Blog entry #1 Prolog: (June 2003 – March 2004) “Better not wait too long”

Figure 1: Map of 2004 Trek to Biloxi, Mississippi

 

“Better not wait too long” was the wry suggestion from Millie, the wife of the original owner of our ’50 model Jeep station wagon when I called her at their home in Biloxi, Mississippi to let her know that we were planning a trip from our home in Cary, North Carolina to visit them.    “All right then, but call before you set out on your trip to be sure I am still here,” she said half seriously.  But we knew better.  At 90 years of age, Millie liked to joke about her continued presence on earth. Nothing short of a hurricane was about to slow down this lady who still regularly volunteered at the local hospital and voting station while keeping a pretty mean garden with Jake, her 91 year old husband.  We had little worry that Millie, who attributes their longevity to a little homemade wine and an occasional run at the slot machines, would be there.

 

When we purchased our Jeep in 1976, we found in the glove compartment along with the Owner’s Manual, two documents whose value we would come to realize some 25 years later.  The first was a copy of the original Conditional Sales Agreement, and the second the original Owners Service Policy; both being issued by the Jeep dealership at the time of station wagon’s initial purchase.

 

 

Figure 2: Original Conditional Sale Agreement for our 1950 Willys Jeep Station Wagon.

Note Total Cash Price of $1,885.10.

 

Twenty-seven years later in 2003 (I’m a slow study), I decided to take a shot at looking into the status of the fellow whose name appeared on these documents.  Upon typing Jake’s name and Biloxi, Mississippi (the city and state on the Agreement), into a search engine on the World Wide Web, I found myself staring at his name, full address, and telephone number.  What to do now? This was too easy.  I had not had time to work up an opening line.  Besides, I got to thinking, “Could this be him?”  A 53-year-old car probably purchased when he was at least in his mid-twenties. The original owner might very well have pushed his last starter button by now!

 

Oh well, if I was very polite and soft spoken (not inherent in my nature), perhaps the person at the telephone number I found would not mind too terribly relating the fate of the original Jeep owner that I hoped to find.  The lady who answered the phone seemed quite lively for the anticipated near 80-year-old.  Her response to my carefully paced, almost apologetic, explanation of the reason for my telephone call was, “Oh yeh, I remember that car.  It was our second, the first was a broken down Model A  …….”   Wow, I was actually speaking to the wife of the man who had been the first owner of my Jeep!  During the conversation, she had let it slip that she was 90 years old.  But what of her husband, Jake?  Taking advantage of her outgoing and enthusiastic manner, I eventually asked a question about the Jeep that prompted her to put the phone aside and say, “Hey Jake, do you remember……”  Jake was still there too!

 

In subsequent letters, (Millie’s being lively, humorous, and beautifully scribed and mine often stodgy and computer printed), we exchanged personal glimpses, local newspaper articles and photographs.   Responding to my request for a photograph of the Jeep from their time of ownership, Millie lent me a packet of photos (remember when your photos used to come back from the photo finisher in an edge bound packet?) taken in 1954 to document a snowstorm that dumped what appeared to be a full 2 inches of snow on Biloxi.  Among the photos in the packet was one of Jake standing in front of the Jeep after that “snowstorm”.

Figure 3:  Jake – Taken after snow “storm” in Biloxi, Mississippi in March 1954.

Background: Letter to us from Millie dated October 2, 2003.

 

As a small token of the affection that we had developed for these lovely people, we had four of the photos from the packet duplicated, mounted and framed in a collage that we sent Millie and Jake for their 70th wedding anniversary.  I don’t think that they could possibly have enjoyed receiving it as much as we enjoyed sending it to them.

Blog entry #2 Trip Preparations (January 2004 – March 2004)