Old Settlers’ speech of Joan Briggs Price
“Good morning! How do you say thank you to the Old Settlers’ Association for such an honor? Well, I guess you just say, ‘Thank you’ sincerely from the bottom of our hearts, with pleasure, humility and thankfulness. We do thank you, so much.
“My name is Dora Joan Briggs Price. I was born on July 11, 1932 at the Kewanee Hospital. I grew up just four miles north on the six-mile from where we are sitting this morning. My parents were Fred and Katherine (Benedict) Briggs, and we were tenant farmers for the Jim Armstrong farms for many years.
All my grade school years were spent at Jack Creek School, about ¼ mile from our home. What fun we had over the years walking back and forth from home to school.
“My first and second grade teacher was THE BEST! She was Phyllis (Weir) Jackson. Not only was she an excellent beginning teacher, I loved her dearly. And, she always used Jergen’s lotion, and you will find some on my kitchen sink to this day.
“In second and third grades, I had another special teacher. She was Lolabel (Walden) Taylor. It was my distinct pleasure to have spent some time with her after I returned to Toulon, through the American Legion Auxiliary.
“The last two years of grade school, I was very privileged to have Ardis Murray for my teacher and she was also earlier, my piano teacher. She was so much help to me in love and inspiration to complete my elementary education.
“There were five of us ‘Briggs Kids’, and we all graduated from Toulon Township High School. Malcolm ‘Bud’ (Class of 1942), Joyce (Class of 1944), Marvin (Class of 1946), Joan (Class of 1950) and Jeanne (Class of 1952). We were all happy and busy kids and loved growing up in Stark County.
“We were all lucky enough to have been in the schools during the tenure of C. P. Patterson (whom we loved and feared) and were all members of the choruses, band, ensembles and soloists. We had other favorite high school teachers, too – Mr. and Mrs. Davies, Virginia Keller, Lois Anderson, Caroline Kidd and the list goes on and on. Wonderful years!
“Time marches on – I attended Carthage College, which at the time was in Carthage, Illinois and then to Kansas City to study at Central Technical Institute, becoming a reservations agent, booking flights, et cetera for TWA.
“When my college boyfriend was discharged from the Air Force in 1953, we were married and we moved to Pekin, Illinois where our son, Donald Ray Gredell, was born on February 15, 1955. In 1960, Harold and I were divorced and Donny and I moved to Harrison, Arkansas where my parents retired.
“Donny attended Harrison High Schools and graduated in 1973 and went to Phillips County Community College on a basketball scholarship. He qualified for it in one way for sure. He stood 6 foot 7 inches tall.
Donny was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 3, 1977, at the age of 22. This September 3rd marks the 40th anniversary of his death.
“I started working for Security Bank, in 1963 and stayed with them for 28 years before retiring in 1999 as a Customer Service Officer, covering Marketing and Customer Relations. I was also the ‘voice of the bank’, as I was the switchboard operator for about 10 years, and narrated our bank’s advertising on the local radio station for many years.
“My parents died in 1985 and 1988, leaving me by myself in Harrison. Sister Joyce lived five hours to the south of Harrison, and Jeanne lived five hours north of Harrison, and both brothers were in California.
I stayed busy after retirement, spending my winters in the Gulf Shores, Alabama, and traveling throughout the area and visiting my siblings when I could.
“I hosted a couple of TTHS reunions in my home, in Harrison, and in Branson, Missouri venues. It was great to see old friends and classmates, and to get reacquainted with others, including Willard and Roberta Price. I was a freshman when Willard was a senior, so of course he had no idea who I was, but I well-remembered them both.
“In November, after Roberta passed away in July of 2003, Willard called me and we started corresponding, and Willard made several visits to Harrison. In March of 2004, he asked me to marry him and return to Illinois. I said ‘Yes’, and we began making plans to start a new life together.
“I WAS GOING HOME!!! Getting married after being single since 1960 (44 years!) POOR WILLARD! I might have been set in my ways.
“We were married on May 15, 2004 at the First Presbyterian Church in Kewanee, Illinois, and a few days later, bought the Phil Allen home at 841 W. Clinton Street, in Toulon. We moved in on July 10, 2004 the day before my 72nd birthday.
“LUCKY ME! I inherited five children, nine grandchildren and one Great-granddaughter. WE NOW HAVE 15 GREAT-GRANDS! I was so excited, I had family again.
