Serving as a communal storage locker, our barn has been the keeping place for items of all kinds for several members of our family. Since moving out of their home months ago, our son and DIL have stored quite a bit of their furniture and household belongings in this space. It’s large enough for about six full-size cars and has been packed to the gills with a variety of … STUFF … literally, stuffed with STUFF!
Yesterday, in the midst of gathering boxes to pile into the back of his vehicle, my son came across a box that looked like it held miscellaneous, unimportant papers, things which (in the hurried pace of packing and moving) one might conclude could be safely tossed into the trash. Fortunately, my son took a moment for a more extensive examination. He dug into the papers and found this.
Except for the tassels and quality of the parchment paper, there are no clues to reveal what’s held inside. I’m so thankful my son has a curious mind!
Within this parchment folder, the history of a young couple emerges. She was nineteen; he had just celebrated his twenty-first birthday. The year was 1942 and they were celebrating Independence Day by going for a drive. We can only surmise the conversation they enjoyed on that drive. I’ve been told he drove with intention while she believed the occasion was just another convivial outing spent in the company of her beau. Totally unaware of his plan, she was astonished when … at a bend in the road or a brief stop along the way … he popped the question Will you marry me? Today?
Maybe he waited until they’d arrived at his intended destination, but I’m told he had already given the matter much consideration. He’d worked out the logistics in advance. Even though it was Saturday, he knew he didn’t have to hurry to arrive before the courthouse closed. Even with it being a national holiday, his plan would succeed without the usual time constraints.
Perhaps before they got into the car, they’d heard the news that US and RAF bombers had launched their first air raid from the skies above Nazi Germany. Or maybe they’d caught the reports on a car radio, forcing them to understand the world as they knew it was about to convulse with the horror of another world war. Either way, the reverie of their ride could not have been completely carefree.
In those days before interstate highways and high-speed turnpikes, their journey may have been more of a meander along two-lane roads and through a host of small towns that dot the eastern Kansas landscape, but eventually, they made their way from Mayetta (her home town) to Olathe, a distance of eighty miles. As the Johnson County seat, Olathe lies twenty miles southwest of Kansas City (MO) and was home to about 4,000 inhabitants (according to the brief history contained in the folder).
Reading through the folder information, I think it’s safe to surmise Olathe was well known in those days as a marriage mecca. One leaf within the folder shows a picture of The Court House At Olathe, and states: Within the past 12 years over 20,000 couples have secured marriage licenses at the Johnson County Courthouse. Below is the picture of the marriage certificate from that July 4th ceremony.
The probate judge who performed these civil services was obviously happy to accommodate couples. The parchment folder was a keepsake provided with “Compliments” from Judge W. C. Jones. The folder contains his picture and in a final paragraph about Olathe, the following statement appears:
“The residence of the Probate Judge is open and convenient for couples who are unable to reach Olathe before the office closes at the courthouse. There, during the early evening couples may, by appointment be married by Judge W. C. Jones. The residence is 124 North Pine street, which is located two blocks west of the northwest corner of the courthouse square, then the first house as you turn south. Residence phone 381, the office phone 29.”
Imagine that … a judge who welcomed after-hours house-calls!
The blushing bride from that civil ceremony celebrated her 92nd birthday yesterday. (I’ve posted about her here, here and here.) The man she married in 1942 has been gone almost seven years. When she’s lucid, I know she misses him. We do what we can to encourage her. My Beloved made a large birthday card (about 12 by 18 inches) for her. He made it himself and as I watched him putting it together, I could well imagine the little boy he once was making (as only a little boy can) a similar card to celebrate another of his momma’s birthdays. He tells me she was mildly amused by his artistic effort.
I chose an alternative path … a potted mum and a commercially produced card. By the time my purchases were made and delivered, she’d gone to dinner at the assisted living facility where she lives, and I was outrunning (not literally) a severe storm so I was unable to personally greet her on her day. I suspect we’ll schedule a dinner celebration with her this weekend.
The journey that began with a 1942 civil ceremony has taken its turns and included multiple joys and sorrows. I wish she could remember the details to share with us now. In the absence of those memories, I’m given to sweet conjecture. It must suffice, this celebration of two remarkable lives.