In looking at old newspaper clippings about my hometown, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, from my high school days, I found that the town had disputes that I did not remember. One clipping reported the start of a trial where a local realtor claimed that a Greek Orthodox Church had misused his gift of $4,800. It was a multi-day proceeding, and I don’t know the outcome, but I am curious.
Of course, there were also glorious occasions. One newspaper section had lengthy reports of four weddings. Each had a picture of the bride captioned with the married woman’s new name in the then-accepted style, such as “Mrs. Willard D. Bouwman” or “Mrs. Nevin J. Grasser.” All were church weddings, and the music, heavily religious, was listed for each wedding. At one the father of the bride sang, including “Wedding Prayer” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Each story had a detailed description of the bridal party’s dress. At one, “they appeared in delustered [what is that?!?] satin gowns in a turquoise shade with three-quarter length sleeves and bateau necklines that had a V in the back. The sheath skirt cascaded in back tiers of satin. Headpieces, satin pillboxes [this was the day of Jacqueline Kennedy], each centered with a rose, had silk illusion veils attached. Their colonial bouquets combined puffy white carnations with red garnets that were surrounded by filicifolia [?!] foliage with satin streamers completing their arrangements.” (In some ways I have changed little from those days. I doubt that I read about these weddings back then, but I would have only vaguely understood these descriptions, and my understanding of them is not much better now.)
Of course, the brides’ dresses were described in exquisite detail. At one, “the bride entered in a gown of peau de soie fashioned with sequin-trimmed lace appliqué detail at the sabrina neckline and down the front of the dress which featured a full, chapel train. A bustle arrangement at the back was another style note of the long-sleeved style topped by a French illusion veil and jeweled pillbox. Her bouquet combined white cymbidium orchids and stephanotis.”
I was not surprised by the attire or their descriptions, which were probably common in many small-town newspapers, but I was surprised at the size of the weddings. The ceremonies and receptions were not for the country- club crowd. All of these families were working class; none of the brides or grooms had college degrees, but these were not scaled-down weddings. While one had “only” 100 guests, two others each had 275 and the fourth had 300. But then I remembered the few wedding receptions I went to in that era. There was limited alcohol or a cash bar and a buffet dinner with only a few selections. No swag bags. They probably cost a tenth per person of the weddings I attend today.
Perhaps I would have stayed in Sheboygan if I had known of all the cultural opportunities it offered in my high school years. For example, I was not familiar with the Irish History Club, which tackled the rather ambitious one-evening topic of the “Irish in America.”
I was amused that the D’Werdenfelser Schuhplattler Club was holding a public dance to music by Delbert Dicke’s Orchestra at which there was going to be three guest clubs from Milwaukee and one from Minneapolis and all were going to “combine for a mass performance to climax the entertainment.” I imagined this spectacle and thought of the father. We lived next to a neighborhood tavern frequented by many including bachelor brothers who lived across the street who sometimes could be seen carrying a pail of draft beer home. (The father never drank at this tavern; he had a different favorite across town.) Behind the tavern was a dance hall, which was infrequently used, but on occasion schuhplattlers (you can look it up) danced there, and the resultant sounds from the stomping feet, the slapping of the lederhosen, and the accompanying shouts and yips drove the father into one of his frenzies. I could only imagine what his reaction would have been if five clubs had performed at once next door.
(concluded May 31)