47 Years Ago, on a Bitter December Night

Jer and I got married — 47 years ago on a bitterly cold December night. Or maybe it was a bitterly cold December afternoon. Neither of us can remember. He remembers the car in which we forgot to put anti-freeze (ah youth) — a 1950 Ford? — and I remember the reception at the McElhattan Volunteer Fireman’s Hall, to which our friend Ron drove us in a borrowed car.

Although Jer isn’t in this photo, it’s still one of my favorites. My father, of course, “giving” me away (I think we wrote that out of the ceremony, but that may be wishful thinking). My mother in her green velvet dress and gloves and hat. And me, young and skinny and happy. I think that’s my brother Mike, peeking at me at the right.

Of course, this made Jer happy. It made my sister Mary disgusted and sister Carol and Jer’s sister Beth, giggle. We were still in church, but hey, it was a wedding. It was allowed. Jer’s brother is beside him (also happy about the scene), my brother to the far left (oh dear, I wonder what he was thinking), and Ron, the designated driver, worrying about that frozen car is in the middle.

We were married at the Pine Station (Pennsylvania) Methodist Church, a one room country church with stained glass windows on the road side and plain glass on the side next to Mr. Green’s field. It had a bell that tolled on Sundays and ancient church materials in the old cupboards at the back of the church; I taught Sunday School there and remember decorating it for Christmas and Easter. The church declined, was sold (to Mr. Green, I think, who stored hay in it) and finally, having become totally derelict, was torn down. It might have been 100 years old before it disappeared.

Below is the wedding party at the reception: I think this is the only photo sister Mary would allow to be seen for a while.

The reception was completely without alcohol (although we drank some gift Gallo at home, later), and provided by the Ladies Auxiliary of the McElhattan Fire Company. I don’t remember the food, although there are some photos of me hacking the cake. My cousin Doris sewed all the dresses, including her own and my mother’s. Doris is a no-nonsense person, and when she was being held hostage to the dress-making process, her direct manner of speaking terrified Beth, who was 12 at the time. Later Doris and Beth, living in the same town ten or so miles up the road, became good friends.

There were consequences of this event, of course. A year and a few days later, on December 31, 1964, Jan arrived.

And life went on:

Fashions came and went. Lessons were learned and hobbies taken up:

And more consequences of that bitter cold December night (or was it afternoon?)

Our family grew larger, we grew older, we had a 40th anniversary party given by Jan (with a great deal of help from Anne Prahl, who didn’t let either of us chicken out), and we continued to enjoy ourselves.

Jer gave up his bare chin when Jan was perhaps a year and a half old (about 1966) and has kept his beard since then. My hair grew as did my girth, and our mutual affection and admiration continues. I think I was pretty smart to have chosen him; he thinks he was pretty intelligent to have chosen me. Not bad for something that officially began 47 years ago on a bitter cold December day (or was it evening?) –June

A postscript: Jer and I had been married by a justice of peace in State College earlier that fall of 1963. I was living as a “coed” — au pair to a family of five children and not real happy about it but too poor to move back into the dorm. I couldn’t move into a cheap off-campus apartment, because to do that as a female, you had to be 23 or married. I couldn’t change my birth date — so marriage seemed a good alternative.  I was also insulted that the JP charged us $5 for something I thought should be free.

Having the church ceremony in the works, we didn’t tell anybody in our respective families; Jer’s never figured it out; mine seemed to have after some years (and some cultural changes) had gone by. I still can feel the terror I felt when I had to visit the preacher, an old family friend, to tell him that the wedding certificate he was going to sign the next day was already certified by someone else. He laughed, a sheerly joyous sound, it seemed to me.

Man, was I dumb those days. Except for the one thing I was really smart about — I chose Jer!

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16 Responses to 47 Years Ago, on a Bitter December Night

  1. Ann & Joyce says:

    Awwwwwww . . . .


  2. Jessie Lawson says:

    June, I was so delighted and touched to read this and to look at those photos from days of yore (and not so yore). It is such a pleasure to think about your family (and as your friend Lia above said) the love! It’s all pretty great–the glasses, the pants, Jerry’s beard, our survival. So hooray for the Underwoods, happy Christmas and happy 2011, and may we continue to thrive!


  3. janetl says:

    Happy anniversary! Cousin Doris did a fine job.


  4. June says:

    Thanks, Martha. Good to hear from you.


  5. Martha Ginn says:

    June, how delightful to read and see! Thanks for sharing.


  6. June says:

    And thanks, Carla, too. I really like it that all of you can be part of our celebration!


  7. Carla says:

    Hope you have had the happiest anniversary ever. Oh, those cold December days!!


  8. June says:

    Thanks, everyone. Jer and I agreed we’d read this post next time we have a disagreement. Or better yet, just review the family photo album that he digitized some years back. Perhaps I should make a file called “Family Photos for un-solemn occasions.”

    As for the “details,” Sheila, after 47 years we aren’t sure which ones are true and which ones just make good stories –snort–. And then there are all those about which we disagree, such as which dates are the actual dates of our weddings — we always are a couple days apart in our recollections.

    Tani, all female students were locked into the “girl’s” dorms at 10 PM (unless we were 23 or married) at Penn State in the early ’60’s.

    Thanks, Del, and Carole, I too love beards and mustaches. Jer’s grandmother used to say a kiss without a mustache is like potatoes without salt and pepper. That said, she threw a hissy-fit when Jer showed up at his brother’s wedding with the first not-quite-grown beard. But then, she was an imperious woman who got her way a lot, but her grandchildren simply had no sense (don’t ask me how I know).

    Terry, I loved those pants. Now I love the fact that I loved them! My sense of style in those days was, well, sassy (and silly).


  9. Terry Grant says:

    Cheers! Here’s to 47 more.

    PS. The flowered pants are priceless. I hope you still have them.


  10. acarolegrant says:

    Congratulations! to you both.. a good choice, obviously on the part of both of you. I love the beard… I am one who likes beards and mustaches…
    I liked reading about your wedding… and the pictures put us right there.
    I am hoping for another 47 for you!!
    the best always….


  11. june says:

    You should have seen the glasses I left out! And there were even better clothes!!!! Good to hear from you. I got your last blog but don’t think I responded yet.


  12. Del says:

    A very special post. I feel like I was there! What wonderful memories of your wedding day. Thanks for sharing. Love, Del


  13. Tani says:

    What a great retrospective . . . I’ve been to quite a few family weddings at that church and as well as receptions at the McElhattan fire hall. I can close my eyes and hear Pappap’s voice.

    Off topic . . . I didn’t know that female students couldn’t rent apartments in State College. When I did a tour of Penn State I was told the borough once had an ordinance against sorority houses because it was believed that having this many young women living in a house together would turn it into a “house of ill repute”.


  14. Sheila says:

    Well, you may have forgotten some of the details over the years, but you’ve obviously remembered the important things. A lovely couple then and now!


  15. Barbara says:

    There is nothing as good as a perfect union, even during its less than perfect moments.

    Love to you both


  16. Lia says:

    Love it love it love it! The glasses! the pants! the love!


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