From the lodge (written 6/28/11)…..Today, June 28 has elicited memories faster than I can process them. I have made it to 87 today and ninety is just a breath away. I was married seventy years ago today on my 17th birthday and shared fifty-nine wonderful years with my guy Bill.
What a week it was in 1941. My mother had been very ill. She came home from the hospital after having her leg amputated, a result of diabetes and a foot wound that would not heal, having injured herself working a machine with her foot on the line at the cigarette plant. She lived just a short time longer, only a week or so, and passed away on June 21st.
Bill and I had been engaged for a year and mom told him to take care of me. She knew I would not be happy to have to go live with other family members who felt I was too young to be engaged and certainly too young to get married. And so the week of secrecy, diabolical planning and intrigue began.
I was watching one of the television bridal shows today. One wedding was $80,000 one $50,000 and, ye gads, one $120,000. My total wedding was $11.60.
First off, we had no money. I went to a friend of my mom’s and plead my case and she gave me $25.00. We felt very wealthy. We also had Bill’s pay check for the week which, at 25 cents an hour, was $9.00. This was for the next week’s expenses.
My best girl friend Gladys and I became wedding planners. My dress was a formal my mom had bought off the reduced rack at the Bon Ton department store for $7.00 several months before. It was full length and very jonquil yellow. Then I needed a bridal bouquet. The shasta daisies in the back yard were in full bloom, so we clipped a bunch of them and Gladys reached through my neighbor’s wire fence and clipped a few of her pink rose buds.
Now we needed some ribbon to tie them together. We looked everywhere for ribbon and finally I remembered I had saved the ribbons from my mom’s funeral arrangements. We found some pink ribbon and tied them up and they were beautiful. It also seemed proper: now my mom would be at my wedding.
Finally came the thing I did not want to do but had to.
I was just 16 and could not get a license without parental approval. I had to ask my dad to meet us at the court house and sign so I could get married. I knew the family would be upset. My Dad had never cared about my brother or me while we were growing up but he was anxious to sign for me. It let him off the so called” hook” of being forced to care for me. That suited me just fine. He agreed and the last roadblock had been conquered.
The hours were closing in and the clandestine wedding planners decided to check their list and make sure they had not missed anything. Check off money, parental papers, license. Now, where to get married?
I wanted to be married in a church, but I could not get married in my church, the Episcopal church, because my aunts knew all the Episcopal ministers. The preacher would have contacted one of my aunts and the wedding would have been in serious trouble. My dad said he would call his minister and we could get married in the Lutheran church. Check it off.
I had the gown, the flowers, something borrowed (the roses) and something blue (the sky), and I had White Castle money for dinner. Gladys said,” list complete.” The only thing missing is the groom and he better have the ring and the minister’s envelope!
We were married at the Memorial Lutheran Church at 38th and Broadway. Gladys was my maid of honor, her boyfriend Bud was Bill’s best man. After the ceremony we went to White Castle for our wedding supper.
Many of you may not know about the White Castle. They serve little square hamburgers that truly are the nectar of the gods. We purchased 12 hamburgers, 2 orange drinks and two coffees. Total bill: $1.60. This wedding tab was growing! $5.00 for the license. $5.00 for the minister and $1.60 for food. Our total wedding expense= $11.60.
After that splendid dinner we drove to Aunt Mamie’s and Aunt Josie’s to tell them the news. They cried and it made me a little mad but as the years went by I realized they were still grieving my mom and were worried about me. They, in a short while, became our best cheerleaders, and as they developed health problems over the years it was Bill who made sure they did not want for some attention. They loved him very much and although they knew our marriage would never last that first night, we proved young love can work. I knew this marriage was the right thing to do and so did my wise mother. I wanted to spend my life with Bill and I did. Looking back, I can’t find a thing I would have done different except maybe asked for permission to cut the roses from Miss Raymond”s yard.
So until the next memory crosses this path at the lodge stay happy and tell someone special you love them: it is not hard to say, it just takes a little practice.