from Feves, a thrilling musical background, the singing of those Feves kids, a town band that is so French it hurts, magnificent speeches by the Prefect and several other notables ...

The program begins with a girl's voice (the voice of Feves) telling of the ancient history of the little town against a musical background. The story goes right up to the liberation, and the first contact with Morganville. Then it switches to the ceremony itself, with speeches by Feves citizens, the band, the children singing etc. Each speech in French fades expertly into an English translation.