Home!

Evidently, Lester’s leave to go home for a week was re-instated. Though there are no letters surviving with  final news of his travel plans, a series of photos from his visit has been treasured and circulated in the family for decades. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps he telephoned home to announce his travel plans. If so, all the neighbors would have known the plan instantly on their party line. Perhaps he sent a telegram. Given the previous on-again, off-again yoyo of anticipation and disappointment surrounding his leave plans, it seems likely that the folks dared not believe he was really coming until they could see him with their own eyes and hug him with their own arms.

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However, he did spend a wonderful week at home in early August of 1942. Imagine the parties! The dinners, family reunions, visits with aunts, uncles, cousins and classmates who were still nearby.

Lester (seated in front on the left) and classmates at District 72 school. Sister Frances is on the back row.
Lester (seated in front on the left) and classmates at District 72 school. Sister Frances is on the back row.

The boys at school. Lester is on the left in the back row.
The boys at school. Lester is on the left in the back row.

Imagine the joy and pride felt in the hearts of his parents, his fiance, his sister and his younger brothers.

With fiance Josephine.
With fiance Josephine.

Lester’s leave was granted as he completed his training course, and shortly before he received his navy ship assignment. He would not be spending any more time in Michigan. He would be going on, part of a crew on a navy destroyer destined for distant places.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My grandmother, Lester’s mother, recalled his visit home in August of 1942 with misty eyes. Decades afterward, she would tell her grandchildren (none of whom were born yet in 1942) about Lester’s last evening at home. He sat outside the farm house, gazing across the fields, staring and staring for a long time, as if he couldn’t get enough. He didn’t want to forget what his home looked like, for this is where his heart would always belong.

Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.
Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.

It was almost as if he knew on some level that he would never be back. He would never see his childhood home or his family again. And they would never see him.

The four Harris siblings. Wallace, Lester, Frances and in front, Paul.
The four Harris siblings. Wallace, Lester, Frances and in front, Paul.
Lester with his parents.
Lester with his parents.

This was Lester’s last journey home.

The Farm
The Farm

Cancel your trip! (Too bad)

The only news which would have changed his mother’s mind would be news of his own trip home. And indeed he did get a leave approved. The yoyo is swinging up now. Times were so uncertain in 1942, and the world situation so grim, nobody was ever sure of anything until it happened though.

Aug. 1  –  1942

Dear Folks.

It is too bad to cheat you out of your trip but it looks as though I would be coming home sometime next week.  I have just returned from filling out my leave papers.  I’ll call you when I get to Emporia if I want you to come after me.

It is raining this morning and looks as though it would continue all day.  I am in an upper dormitory right next to the lake.  During the rain we can’t tell the lake from the sky.  There is a bunch of officers homes between the lake and the barracks but we can see over them.  This is the first time I have ever seen the lake from this station.  I guess it must be pretty big ’cause I can’t see the other side!

 It was just a little cloudy at sunrise this morning and it made the lake very pretty.  I haven’t met any of the boys I know yet as I don’t know where to find them.  I inquired about Mr Baker, my boot company commander, but didn’t get to see him.  He has charge of another company now and it seems that I will have to get a pass to go over and see him.  We had a nice trip from Dearborn and got in here at four last evening.  We drew clothes this morning but I didn’t get any.  This afternoon we will have our pictures taken for identification cards.

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I called you the other night because at five o’clock that evening the executive had told us that our liberty had been changed to Sunday noon til 9:30 that night.  He said there would be no special leaves or liberties.  When we got here last night we asked the Lieutenant if we could get leaves.  He thought that all of us were getting them so when he learned that, he started to find out about them for us.  I’m going to close now and will see you in a few days.

Love

Lester