A Wedding and a Homecoming

I continually reserved the right to go out with other girls. I hadn't planned to be a "push over" for the first girls I saw in California after carefully screening at least 35 girls in Minnesota the year before, but I never got time to use my "rights." [37.216-3]

I was working five nights and one day a week and if I would call down to Smiths' on my nights off, sometimes Twila would say, "I have to stay home with Peter tonight."

"Tell him to come down here," Mrs. Smith would holler, so I didn't have much chance. [37.216-4]

Then Twila started talking like maybe we ought to get married, and I really didn't have much argument against it. I was far from home and probably a little homesick. And she was really the best-looking girl I had ever seen, with her new teeth, and pretty tall, too. Also, she was self-supporting right then. (I sure couldn't afford anything else.) [37.216-5]

So I sort of agreed with her that it wasn't too bad an idea, but it was kind of complicated, with her living at Smiths' and me sleeping in the same bed as Howard. [37.216- 6]

We sure couldn't tell anybody under those conditions, but one day we got a license and thought we would figure out something. We put Twila's address at Smiths' on the legal document that was published and luckily nobody we knew noticed it in the paper. [37.216-7]

In a couple of days she started getting mail from everywhere -- advertising from retired preachers and wedding chapels and greenhouses and photo studios and birth control product makers and everything. Times were still hard and everyone was after a dime, wherever there might be one. Luckily the mailman came while the Smiths were at work and she got it before they saw it. [37.217-1]

We swore Daisy and Henry and Marj to secrecy and Daisy and Marj said they would go along to the Wilshire Wedding Chapel as witnesses on Twila's day off, February 25, 1937.

I got one night off from work (the only shift I missed in all the time we were there) and so we went. I marched bravely up to the altar and we got hitched. [37.217-2]

The Wilshire Wedding Chapel charge was $3 and $2.50 for the license, total $5.50. The motel took my last $3 and I had to borrow 50 cents from Twila for streetcar fare until pay day. [37.217-3]

Daisy invited us to her place for supper. I wasn't too crazy about the bean sprouts she served, but it didn't make much difference. Food never had been my main passion. [37.217-4]

When we got to the motel, Twila made me carry her over the threshold. I don't know why, but she had heard that was the thing to do. Probably an old hand-me-down custom from the days when cave men dragged their brides into their caves by the hair.

The next morning the old lady who cleaned the cabins unlocked our door with her master key about every hour after 6 or 7 a.m. and stepped in to see if we were gone yet, so she could clean. We weren't experienced, or we would have nailed the door shut or found a cabin in the woods instead. [37.217-5]

I went back to work again that night and Twila went back to Smiths' and we lived happily ever after, the same as before, until spring. [37.217-6]

During the winter Pa started what I think was a long-range program of propaganda to get me to come home again.

Pa wrote that a horse trainer had come to Fergus and advertised a series of horse training instructions or demonstrations in the sale barn and had sent Harvey Morril, the local horse jockey, to Dakota or Montana to get the wildest horses he could find, to demonstrate with. On a certain night he would demonstrate on White Foot, the worst one he brought back.

Pa wouldn't have thought of going out on a winter night to anything like that, but I guess he thought he ought to represent me there. So Sam Schram said, "If you want to go, I'll go mit you."

They watched while White Foot was trained in the sale ring until the guy could slip onto his back and off again. That was the last demonstration and the next day was sale day, when all the demonstration stock was to be sold at auction.

Pa knew my weak spot and he wrote that he had gone to the sale and had bought White Foot.

He also mentioned that it had been so tough that winter that he would have to sell out if I didn't come back in the spring. It was a winter of unusually heavy snow and he had bought a stack of hay down on the Springen farm by Pelican Lake. When he went to get a load, he had to shovel so much snow just to get up to the stack with the team and sleigh that he was too "all-in" to pitch, and so he went home without any hay. [38.214-3]

Twila and I didn't tell anybody we were married, but we started to lay plans to go back to Minnesota and I wrote to Pa and told him I would be coming back in the spring, so he could relax.

