A 1935 dollar bill, signed by the deceased brother of a Clovis man in 1943, turned up at Daphne's restaurant in Lincoln Ill., earlier this month.
Retired Clovis resident William Chapman, 82, said he and his wife were having breakfast the morning of May 8 when they received a call from Dave Bakke, a news reporter in Springfield Ill.
"He told me they had found a dollar bill that had been signed by military personnel. It was dated May 14, 1943." Chapman said. "He asked me if I was the brother of Lt. Curtis G. Chapman, whose signature was on the bill, and I said yes."
Chapman, who has lived in Clovis since 1955, said the call came out of the blue.
"I could hardly believe it," Chapman said.
Bakke said the bill is likely the result of an old military tradition called a "short snorter." Each soldier in a group carried a bank note signed by the entire group. Whoever could not produce their note upon subsequent meetings was obliged to buy drinks, referred to as a "short snort."
Chapman's brother, who signed the short snorter, was part of the 447th bomber group during World War II. His B-17 bomber was shot down during his third mission of the war. Chapman's brother survived, but became a German POW.
"I was 15 years old," said William Chapman, a native of Raymond, Ill. "My parents were in Springfield doing Christmas shopping and I got the telegram that said my brother was missing in action."
Chapman was afraid to give his mother the news, so he told a neighbor, who broke the bad news to Chapman's father. Chapman said a short while later the family started receiving post cards from people on the East coast who had heard a message from POW Lt. Curtis Chapman over short wave radio.
"He was alive. He was okay," Chapman said.
Chapman said he has a copy of his brother's diary kept on the backs of cigarette packages while he was a POW. Lt. Curtis Chapman died of a brain tumor in 1963 at the age of 43.
Bakke said he got the bank note from Steve Browne, who received it as change for a meal at Daphne's restaurant in Lincoln, Ill. The bank note has been given to Amy Baker of Ill., Lt. Curtis Chapman's daughter, William Chapman's niece, and the family historian.