Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Carol and Frank’s wedding, and the trip home

Frank and Carol were together more than a year when Frank had the epiphany and proposed marriage.  They were married late in February of the next year, 1978.  Saturday, February 25th.  My dad passed away on February 20th, in a bitter, cold winter.  His funeral was over and Mom said “I need a wedding!”, so she rode shotgun and we went to Carol’s wedding with Beth and Shelly in the back seat of my Dodge Colt wagon.

It was a clear, sunny day when we set out from Mentor, Ohio to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.  I remember a small and wonderful wedding.  Carol reminded me they ran out of food, and the photographer was working for his dinner.  No one was flush back then.  Problems with the reception hall are crystal clear in her mind and I only remember a wonderful wedding.  And the memorable trip home.

It was after dark in the mountains, but still early evening when we set out to leave.  We changed from party clothes to winter clothes and boots we brought with us, said our goodbyes and opened the door of the hall to leave.  A gentle snowfall was illuminated in all the streetlights.

We were dressed for the weather; I had snow tires on the wagon, two fifty pound weights in the back, one over each wheel, and Mom for shotgun.  I figured we could cross the three mountain ranges on old US 22 to Pittsburgh and pick up the turnpike before the snow was more than a nuisance.  The turnpike would be clean and green, a trucker term I often heard on my trusty CB radio.

Beth and Shelly were twelve and ten, and seasoned travelers; they folded down the seat in back and went to sleep with their pillows and blankets.  Mom and I chatted our way over the first two mountains.  The little Colt stuck the road, the girls slept on in the back and it had been a lovely wedding.

The last town before the turnpike, we were tested.  A long hill up and the rail road crossed at the top.  Signal lights were flashing and all the cars stopped for the train crossing were gently sliding down the hill.  Mom knew what to do about that.

“Turn left and we’ll keep looking up the side streets until we find one the train has cleared.”  It was the perfect plan and I followed it at once.  Two or three blocks produced a train free crossing up the hill, and I started up in first gear.  Only a third of the way up, we lost traction and slowly slid back down, like cartoon characters in a cartoon car.  At the bottom I revved up some more RPM’s on the little engine, gently engaged gears and started again.  Half way, and the ignominious slide to the bottom.

Determined not to be defeated, I got a few more RPM’s on my side, engaged the clutch and started back up.  Almost as far as the second time, then the gentle slide backwards.  This time I lost control of the back in the drifting snow, the gentle slide turned a little sideways until thump and we stopped with the back bumper against the front bumper of someone’s parked car.  Stuck!  We needed the owner of the car to back up a bit and we would have room to push the Colt free.

I left Mom with the car and the girls and went door to door.  I found the owner pretty far up the hill, at a bachelorette party. She was happy to oblige, Mom gave the front fender an assist and we came back down the hill front first. 

 We went back the way we came, and with plenty of hill climbing experience behind me, tackled the previous street up to the rail way crossing, topped it, and worked our way back to the highway. The hill below was a tangled mess of cars. We kept on US 22 to the turnpike.

Once there I dropped into the line of headlights and tail lights illuminating the night.  Then I pulled into the passing lane, and was immediately blinded by snow that blanketed the air as well as the highway.  I asked Mom if I could pull back.  She couldn’t see a thing, either.  I crept along until my CB roared out, “Breaker, brown car!  If you have a CB pick it up NOW.”  Mom picked up. 

We were, a trucker said, bringing the entire Pennsylvania turnpike to a virtual standstill because the fool in a brown station wagon was straddling the middle line at thirty miles per hour.

“What would you like us to do?” Mom inquired.
“Move the hell over.”
“Now, young man, there’s no need for that.  We want to get home as much as you do, and we can do this together.”
“I’m very sorry, m’am.  Now, if you ease a little to the right you’ll be in your lane.  I’ll pull in ahead of you and you can ride my slip stream for a bit.”

The little brown car and I had no fear behind the semi and stuck like glue back to Ohio, where we said goodbye and headed north and west to home.  We were the only people on the road.  We watched the sun rise as we crunched along about forty miles per hour.  We ate breakfast at an all night truck stop.  We pulled into the drive about noon, and we were all talked out.  It had been a mighty fine wedding.

 Left to right, Joanne, Janice, Beth, Mom.  Probably 1981.  At Carol and Frank's house; one of Carol's memorable Christmas parties.  Beth is not old enough to drink, and proud of it.


  1. Snowstorms can cause some hairy rides!

  2. Great story! Snow can get treacherous so fast.

  3. How truly lovely. And the kindness (eventually) of that trucker has brought tears to my wussy eyes. Thank you for another great post.

  4. That sounds like you had quite the adventure getting to and from the wedding. I love your mama's spirit.

  5. A mighty fine wedding with a little adventure on the way home to top it off.

  6. You sure know how to party!!!
    I, too know a bit about driving in snow . . . ;)

  7. Absolutely brilliant story of romance, sadness, kindness, danger, relief, happiness... You definitely make it on to my dream list of dinner party guests!

  8. Joanne, I know I keep telling you how fabulous your stories are but this one was one of my favourites yet – and that's saying a lot. Plus, I just love snowstorm stories. I know what it feels like to be out on a dark highway in a bad storm. Pretty scary stuff. And I definitely remember when everybody had a CB!!!!!
    You, my dear, are awesome.

  9. Love your stories and I have to say, I could use somedriving in the snow lessons from you. I'm nowhere near as brave and tend to hunker down with a ride out the storm mentality.

  10. GREAT story. Fun to read and I'll bet it was fun to remember now it's in your rear-view mirror and not a blizzard and a slick hill in your headlights. Nothing like a wedding and an adventure with family to help take the ache out of a funeral.

  11. Beautifully written, Joanne. I know the winter roads well, but have no experience in the mountainous ones. You brought me there. It's August in Minneapolis (90 outside today) but I have the urge to build a fire. Wonderful.


  12. Perfect time to write about the cold as we have little heat waves trickling out these summer days. I was afraid you were going to get stuck on the railroad tracks with the train coming. But then you wouldn't be alive to tell the story. Silly me! A good time was had by all--especially by us who get to read about it!