June Brides (and Grooms)
Seventy-three years ago today, Donald William Johnson (my dad) and Phyllis Anne Pohlson (my mom) were married by Rev. Malvin Lundeen at First Lutheran Church in Ottumwa, Iowa. (Pastor Lundeen also baptized me in 1952, a few years before he became the last president of the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church.) Their engagement was a short one (it was Valentine’s Day when Dad popped the question), but they’d known each other their entire lives. Dad was Carolyn’s big brother; Carolyn was Mom’s best friend (and her maid of honor). I recently heard from Mom’s cousin Karen that Mom had her eye on Dad for quite some time. That doesn’t surprise me.
The photo to the right is the only one I have of Mom and Dad together from the war years. According to the note on the back, it was taken in San Diego in April 1945. Dad must have been on leave and Mom was in southern California visiting relatives or friends or both. They weren’t a couple yet (as far as I know), but they do look happy, don’t they?
Do newspapers have wedding announcements anymore? (Our local weekly paper does not.) Of course, in the 1940s, the newspaper was the best way to communicate the details of a couple’s big day with folks who weren’t there. (Trust me, guys—women wanted details.) Reading Mom and Dad’s announcement, I discovered (besides the usual who, what, where, and when): the maid of honor’s dress was lime green pique (had to look that up), the bride wore lace mitts, the mother of the bride wore black and white print, and the mother of the groom wore pink shantung (had to look that up, too.) The organist was Mom’s cousin, Jack Swanson, who I believe was still in high school at the time. (He was very talented, even at that young age.) An ice basket (not an ice bucket—it was a basket carved from ice) full of colorful snapdragons and larkspur was centered on the serving table at the reception in the church parlors, and out of town guests included folks from Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana, and California. It was a big day!
I found several wedding announcements in the June 1944 issues of The Algona Upper Des Moines (AUDM) newspaper and many (but not all) of the grooms were members of the Armed Services. (One bride was also serving.) There were no photos included, and most of the announcements were short, but I still learned about the ladies’ attire (never the men’s) and the flowers they carried or wore. One announcement began, “A pretty wedding took place . . .”; another said, “The couple will go to housekeeping in Minneapolis.”; and yet another, “In a single ring ceremony at high noon . . .” Watch out for those gun slingers!
Mock weddings seemed to be the rage in 1944. I found descriptions of two such events in the AUDM, one organized by the Riverdale Friendly Club and the other by the Burt Busy Bee Club. Women played all the roles: bride, groom, minister, attendants, “weeping mother”, and flower girl. I can just see it, can’t you? What a hoot!
Some of you know I spent time at Claytor Lake State Park near Dublin, Virginia last month. On one of my early morning walks, I discovered this plaque. As you can see, the park opened in 1948, right around the time my mom and dad were anxiously awaiting their wedding day. By June 1948, my dad had already spent some time in Virginia, but, to the best of my knowledge, Mom’s first trip “out east” didn’t happen until 1974 when the family (Mom, Dad, Peter, Nancy, and Chris) drove out from Iowa to visit Joe and me in Falls Church.
The two black and white photos above are from Mom and Dad’s honeymoon, and the center “portrait” was taken on their silver (25th) wedding anniversary in 1973. Love the dress, Mom!
Last pic . . . Dad, Mom, and me in San Francisco in September 1989, about a month before the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta (aka the World Series) earthquake struck the Bay Area on October 17th. (Joe and I were living in San Jose at the time.) I suspect I’ll blog about that eventually. Somehow, I’ll find a way to tie it into World War II.
Blessings to all.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.