The above photo was taken by Lynne Ford.
My husband and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We were married on a warm September day in 1969. It was a stellar year for NASA with the moon landing, for children’s television with the first viewing of “Sesame Street” and it was for us a big step compared to Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Our big step made the newspapers too, but only our loved ones made note of it and kept copies of it for my parents. Now looking back over 50 years of marriage I find it difficult to realize how very young we were. That is until I look at our wedding pictures. We look like teenagers, and we were barely adults at 22 years old.
I made my wedding dress – no Kleinfeld’s for me. It was my decision. I couldn’t bear the idea of spending hundreds (not thousands like now) on a dress I would only wear one day. So Mom and I went looking through pattern books and searching through material bundles in the local sewing stores. I made my dress out of a beautiful white cotton eyelet and lined it with satin. Wow, it was heavy. It cost me under $100 dollars. I spread a white sheet over the basement floor and I stitched it together on my mother’s old White-Elna sewing machine. My sister and my good friend wore turquoise dresses (also homemade). My fiancé bought a good grey suit and his friends wore their best suits and matching grey ties. I carried yellow roses, daisies and gladiolas. My attendants carried baskets of daisies and roses. We posed for photos in my parent’s backyard, at the church, and at the hotel where we had the reception. My aunt made our wedding cake and the hotel iced it. There was a great dinner, which I was too nervous to eat for fear of dropping something on my dress. We had lovely speeches but no dancing. We drove to a cottage for our honeymoon while everyone else gathered at Mom and Dad’s for a big after party. That was the way it was done then.
Our first home was in a small one bedroom apartment over a garage on an estate. It was once the apartment for their cook and chauffeur. Every time the owners arrived home the automatic garage door would make a loud noise going up and startle any guests we had visiting. Quite often the owner, who was losing his depth perception, would hit the end wall of the garage. The furniture in the apartment was not all ours. The bed, for example, had a valley in the middle of the mattress and was missing one leg so it was balanced on a pile of bricks.
Our second home was in an apartment right in the middle of a well-known (except to us) criminal element. We heard sirens quite often, ambulance and police. We moved out after our first child was born, but he spent his first months in a second-hand car bed on the metal trunk next to our bed. Remember car beds? How did we ever survive the contraptions we travelled in as babies and tots?
After our third apartment, we had both saved enough money to make a downpayment on a home so we went house-shopping. Everything in the city was either too expensive, or too decrepit. We began looking outside the city and finally found the piece of country that we could afford. We bought a few acres of sandy soil surrounded by a border of elms and evergreens. We had a house plan that we had designed but after taking it from one builder to another, chose a house plan that a builder showed us. When we finally moved in our little family expanded.
Four children, several dogs and five grandchildren later, it seems that those years just sailed by, but in truth there were hard times as well as happy times. There were late night trips to hospitals, early morning trips to work and school, sad moments at gravesides saying goodbye to parents and neighbours, anxious moments wondering if we would be able to pay the mortgage and whether we would be able to help our children through college or university. But there were happy times too – laughing at the antics of our children and our pets, marvelling in the sunrises and sunsets, listening to birdsong, harvesting our garden, seeing all the animal life on the farms and in the fields around us and enjoying the friends we’ve made.
Fifty years is a milestone and we have grown together as best friends as well as sweethearts. My dad said to me going down the aisle 50 years ago, “it’s not too late to change your mind”. I knew he was trying to make me smile. I was so nervous, not about what I was about to commit to, but that I would trip on my dress and fall flat on my face. He was joking (he’d paid for the wedding after all) but I meant the vows I made at the altar and so did my husband. We are in this together for the long run, till death do us part.