Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pull Out the Stopper, Let's Have a Whopper; but Will We have the Wedding on Time?

With the wedding in less than three weeks and Ronald notifying me he could not be Best Man, I had to arrange some quick changes. I asked my first Cousin, Richard Brown (pictured left) to take on the Best Man role. He was already on tap to be an Usher. Richard (whose given first name was Paul) and I had been close growing up. We often visited overnight in each other’s homes. My friend Richard Wilson was also to be an Usher. We now recruited Paul Miller to replace Richard Brown as an Usher.
Here we were with the name confusions again. In high school my three closest friends were Ray Ayres, Richard Ray Miller (no relation to Paul Miller) and Richard Wilson. Now my wedding party consisted of Richard Wilson (pictured left), Paul Miller (pictured Right with Lois’ Grandmother) and Richard Brown, whose real first name was also Paul and which he used most of his life thereafter.

Following on the heels of Ronald’s cancellation, I received a call on September 7 from Robert  "Bob" Condon (I think my friends were almost required to have a name beginning with R) called to say he couldn’t sing at our wedding. Robert had a nice voice, but he had been our second choice. He had early on suggested someone else and because of the status and connections of his father, the sculptor Rudolph Condon, he was actually able to secure a commitment from that personage. That personage was none other than the great opera star of the Metropolitan Opera, Marian Anderson. Earlier that year she had sung at John Kennedy’s inauguration. Can you imagine the honor it would have been to have her come and sing at our humble wedding? I mean, who wouldn’t do back flips to have such a person come to their church to sing the wedding music?

My parents, that’s who. When they learned, cause they didn’t know at first, that Marian Anderson was Black they quickly turned thumbs down on the idea. No Black woman was going to perform at their son’s wedding, they didn’t care who she was.  I was angry once more at their attitude, but it did no good, they were adamant. I don’t think Lois’ father was anymore pleased at the idea of a black wedding singer either. He certainly didn’t swing to our defense.
Thus we had to turn down that interesting development and Bob had agreed to do the singing. Now he was backing out. I am not sure what reason he gave. Perhaps he was irked that we would refuse Marian Anderson. Really, it must have been a terrible embarrassment for him to having to inform Marian that her services were not desired. I can't imagine what you would say. Did he tell her the truth or did he make up some excuse. I can see such a thing today. Why, it'd be all over the internet. We'd had Al Sharpton orating on the church steps. But instead it quietly passed and nobody seemed to take much notice.
Frantic Calls were made to Reverend Johnson asking if he had any suggestions for a last minute singer. He did and thus Carol Montgomery, a member of the church, who did have a fine voice, agreed to do it.
Then the music selection led to the next brouhaha.
Lois and I drove out to Bob Condon's Valley Forge home and picked up the songbook we had given him. I may even have that songbook tucked away somewhere in this house. It had a red cover and a mundane title, something such as "Favorite Wedding Songs".My folks picked out “I Love You Truly” and a couple more traditional songs warbled at most wedding of the era. Lois and I wanted our own input into the music, something with a bit more modern feel. Strange as this probably sounds today, our pick proved to be quite controversial and argumentative as to whether it was even proper to be sung in a church. The photo on the right is the family disputing the inclusion of this song in our wedding repertoire.
What was this radical selection of ours? Why, it was Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story”. How dare we! And despite the fears of desecration its inclusion caused, the wedding guests did not resort to a knife rumble in the aisle.

We decided to be married in my church, Bethel United Methodist of Spring City. I don’t think it was a coin toss. I believe it was Lois’ choice and her dad was probably not thrilled about it, but somehow it seemed to be the Bride's prerogative to choose the sight.  Resurrection Lutheran, her girlhood church, does not seem to hold good memories for her, The Besides, Bethel is a charming little country church.
Reverend Walter Johnson met with us to do the vetting. He interviewed and counseled us. It  was possible he could refuse to marry us you know, but he found no reason to do so. (He really didn’t try very hard.) He was an older man, so one might expect him to be stodgy, but he was not. In his counseling he advised us that the marriage bed was open to whatever we mutually agreed upon. In other words, we were not bound to the Missionary Position and vaginal intercourse. We took his advice to heart and to bed.

We did not want to drive far on the first night, believe you me! I drove up past Norristown on September 9 and found a nice motel alongside Route 202. It had white and pink cabins. I went to the office and walked inside. There was no one at the front desk, but as soon as I entered this dog, Border Collie I believe, trotted from the back room and stood up with its front paws on the counter as if ready to check me in. A woman soon appeared and I booked a cabin for the sixteenth.
September 16, 1961 was a beautiful Saturday. The sky was blue and the sun bright. Richard  Brown and I waited in a backroom where I paced. I am a pacer when nervous. We had a rehearsal the night before, but this was the real deal now. Lois’ bridesmaids were Mary Lou Marple and Ethel “Cookie” Cooke, long-time friends. Her Maid of Honor was her best friend, Eveyln Weinmann. (In phot l. to. r., Cookie, Mary Lou, Lois on steps and Evelyn.)

Everybody was gathered at the church, except the Photographer was missing in action as the ceremony approached. He had been at Lois’ home in Drexel Hill earlier to take some preliminary pictures, but he hadn’t yet showed up at the church. Was he wrapped about a telephone pole along Route 100; was he lost in the boondocks? Someone suggested the possibility he went to the wrong church. Another person then drove out to the Brownback Church nearby on Route 23. Yes, the Photographer and Stuart Meisel were both at that church sitting all alone and lonely in the empty sactuary. What did they think, that everybody else was late? The person finding them led them to the right church. Our wedding could commence and be a matter of photographic record.
I've been wondering why when Ronald had notified me he could be Best Man I didn't ask Stuart? Stuart had been my other closest friend for just as long as I had known Ronald. Was the time too short to include him? Couldn't I contact him at Franklin & Marshall? Did I not consider it? Might it had been religious considerations, him being of the Jewish persuasion? I don't know.