I also wrote to the Knutsons up in Oregon and started negotiations to buy their farm in Minnesota. They were going to lose it, but still had possession and redemption rights for another year. [38.217-7]

The L.J. Hauges were in California right then, visiting a son, and I thought they might be some help in buying the farm, as he was the banker. I took them sightseeing for a day, but I doubt it did any good in the long run. [38.217-8]

One Sunday in the first part of April, some of us went swimming in Balboa Bay. (Twila had stayed down there the previous summer with the Smiths.) I couldn't swim more than a few feet around the dock and as I was going to pull myself up on the dock, the undertow sort of pulled me under it and I scratched my stomach on the planks as I pulled myself up. Then I went to sleep on the beach and turned over once and sunburned both sides. [38.218-2]

I went to work that night, but I got so sick from the sunburn that I had to leave again after a couple of hours. I got good enough to work the next night, but I was so sore I couldn't wear an apron that hung from my shoulders.

I peeled five times in the next few weeks, and my scratched stomach was just like it was on fire. The only place I didn't burn was where I had shorts on, and I was two-toned for several years afterwards. All I could wear at work after that was a light, white shirt and pants and an apron tied around me, real low where my shorts had been. [38.218-3]

Twila went back to the dentist in March and got her permanent set of teeth and we started winding things up so we could leave for Minnesota the first part of April. Howard, Twila, and I all worked right up to the day we left. [38.218-4]

Twila and I told a few people, including Howard, that we had gotten married in February. Some were surprised, and some not so much. Marj told Twila, "I'm sure glad you are getting him, because you can stick up for yourself!" [38.218-5]

I wrote home and said we were married and she was coming along, just as we were leaving, too late to get a reply back. [38.218-6]

Twila wrote home and told her Ma. Her Ma put the letter up in the cupboard and didn't tell anybody, not even her own kids. She must have thought it was a bad dream that would go away. [38.218-7]

We didn't dare leave California with just the one used tire on the trailer and no spare, so I went to Goodyear and got another six-ply tire, for about $17.50 again. That was all my worry, because the trailer had been my idea. It was mine and wasn't part of the shared expense deal. [38.218-8]

Howard and I wrote checks for $125 each, the amount we had left in our checking accounts, and our landlord got them cashed for us. (No interest on checking accounts then!) If we hadn't had the foresight to leave some money in the bank to come back on, we would have been stuck in California a long time, at the pay we were getting. [38.219-1]

Marj sold Pa the Plymouth so we could drive it back. (When I got back, Twila and I got the 1927 Chevrolet coupe, which was all the car the folks had when we were gone.) [38.219-2]

By the time we left, Marj was bookkeeper for a small furniture factory making some of the first chrome furniture. It was the first of it we had seen, so we were dumb enough to buy the drop-leaf red and white kitchen table and six chairs (for wholesale, because Marj worked there). The boss gave us the "child's chair," so we had just as big a trailerful going back with only three people as going out with six, but not quite as heavy. [38.219-3]

I wanted to go up the coast and along the Columbia River, but Twila wanted to go through Utah, and show me off to her relatives, I suppose. We compromised and went back the way we went out. [38.219-4]

Edith Kimball, a neighbor of Twila's mother in Kanosh, had been visiting in California and she rode back that far (600 miles) with us. [38.219-5]

On the way to Kanosh, Edith Kimball talked about having a shower for Twila, but she forgot all about it when she got there. But then I'd always said I was going to marry an orphan so people couldn't say I'd gotten everything I had from my in-laws! [38.226-6]

I hardly moved out of the car seat all the way from California. My sunburn was peeling so bad that every time I leaned forward, some of me stuck to my shirt. So I just sat tight against the seat, even when we stopped for gas. When I did pull loose, Twila would pour olive oil down my back and a handful or so of "peelings" accumulated down against my belt every night. [38.219-7]

