Engaging my wedding day memories this early morning is like opening a photo album to find a hodgepodge of pictures not neatly arranged but all in the front of the book needing to be sorted through and displayed orderly. These pictures have been here 57 years today, our wedding was June 29, 1957. My mind hasn’t done as good a job with them as a professional photographer would do.
It is a sunny afternoon. Already dressed in my new blue suit, a college graduation present from my parents, I stand in the front yard of the house where I grew up on Massalina Drive contemplating the choice I have made for my life. My grandparents arrive from Pensacola. Mamie and Walter Gentry and two cousins. My mental picture is of his car slowly rounding the curve and turning into our driveway as my cousin Bill waves to me. As always, the car is a Chrysler, a new 1957 Imperial Crown sedan, medium dark green with a white top.
Comes to mind, it is a nice car that I have driven, but not at top speed on the dark residential streets of Pensacola as Bill and I enjoyed the 1952 Imperial a few years earlier. Odd things come to mind on your wedding day, and again on your 57th anniversary. A kind, loving and generous man, my grandfather was 50 when I was born. I was 21 on my wedding day. When he died, I was 40 years old and wondered if he could see everything that was going on in my life.
Ours was the first wedding at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida. Whatever happened there that hour is rather a blur. But I know it happened, because in Battin Hall there’s a picture of us, Linda and me, walking down the aisle at the end of the ceremony. See us? And that's me taking our picture of our picture.
So as to keep it from being painted with shoe polish and strings with shoes and cans attached, I have left our “getaway car” elsewhere. Now at Linda’s house for the wedding reception, I hand my brother Walt the keys and ask him to go get it, which he does. It’s a new 1957 Ford Thunderbird, red with white top. The top can be unclipped and lifted off, but it looks really cool with the top on, and those round windows.
Newlyweds, we drive away as people wave. My friend Philip gawks at the car, and that I got the girl. A couple minutes later we stop at Western Union on Harrison Avenue and send Linda’s parents a telegram, which they read to the guests. “Thank you for the lovely wedding. Hawaii is beautiful.” Everybody gets a chuckle. Not Hawaii, we drive out to PCB.
A week later I am on the plane to Newport, Rhode Island for the start of our Navy life.
Would I do it all again? Every minute, every second.