My parents wed in 1956 and they went the distance; 62 years, until Mom died this spring. This is the story of the wedding.
It is 1955. My parents announce their engagement and party is held in the house my grandparents built during the war. They set the date for July 14th, 1956, which is ironically Bastille Day. I say ironic in that my mothers family were French, and their marriage sometimes resembled the French Revolution.
Dad was in the US Army stationed in Monterrey CA and ha to get a 3 day pass to get married. At the last minute the passes are revoked for some Cold War exercise. So he gathers his courage and goes to the company commander and explains he is to get married. An exception was made, and a good thing too. Mom has lined up 6 brides maids and 6 groomsmen to match, my Uncle Doug was the best man.
It is a good thing that Dad was able to make it. I may not have been here writing this if not, but mostly that company commander really had no idea what he was getting himself into interfering with my mothers wedding. Nothing ever stopped Mom, not even the United States Army.
But mostly what I want to say about this wedding was that it reflected1950’s America at its zenith. Fat, heavy cars, over the top arrangements, just look at this wedding cake, 4 layers with four side car cakes around it.
We had won the war, Korea was over, and no one in Everett had ever heard of Vietnam. Meanwhile we enjoyed the spoils of war and cheap gasoline.
As a measure of what all this cost, consider my grandfather told my mother he would give her $4000 to elope. No Way.
Today’s on line US inflation calculator says there has been an 844 % increase in cost since that time. This means a dollar in 1956 would buy $9.44 worth of goods today. This means that $4000 my grandfather offered my mother to elope would translate to $37,760 in value. And that was an offer he made to her to save money…. And that is how fat this wedding was.
A big fat Catholic pre-Vatican II wedding held in 1956 meant no photos were taken inside the church, except as they left. I suppose it is a little like the trials federal district court. I suppose they could have hired a sketch artist. But I suppose they didn’t think of it.
My paternal grandmother came of course, but my paternal grandfather did not. He did not approve of my Dad marrying a Catholic. Dad was raised Mormon but his faith journey lead him to Catholicism, not just my mother. I was 16 years of age before he was confirmed.
The reception was held at the swanky Monte Cristo hotel which was the big splashy venue in our town at the time.
I suppose historians will look back on this age and see it as the pinnacle of American power, a high culture of behavior and appearance before the 1960’s and the slow decline of conventions in favor of individual preferences which we now have enshrined as “rights”.
The most iconic photo of the event for me is the snap of my parents getting into my grandfathers 1955 Buick Special, you can just make out the lead portal as the open passenger door masks most of it. We have always had a Buick somewhere in the family. Heavy curb weight, with a long wheel base leading to a comfortable ride, It is a metaphor for an America that has come and gone.
But I still drive around in a Buick, first owned by my parents for 17 years before Dad gave up driving.
My parents were married 62 years when Mom died in April 2019. They had a marriage in the sense that we are not allowed to honor in this age; the complex give and take of a life long relationship does not fit into a television show or movie script well.
They went the distance, which is much, much more than many of us can say today.