Evelyn was probably the most nervous person there, a lot worse than I. Outside the entry door, waiting for things to begin, she stepped on Lois’ gown and made a small hole in the hem with her heel. She carried her bouquet wrong side out when the procession marched down the aisle. Then at the point of the service when the minister asked for the Bride to place her ring on my finger, Evelyn dropped the ring while handing it to Lois. The ring rolled off somewhere and like all dropped objects, disappeared. The minister, tucking his ministerial robes about his hips; Lois, doing much the same with her wedding dress, the ground and tuxedo wedding party and I all dropped to our knees to feel about the floor for the errant ring.
Where are you, my precious?
Reverend Johnson located it eventually with a hissed, "Aha!" and we clambered back on our feet,  Reverend Johnson said, “I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.” Indeed I did, and we went up the aisle with mile-wide grins on our faces.

There was a reception line in the alcove before we could escape the church for the ride to the fire hall. During the hand shaking one elderly Aunt paused to tell us, “I have never seen that in a wedding ceremony before, but I thought it was lovely. They should all include it.” She was referring to our search for the fallen ring.

Speaking of traditional, we did take the traditional wedding vows. I know it has become a custom today for many couples to write their own vows. I think this is the height of ego and it also allows people to be cutesy and downplay the hard stuff. Getting married is serious stuff and those old vows should be considered long and deep before you step down the aisle and promise them. Maybe I played loose with a lot of rules in my days, but these I took to heart and I keep them.
"In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
When you answer “I do” remember it doesn’t say you’ll have and hold as long as the bank account is full and nobody is limping too badly and all the mental faculties are clicking as they should. It is better and worse, richer and poorer, sick or well, and it is until you end up on the underside of the grass as well. You don’t take getting married lightly.

The receiving line ended and we ran out of the church into a hail of rice. We jumped in a car and the procession of horn beeping, crepe paper festooned, tin-can rattling vehicles headed for the Ridge Fire Hall. Richard Wilson was to lead the way, but he went a 100 miles an hour and we lost most of the others in the dust.

The reception was at the Ridge Fire Hall in East Vincent. I can’t tell you what we ate or the name of the band. We danced. I danced with my mother, who I towered over. Lois danced with my dad, who she towered over in her heels. Our dance band was the famous (right) P. Hoffman Orchestra. They were so famous I can’t even tell you bandleader Hoffman’s first name.

We opened a lot of gifts; most were thoughtful and nice. My dad, ever tasteful as he was,  gave us a gross of condoms. Really, a gross? (Kind of gross opening it in front of everyone, too.)Yeah, that was sort of embarrassing, but those blasted things were done with me yet, they were just being dormant until the Honeymoon. Most of the gifts were household items, such as dishes and things like can openers and toasters, blankets. It was like a set from “Price is Right”. Most were decent items.

One was not so much. My Uncle John Meredith (pictured right) , the one who inherited all
of Great grandfather’s estate and was the richest member of the family gave us an ugly cupid bowl. His cheap gift angered my mother and grandmother. It is a wonder he didn’t end up wearing it as a hat. After our marriage day they took it back and got the money. My Uncle John had stopped in a Coatesville drugstore on the way to the wedding and bought the thing. I guess this is how the rich stay rich.
We left before any of the others that evening to start out Honeymoon. Before we could reach that escape we had to indulge in the usual traditions throughout the evening. There was the cutting of the wedding cake, which I believe my Aunt Edna baked. I am grateful the stupid tradition of smashing the cake into each other’s face hadn’t developed yet. I think that is a totally inappropriate disgusting practice. We each simply took a piece and gave the other a bite.

I had to slip off Lois’ garter and toss it to the single males in attendance. You can look at the picture and decide who looks more lustful or anxious for the night ahead.

Lois stood on a chair to throw the bridal bouquet to the outstretched arms of the waiting maidens. Tradition is whomever catches the bouquet will be next to marry. She had to face away from the waiting, eager hands and throw the flowers over her shoulder. She heaved too high. The bouquet hit the ceiling and plummeted straight down to the floor. We retrieved the bouquet. Lois successfully made the toss on the second attempt.

We left the reception along with a smaller coterie that reassembled at our Bucktown Home. Being a Methodist ceremony and also as a house rule of the Ridge Fire Hall the reception had been a “dry” affair. But never fear, my dad had tubs of beer and booze waiting back at the house and for some of the closer friends and relatives the party went on far into the night and the next morning, but we drove off into the night around 10:30.
We told no one where we were spending the first night. I had no intension of any tricks. It was very common in that time and my neck of the woods to have a “wedding night chivaree”. These things go back to old Scotch-Irish traditions. A chivaree, sometimes call a serenading, involves relatives and friends trailing the newlyweds to their wedding night lodging. The people raise a great raucous when bride and groom are in the bedroom. They bang Pots and pans, toot noisemakers and do everything possible to disrupt the wedding night. Demands are made the couple show themselves no matter what kind of dishevelment they might be in.

I attended a chivaree for Paul Miller and Patty Lilly when they wed. It was quite loud. There was a wire stretched across between trees and played with a bow much like a fiddle. It made a horrendous sound, very spooky.

I hoped to avoid any such stunts. I did notice my car making a loud rattling sound as I drove up 202 on our way to the motel. What could that be?
 Our wedding ceremony 1961.

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