Instead of the rousing welcome we half expected in Kanosh, we got blank looks from everybody. They all wondered what was up. Twila's mother hadn't mentioned her letter to anyone and she and Marie weren't even home. Marie had been sick and one of the neighbors had taken them to see a doctor in another town. So those who happened to be around looked at Howard and me like we were men from Mars, or something. [38.219-6]

We stayed in Kanosh for several days. Edith Kimball took Howard to her house and he slept there. The people across the road were remodeling a house and hadn't moved in yet, so they offered Twila and me the use of the bedroom that was finished in the basement. That was our first home of "our own." [38.220-1]

One day we got some horses and rode up into the mountains. Ethel Paxton, Twila's best girl friend, went along and her dad gleefully lent me a horse that bucked when a rider first got on him. (If you stayed, then he was all right until the next time.) I stayed on all right and I'm sure the old man was really disappointed that I did. He was planning to have a good laugh.

Howard got a horse from Kimballs and a saddle with a rifle case attached, and went out hunting jackrabbits on horseback. He got a thrill out of it, but he didn't bring home any rabbits. [38.220-2]

After two or three days it gradually dawned on me that an old guy doing some fixing on the house was Twila's Uncle James, her (deceased) father's twin brother, though nobody had introduced us. Twila called him Uncle James, but that didn't mean anything to me because she called the old guy across the road Uncle Ted and I knew he wasn't related. [38.220-3]

The old family house had rusty, leaky tin on the roof and Uncle James was supposed to shingle it with wooden shingles. Howard and I were bored, so we told Twila's brothers if they would get the shingles and tear the old tin off, we would do the shingling.

Uncle James thought he had to show us how, and he came with a chalk line and was going to use some archaic method of getting the first row started. I had just helped shingle one of the sheds at home the summer before and knew how to start the first row straight using only three or four shingles and a straight board. We soon brushed Uncle James off and finished the whole house in a couple of days. I'm sure it would have taken him half the summer. [38.220-4]

We went from there to Salt Lake City, planning to visit some more relatives and stay overnight with them. We got to Laura and Rex's place tired and hungry, but they aren't Norwegians out there and don't automatically put the coffee pot on when you first step in. We had been on the road all day and had gone out of our way to look up a very vague second cousin of mine at Manti. We couldn't afford to stop and eat in restaurants and the only relative that offered us anything to eat was an old aunt of Twila's in Kanosh who gave us some popcorn. Not like Howard and I were used to when our mothers got company. [38.220-5]

Rex was an alcoholic then and had lost his permit to buy booze. Instead of going for groceries, he fooled Howard into going along to the liquor store so Howard could buy himself a permit, for $1.50, so Rex could get a bottle of booze with it. Nobody had any extra room for us, but they had called a few others to come over that night to see us and we got rationed around to various places to sleep on couches, etc. [38.221-1]

The next day we went to Ogden to see Twila's Uncle George, a picturesque old ex-gold miner from Alaska's gold rush at Nome. His wife had had a stroke and couldn't talk or remember much.

We kept right on going from there and planned to drive all night. We were only interested in getting home by then. [38.221-2]

Out in the mountains of Wyoming we got into a blizzard in the dark and sometimes could drive only by opening a window on each side and watching the road shoulders. I followed one shoulder around a corner onto a side road and Twila almost had heart failure. She thought I had turned into the ditch.

When we got to Laramie at 4 a.m. they stopped us and said we couldn't go up over the pass to Cheyenne until daylight. We sat in the depot until daylight. The road goes almost straight up from there. Sometimes the only way we could follow the highway was by driving half way between the power and telegraph poles on either side of the roadway. [38.221-3]

The weather was warmer once we dropped down into Nebraska. The snow had melted the day before and that morning there were bare tracks for the car wheels with a jagged ridge of ice between them. To save the poor, overloaded little trailer tire we drove on the jagged ice and let the trailer wheel have the smooth track. [38.221-4]

In Nebraska we drove through an unbelievable dust storm across a lot of the state. You couldn't see much past the car radiator. When two cars met, driving with their lights on bright, one would stop dead still and the other would creep past.

