Going to the Chapel

or not . . . ?

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20 December 1944, wedding photo of Ardyth Eileen Meintzer and Robert William Haws.

My parents, Robert William Haws and Ardyth Eileen Meintzer, got married 20 December 1944 in Deerfield, Illinois, by Fr. Murphy at Holy Cross Rectory. Wait, you say, rectory? Not church? Yep. Dad was Catholic, but Mom was Presbyterian. Dad received the dispensation necessary to marry a non-Catholic. Mom agreed to having children raised in the Catholic faith. Regardless, Church law at the time prohibited them from tying the knot with a ceremony inside the church. A priest could marry them, but it couldn’t be a “church wedding.”

So, how did they get to the . . . non-altar? Mom’s old boyfriend, Gene Lystlund, had broken up with her. Dad was a year ahead of Mom in school, and had graduated by the time she went to Highland Park (see comments) High School. Obviously they didn’t meet at church! But everyone hung out at Cox’s Sweet Shop, so they would have met there. She learned via the grapevine that he liked to dance–and was pretty good! A Job’s Daughters turnabout dance was coming up her Senior year, and Mom didn’t want to be stuck with a dud of a date who wouldn’t dance. So she asked my dad, who said yes, and I guess the rest is history.

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Cox Sweet Shop. High school hangout in 1930s-1940s, in Deerfield, IL.

They both attended comptometer (Taxes) school (not necessarily together) and worked in different offices in Chicago. But the romance progressed, and they eventually exchanged lover’s knot “promise rings.” Then Pearl Harbor changed the lives of many. My dad enlisted the following August (figuring he’d have more options by volunteering instead of waiting to be drafted) and was shipped out in Spring, 1943, to Espiritu Santa (now called Vanuatu). They did not get married before he left. Mom wanted to, but Dad didn’t want the possibility of her being left a widow, possibly with a child. Technically they were still NOT engaged.

For eighteen months they wrote letters and sent photos back and forth. Dad’s letters all got screened by the officer above him (Charlie Altier), to be sure no classified information or locations were being disclosed. Apparently Charlie would add notes onto Dad’s letters, letting Mom know that Dad was truthful about what he was telling her (i.e. not dating local girls behind her back, etc.). Did Charlie let other girlfriends know if their beau was a dog? I don’t know. My dad had no idea Charlie was commenting, but my mom remembers clearly.

We don’t have those letters. When they got married, my dad had my mom burn them all, saying he didn’t want promises made in the course of wooing her to be held over his head! Not that he didn’t make good on all of them eventually–I’m sure he did. He just didn’t want to be held to an arbitrary timetable.

At some point (fall, 1944?) he was informed he’d be going home over Christmas, with his next duty in Holtville, California. He wasn’t being sent back overseas, and would be able to bring a wife with him. So he proposed by mail, and Mom accepted. Waiting to propose in person simply wasn’t an option. He had only one month leave, so they needed to get married quickly, celebrate Christmas, and use the rest of the time for a honeymoon trip to California.

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20 December 1944. Bob Retzinger, Eugenia Tronjo, Robert Haws, Ardyth Meintzer

He wasn’t sure when he’d get home, either. He, Cliff, and Spike spent several days in San Francisco, waiting for a train to transport them to Chicago. Sailors on leave had low travel priority! He arrived in Chicago on 16 December. Illinois required a blood test (still does!), and had a 3-day waiting period, so the 20th was the first day they could get married. Dad’s brothers were both overseas, as were most of his close friends. Bob Retzinger happened to be home on leave also, so Dad asked him to be best man. Mom had it a little easier, and asked her cousin, Jean (Eugenia) to be maid of honor. Both sets of parents were there. Not a big or fancy wedding. It was war time, so you made do as well as you could. Mom DID splurge for a new dress–it’s still hanging in my closet. She says it was blue. It looks green to me. Let’s say “aqua” and call it even . . .

They spent Christmas with their families, then set off on their honeymoon by bus to California. But that’s a different  story . . .

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This is the caption for the top image. It is from an unidentified newspaper clipping, but probably the local Deerfield paper. This is the church they DIDN’T get married in! A new church was built in the 1950s, then stripped to support beams and redesigned in 1998. This original church was torn down in 1988. The rectory they were married in was built in 1938. You can see a photo of the rectory at Holy Cross’s website. (click and scroll down a bit)

 

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