It was March 4, 1970. I had taken my week of vacation from work at St. Rita's Hospital in Lima, Ohio, to coincide with my fiancé Rick's spring break from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. We were cleaning two chairs given to us by Rick's parents to get them prepared for our new home, which would be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, although I don't think I knew it yet, when I got a phone call. It was my sister Kathy telling me to come home right away. My house had caught fire. Mom and Dad were there. Would I please come home?
"Wait," Rick said. "Your parents are going to be yelling at Cheryl (my baby sister). Do you really want to be there for that?"
So we waited. Half an hour later, the phone rang again.
"Why haven't you left yet?" Kathy wanted to know. "We're waiting for you. We have to decide what we're going to do."
So we left and went to my house. We decided that we, as a family, were going to go to my aunt Ethel's and sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. I slept in a room with my sisters Kathy and Cheryl. I think Ethel gave my parents her bed and that she took one of her kids' beds.
Little did I know that the night before would be the last night I would sleep in a bed that was only mine. Since I didn't have a car and someone had to drive me to work, I rented a room from the nursing dorm of the hospital to make things easier during this rough time.
On Palm Sunday, 1970, a tornado ripped through Xenia, Ohio, causing terrible damage and a number of deaths. The following Monday after Easter, Rick and I applied for our marriage license. We had to wait five days for everything to be processed, and I picked it up from the Allen County Courthouse on Friday. When I picked it up, the lady only cared what my fiancé's name was. I was so angry. Here I was doing all the work and paying for everything, and she only cared about his name. It was as if I didn't exist. The clerk was angry that I was picking up the license on Friday because I was supposed to wait five full days and pick it up the following Monday, the day it was dated. After scolding, she gave it to me anyway.
I worked every other weekend at the hospital. Because the previous weekend had been the Easter holiday, we had split the weekends to allow everyone a chance to celebrate. That following weekend, I was working Sunday. When I arrived to work on Sunday evening, the staff at the hospital was abuzz. On the evening that I normally would have worked, the judge who had signed our marriage license suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
When they told me, I said, "He signed my marriage license."
"We knew we worked hard on him for a reason!" they answer.
"I picked it up on Friday," I told them.
"Wouldn't it be funny if it were dated for Monday?" someone asked.
I called my aunt Ethel, who had the license in her dresser drawer. She checked the date.
Sure enough, tt was dated for Monday. It wasn't funny.
When I told Rick, he flipped out. "Do I have to have another blood test?" he asked. He'd almost passed out the first time.
This time, I lucked out. Aunt Ethel was a deputy in the police department. She took the license with her to work the next week, and they had an alternate judge sign it.
Everything was pretty uneventful until the wedding day. We had had our rehearsal dinner on Thursday. Rick graduated from Purdue on Friday, and our wedding was scheduled for 2:30 PM, May 11, 1970, at the chapel on Ohio Northern University campus in Ada, Ohio.
I had made my bridesmaids' dresses. As with all of my sewing projects, I finished those last stitches at 4:00 in the morning on my wedding day. I very quietly went to take a bath and wash my hair. I was so quiet because I had been teasing Kathy the day before and had thrown a cup of cold water on her while she was taking a shower. She had vowed revenge. At that hour, I was not in the mood for revenge. Thankfully, she didn't hear me. I don't know what time I went to sleep. I didn't want to wake Kathy by checking.
I woke up at 8:00 the next morning. Everybody was up, and we were fixing breakfast. I was showing off the flower girl's cummerbund when my dad spilled his coffee on it. Dad felt awful. We tried washing it. Dad asked, "Will it come out?"
"Let's just make a new one," I said. By this time I was a pro, and I had everything out: lace, hooks and eyes, and satin. In fifteen minutes, it was done.
I curled my hair, got dressed in my jeans, and put what I needed in the trunk of the car. I grabbed a sandwich and left about 12:30 to head to the church to be there at 1:00. When we got there, I found that the maid that the chapel had hired to take care of us was all in a fluster making sure that the groom did not see the bride before the wedding. She had her "moles" notifying her of our movements to keep us apart. Rick was flustered because I was supposed to have gotten there before him. The maid, to make sure that he didn't see me, locked him in the rest room. And then she forgot about him. I didn't know anything about it (although Rick was worried the church would catch fire and he would burn to death). Eventually someone heard him pounding on the door and let him out.
Rick's dad was helping me carry candelabras that we had rented from the car. Of course, the lady that we had rented them from didn't send enough candles. Each candelabra held only six instead of seven candles. Mom and Dad did their best to make it look okay.
The church was very unique. It was a church "in the round." The sanctuary was half of a geometric circle. The doors across the back could open up to allow the sanctuary to extend to the entire circle, which I planned to do. Unfortunately, the doors hadn't been opened for so long that they had rusted shut. Only the center door opened.
The bride's party got dressed in the office building behind the church and walked across the courtyard, entering in the center back of the sanctuary and coming down the aisle. The wind was so brisk that it took my train and rolled it up on the way over, to say nothing of what it did to the bridesmaids' hair. So much for styling!
My dad talked to me the whole way across. He kept telling me all the things a dad would say. What I remember most was "You're a big girl now." When we finally walked into the sanctuary, he looked at me and asked, "What do we do now?"
The actual ceremony was pretty uneventful, and we all walked together on a path cutting from the church to the student union which we had rented for our reception. My family's tradition for wedding receptions was cake and nuts—I'd only been to one reception with a dinner before we moved to Pittsburgh where big receptions were common—followed by an opening of the gifts in front of all the guests. That's what I had planned to do.
Rick came up to me and said, "George (the pastor who married us) just told me he misplaced our license."
"What?!" I couldn't believe it.
"Don't worry," Rick's dad said. "You've got too many witnesses."
Just as we were getting ready to throw the bouquet, Rick came and told me the union staff had approached him and told him that we had to get out so that the local high school students could decorate for the prom. We had only had an hour! It was such a fiasco, I just wanted it done!
Mom and Dad took care of moving the presents to Rick's parents' house since my parents' house certainly wasn't ready for guests yet. Rick just took me out. He said, "If we leave, everybody else will leave."
We drove the half hour to my house and were standing in our wedding clothes at my front door when I realized that my house keys were locked in the trunk of my car in Ada. So we went back to Rick's house, so I could change out of my wedding dress. It would have been great if I hadn't been wearing a strapless bra. It was so uncomfortable. That was when I discovered Rick's mom had planned a dinner in their basement for the Detroit relatives because that's what their family always did. I felt bad because I hadn't known, but there was no way that I could have afforded a full dinner for everyone.
We ate dinner there with the relatives, and my parents brought my keys. We went back to my house and got my clothes. We were ready to leave for our outdoor honeymoon in Hawking Hills, Ohio, when we realized we'd forgotten our sleeping bags. So we went back to Rick's house, the fourth trip from home-to-home since the wedding. His parents had lent us their big Buick because we were going straight from our honeymoon to Pittsburgh to find an apartment.
We came into Pittsburgh through the Fort Pitt tunnels. My first site of Pittsburgh was the Point. The air was clean, and it was beautiful. I could see the barges and river boats on the Monongahela. We took the Parkway East to Monroeville where we had reserved a room at the Holiday Inn at the corner of Routes 48 and 22.