The dust storm loaded the car with so much dust that even after we got a home, every time we hit a bump so much dust bounced out of the upholstery that you could hardly see. [38.221-5]

(We took the car to Minnesota Motors and had it cleaned, but in a few days it was as bad as ever again. I don't think all the dust ever worked out of the upholstered ceiling.) [38.222-1]

When we got to Fremont, Nebraska, it was raining and we stopped at a motel for the night. We had driven 850 miles since sleeping. I did all the driving, and 40 to 45 miles per hour was maximum speed. Twila had never driven a car and when I let Howard drive so I could sleep he looked like he was going right to sleep, too. I got so scared I got wider awake every minute. [38.222-2]

We made Sioux City, Iowa, the next day and caught up to a snowplow. All the roads ahead of it were blocked. We made it to a motel that was just cleaning up for spring and got two small cabins with single walls. You could see right through in some places where there were knot holes. They had only small wood stoves for heat. [38.222-3]

One of the car tires was flat the next morning, the only flat car tire we had had since leaving Minnesota. [38.222-4]

The roads had been plowed by noon the next day, so we started out again, wondering whether we would get home before we were penniless. Then, up by Canby, Minnesota, we caught up to a snowplow again. They said as far as they knew the road was still blocked ahead, clear to Canada.

About that time a highway patrolman came up behind and told us that we could get out of the snow by turning back and swinging east to Marshall. We followed his advice and he was right. We came on up through Glenwood on good roads and got home about 11 p.m., after dropping Howard off. [38.222-5]

The house was dark and we didn't know what the reaction to my letter had been, so we hardly dared go in. But Ma and Pa both got up. I suppose they were really curious to see what I had picked up in Hollywood, and they couldn't have been nicer. They even gave us something to eat. [38.222- 6]

On the trip out to California in the fall, the weather had been perfect the whole way. When we got to Ashby on the 18th of April, the weather had been almost one steady nightmare the whole way. They had already been working in the fields when we came home, but it turned cold again and we caught colds (on top of my sunburn, yet). [38.222-7]

The summer after Twila and I came back to Minnesota my Great Aunt Ella got a couple of old maids who had a car to bring her to Ashby on a visit and checking-up trip. After they had been here a while and she was satisfied that we hadn't had to get married, she went out to the car and brought in a whole bunch of wedding presents (like pillows and things) which I'm sure we wouldn't have seen if she hadn't thought things were completely aboveboard. [38.205-5]

She also brought in a fancy old candy dish on a pedestal. It was real lacy originally, but it had been broken into a hundred pieces and crudely glued. It was a real eyesore, but she thought we would like something of hers to remember her by. As soon as she died, I threw it over the dump. I can still remember her anyway. [38.206-1]

We got Christmas cards from Aunt Ella as long as she lived and they were always second hand. She just erased the original names with a coarse eraser and put her name on instead. [38.206-2]

Aunt Ella lived for years on the money she got selling her two farms. She would get a big down payment and then when the buyers couldn't make it, she would get the farms back. She would sell them again with another big down payment. The farms were in the good farming country near Blooming Prairie and were easy to sell, but the buyers usually got too far into debt. Farming wasn't very profitable then, so they would go broke.

None of the buyers ever cheated her out of anything; they would just come and tell her they couldn't make it and forfeit the farms back to her; usually, with the taxes paid up to date and everything. [38.206-3]

Aunt Ella didn't belong to a very prolific family. Out of a family of seven only two had kids: my grandmother had four and one brother had three. The other five were all married but childless. [38.206-4]