An Opportunity to be Better - Chapter 7 Page 3

During the weeks that followed, the committee in Fèves proposed that the two villages exchange something of a symbolic nature as a sign of the friendship that had developed.

The French may have hinted at presenting Morganville with a painting by a French artist as a memento, for soon Morganville decided it would give Fèves something of a similar nature. Morganville native and University of Kansas art professor Arvid Jacobson was asked to help.

Arvid Jacobson

While a plan was being developed in Morganville to select an appropriate painting for Fèves, the delivery of aid continued. The excerpts below are from a letter Roenigk wrote to Torlotting on October 31, 1949.

I trust the shipment of sugar, cocoa, and rice arrived in good shape and also in time so your people could use the sugar for canning purposes.

We have not heard the Fèves broadcast, but have written Radio Boston for dates when we can listen in on the program. Mrs. Utley sent us an English translation of the celebration and we had it printed in our local newspaper, a copy of which I am enclosing.

We wish to congratulate you and the rest of the Fèves inhabitants on the splendid celebration you put on in answer to our pageant of last year.

Our school children mailed two packages of school supplies via parcel post to you on the 3rd of September. We wish you would distribute these among your pupils. The shipment consisted of tablets, note books, pencils, erasers and colored crayons.

We also have ordered some Christmas candies and empty Christmas cartons to be shipped to you for distribution. We want you to keep this a secret from the children until the time for presentation. Perhaps you and your good wife can put these candies into the cartons when they arrive. We hope they get there in plenty of time for Christmas. In case there is more than is needed for Feves children, you might know of some children close by who would like one.

... Does your school have a library and do you need any books? If you do, what kind of books would be the best? CARE has a book program which we are investigating at the present time.

The plan implemented to select an appropriate gift involved an all-Morganville Thanksgiving celebration. The general details appeared in the November 17 issue of the Morganville Tribune. A newspaper from a nearby town described the events as follows:

Arvid Jacobson ... will show a collection of his water colors November 24th portraying the village and nearby country scenes ... to vote on for the final selection. It will then be airmailed to France for Christmas. The second choice ... will be given to the Morganville schoolhouse ...

The exhibit and choosing of the scene ... will be in connection with an all-day Thanksgiving festival starting with a freedom of worship service ... followed by an international dinner featuring native dishes of local war brides, a recipe from Feves, and gifts of the vanished Indians, as well as the traditional turkey and cranberry sauce.

Morganville Tribune announcement

Some years later, Paul Graves, the music teacher in Morganville, remembered: "We organized a group of gypsy singers, quite colorful in costumes, and we spent the day roving back and forth to draw the people from the place of eating - the church - to the exhibit."

"We had a big day and there was a lot of excitement," Dan Roenigk later recalled. "The five paintings were numbered and as each person went through, he voted for the picture he liked best." The picture chosen was one of "ripe wheat fields ready to cut, their yellow crests capturing the sun's brilliance, a road cutting diagonally across and climbing a slope to a white farmhouse, a red barn, and a grove of green trees."

Jacobson's painting "Amber Fields." The poor quality of this image is due to it being a scan of a slide of a photo.

After the selection had been made, the picture was taken to Kansas City to be shipped by air to France. The bill was $37.72 - nearly $400 in 2015 dollars. The expectation was that being a gift, it would pass through customs quickly.

But it took nearly three months. So Christmas came and went without the arrival in Fèves of Morganville's gift. Still, Torlotting's year-end letter to Roenigk clearly indicated the affection they felt for their American friends.

Henri Torlotting, Teacher
Fèves (Moselle)

December 30, 1949

Dear friends,

At the end of this year, I want to present you my best New Year wishes. Thank you for your wishes and the photograph you sent me. Best wishes for prosperity to all your family.

Since we met our friends the Utleys and since the visit of Mr. Kolling in Fèves, we feel we know Morganville's inhabitants and customs. The Morganville-Fèves friendship is well-sealed.

Your Christmas gift items - pencils, erasers, notebooks, etc. - arrived in good shape. The candy which arrived on December 29, 1949 will be distributed January 2, 1950. Thank you all, the committee, to the people of Morganville. Mr. Kolling sent us good wishes. I hope that his journey ended well.

Mrs. Utley has certainly spoken of her visit to Fèves on November 19, 1949. I took the opportunity to purchase a gift for Morganville. L'Aide Americaine could certainly ship it and the Committee may decide what to do with it. This is a painting of a Lorraine scene executed by a Lorraine artist. This painting will prove to our friends of Morganville and their descendants the indestructible gratefulness of Fèves to her godmother.

In closing, I would like to make me the speaker for all the inhabitants of Fèves, the committee and school children, to renew again our good wishes for your committee, to all our friends in Morganville, and all those who dedicate themselves tirelessly to provide a little happiness to those who have suffered.

Sincerely yours,

H. Torlotting