“I WAS BACK IN TOULON! LIVING JUST FOUR MILES FROM MY GROWING-UP HOME AMONG LIFETIME FRIENDS, RLATIVES AND NEW FRIENDS!
“I was reminded of something Donny said to me when we left Pekin to move to Harrison, Arkansas. I told him we would be leaving his friends, his Gredell grandparents, and school in Pekin, where he was a third grader. His reply to me was so typical of his optimism – ‘Well, Mom… just think of all the friends who are waiting there to meet us.’ I have found this to be so true, in Toulon.
“So here we are – happily married for over 13 years and HOLDING! And, standing before you in 2017 as the badge honorees of the Old Settlers’ Celebration in Toulon, a place where we went to school, played in the band, sang in the choruses, played football and enjoyed a wonderful Illinois childhood.
“THANK YOU SINCERELY!!! WE ARE SO THANKFUL AND BLESSED!!!
“You know what? You CAN go home again! Thank you!!!”
Old Settlers’ speech of Willard Price
“My name is Willard Quinn Price. I was born in the old Kewanee Hospital on January 27th, 1929. I was the first born to Fred and Lucille Price. Both of my younger brothers were born right here in Toulon at the home of our maternal grandfather and step-grandmother’s house. Grandad Grieve’s first wife died and he later married Gertrude, a nurse.
“My first eight years of schooling was in the old demolished Quinn School. I was either named after the school, or vice versa. Anyway, Quinn was an old family name. My first and second grade teacher was Thelma Poppen. I credit my legible handwriting to Mrs. Poppen because she really dwelled on penmanship. My third and fourth grade teacher was Yvonne Titlow. Not too much to remember about those two years except she has a younger brother still living in Kewanee.
“Lois Heaton Nicholson was my teacher my last four years of grade school. Most country schools back then didn’t have many pupils attending. If I remember right, we generally had between 12 and 14. I recall telling my kids that I graduated salutatorian of my eighth grade class. Of course, there were just two of us. I don’t think there were too many more graduating from Quinn School, as all the country schools went to Toulon Grade School.
“This was also about the time TTHS began bus service to the high school. My freshman year I had to go one and a half miles to catch the school bus. Being from one of the country schools in Stark County, our sports program didn’t include football and basketball, but instead included ‘Andy Over’ and ‘Hide and Seek.’ Needless to say, I was not a regular on any of the athletic teams, but I had been exposed to music in 7th grade and started playing trombone once a week after school with C.P. Patterson. Naturally, we didn’t address Mr. Patterson as ‘C.P.’, but always as Mr. Patterson.
“So, not being a starter on the football team meant I would spend a lot of time in band playing for the football and basketball games. Besides playing in the band all four years, Mr. Patterson encouraged playing solos for several functions including Eastern Star, in the old Masonic Lodge Building. There were several of my classmates who used these appearances to practice our contest solos and it helped build confidence.
“The summer between my Junior and Senior years I was privileged to attend the Interlocken Music Camp, in Michigan. That was in 1946 and there weren’t any interstate roads back then. That was quite an experience. I had a choice between band, orchestra, and choir and dance. Not having any experience in dance and very little vocal training, I picked band and orchestra. The band was great. We had tryouts each week to see who would get to be first chair; I never did make it.
“The orchestra was a whole new world. It made me appreciate the other side of band music and marvel at the playing of violins and bassoons and French horns, which we didn’t have in the TTHS band. My interest in band music carried over to two years at the University of Illinois. I would have liked to have been a part of the marching Illini, but didn’t make it.
“However, the draft got me in the Army in January of 1951. After 16 weeks of basic training, I figured out I would be shipped to Korea. I was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and one of the papers we filled out was a question of hobbies and special interests. I put down that I had received eight years of band training, not thinking anymore about it.
“Then, when our regiment graduated, I was among about 30 of several thousand to stay at Fort Leonard Wood. I played in the 6th Armored Band the rest of my two year enlistment. After being discharged, my first wife, Martha Webster, and I came home to Toulon with a brand new baby boy. It has always been easy for me to remember Frank’s birthday because he was born the day I was discharged.
“Martha, Frank and I came back and lived the first year at the old Quinn School. Grandpa had bought the acre of ground on the corner of his farm and converted the old school house into living quarters for his hired help. We lived there for the first year and then moved to the McKeighan farm two miles north of Toulon. That first year home, I was also involved with the Senior Black Knights Drum and Bugle Corp.
That was a fun summer of appearances – State Fair, Chicago, Lacon, Kewanee Hog Days, et cetera. Although it was a fun time, it didn’t fit in with starting farming, so I dropped out.
“We farmed the McKeighan farm for 19 odd years. Along with raising hogs, sheep and feeding cattle, we raised one boy and four girls – Madelyn, Carolyn, Rebbecca and Patricia. Also while living in the Toulon area, I served on the old Toulon High School Board of Education for 10 years and also was an assistant 4-H leader along with Harold McMillen.
“Due to a change in management, we moved from the McKeighan farm to a small farm west of Neponset, in 1973. Along with farming, I hired on at the old J & L Steel Company as a millwright, in 1969. I continued working for the LTV Steel Company, until retirement in 1999.
“Living in Neponset for 31 years was quite an experience. I have to admit I probably spent more time in Hennepin than I did in Neponset. That was probably the biggest reason for my divorce, in 1980. I married Roberta Hancock, in 1982, and lived with her until her death, in 2003. Through a multi-class reunion, in Branson, Missouri, an old friendship developed and like Edward R. Murrow would say, ‘The rest is history.’
“Joan and I were both absent from Toulon for many years and missed a whole generation of kids growing up. When your kids start retiring from their jobs and vocations, you start to realize you must be getting old.
“One thing I remember about the Old Settlers’ Reunion was setting up on the Courthouse lawn. Dad would go with other members of the church – Baptist – and go up to Wrigley’s Lumber Yard and borrow a lot of lumber for shacks along the west side of the courthouse. The shacks served the ladies of the church as shelters from the elements and a place to cook the chicken and dumplings.
“We also hauled lumber to make seats for the tables and the field tile for the boards to sit on. I remember Mother soliciting pies and cakes and et cetera for the noon meal. The churches would rotate serving between the Baptist and Methodist churches. Helping get ready for Old Settlers’ was a whole lot easier than pulling buttons off of Velvet weeds in the corn and bean fields.
“My hobby of tractor collecting started many years ago while I still had good income. The very first toy purchased was an International Harvester threshing machine from Farm King. It made me think of all the fun we used to have back in the days of binders and balers and threshing machines. A particular incident was fighting Wanda Witten to see who would get to shovel the oats back in the wagon parked under the threshing machine. Who won? I don’t remember, probably a tie, we probably took turns.
“Another incident I remember was a toy show held in the Junior High building, in Kewanee in connection with Hog Days. There was a John Deere…pardon the expression…tractor with steel lugs and two row mounted cultivator for sale for $105. That was a long time ago and I didn’t have that much money at that time to spend on toys, but I never forgot that particular toy.
“That particular toy increased in value as time went on. Long story short, I bought one many years later for four times that much. As far as I know, it has been holding its value to this day. I actually have several toys that are not red, but not very many.
“As you can imagine, the toys led to full size tractors. My first buy was a 1950 ‘M’ Farmall. I was married to Roberta at the time and hadn’t conferred with her on such a purchase, so I drove it over to Bob Green’s until I had a chance to tell Roberta. She didn’t seem to mind one way or another, so the rest is history.
“My only wish now is that I should have started much earlier. I was always fascinated with the letter series because that was what I was familiar with growing up. Dad had a 1950 ‘M’ and I vividly remember many hours spent on it cultivating corn and picking corn with a mounted picker, also combining oats and soybeans with all the dust and heat thrown in at no extra cost!
“As many of you retired people can concur, it is not exactly like you had planned. I guess my problem is not saying ‘NO!’ While living in Bureau County for 30-plus years, I was a member of the Bureau County Farm Bureau and had the distinct pleasure of helping hire the secretary. The year we hired her slips my memory, but she is still there. In fact, one of the tractor rides we had this summer, her husband took his 806 Farmall Diesel tractor on one of the rides.
“I joined the Toulon Masonic Lodge, in 1974. As I progressed through the chairs, I ended up as Master in 1982-83. After several secretaries gave up that chair, I accepted the honor for 17 years. Somehow I got talked into joining the American Legion and recently finished a year as commander. It has been a joy meeting people here in Toulon and the surrounding towns after being away for a time.”
- Festival of the Arts Coming to Bishop Hill August 12 & 13
- County Watch—Willard and Joan; Roger; Lock & Dam 18