Alice Chastain Williams and Edwin Harned Williams in Chattanooga, just after their wedding, February 14, 1948.
By Alice C. Williams
Carol, my daughter, asked me to record my February 14, 1948, wedding day memories.
We got married a day earlier than the day planned for (the 15th - because it would be payday at Combustion Engineering, Inc.). Minnie Wade, a co-worker of mine, pointed out that Valentine's Day was the most desired time for a wedding.
Here is what I recall of that day over 56 years ago.
The future husband, Edwin Harned Williams, got up before daylight, walked ½ mile in the dark (I guess he had a flashlight) down the hill from his mother's and step-father's residence on Hunter's Trail, in Red Bank, and caught a city bus to the Greyhound Bus Station in Chattanooga. He headed for Calhoun, Georgia, where he planned to get the marriage license and find a preacher to perform the wedding. I left my room at the YWCA on Eighth and Lindsey Streets, in Chattanooga, very early, also. I was to catch a Greyhound Bus leaving later.
A short time before my bus was due to load at the station, located at Ninth and Market Streets downtown, I was paged for the phone call that was for me from Edwin's mother. She told me that some flowers had been delivered to Edwin's sister, Elizabeth and Lewis Freeman (her husband). They were corsages - one was violets and some other flowers. A note said, "Remember the Old Shoe". Edwin's mother thought someone has referenced the old shoes to something to tie on the car after the wedding and was making plans to send Edwin's brother, Charles, to the bus station with the flowers for me to have at the wedding.
The plans to have a home wedding at my parents' were changed because Edwin's family was not agreeable to some of out decisions. Edwin's mother did not want him to invite his father because all of her neighbors thought he was dead. Also, Charles had no coat to wear to the wedding except a bright green sports coat that belonged to Edwin.
Well, needless to say, I missed the bus that Edwin was planning to meet when it got to Calhoun. I saw it pulling out, leaving the station just as I got off the phone call from Edwin's mother (Mrs. Henry Fitts). I discovered that the next bus to Calhoun didn't leave until 2:00 P.M., so I headed for the NC&STL RR station located across from the Read House on Ninth Street. There was a Southern RR train that was scheduled to leave about 11:00 A.M., and I thought that was my best bet if I wanted the wedding to take place on Valentine's Day (or if at all). I was troubled because I didn't have any gloves to wear. I had forgotten to get any. I decided that Loveman's would open at 10:00 A.M., and I would go and buy some. I ran down to Eighth and Market Streets and had time to buy a nice pair of white gloves, and get back before the train left for Calhoun.
I caught the train to Calhoun, but it was ever so slow. It stopped to let people on and off at every pig trail. It upset me to hear the bell going off when people pulled the cord that ran down the top of the train windows.
As I settled down to tolerate the slow ride, I began thinking about what my dad said when we told him of our wish to get married. I quote verbatim, "If you make your bed hard you will have to lay in it." I decided then and there that I was burning my bridges behind me and that I would never allow a divorce to happen without a real hard struggle.
Then I remembered our jobs at Combustion and how the Company had given us a week's leave because we were getting married. It occurred to me that it would be difficult and embarrassing to report back to work without getting married.
Next, I thought what if the future mother-in-law had purposely caused me to miss the bus? Perish the thought! But if so, she had overlooked the railroad transportation that was available.
Finally, I got to Calhoun and looked around the Calhoun streets and stores for Edwin. He was nowhere to be found. I got a quantity of coins and went to a drugstore phone booth and called Edwin's mother to see if he had returned home. Maybe she was hoping he would. I'll never know for sure, she told me the next time she saw me that she had always told Edwin to go just as far as he could back into the country to find a suitable wife. That gave me a puzzled feeling, I must say!
Now, back to the wedding that might not take place. I found my father, Andrew Frank Chastain, and my sister's husband, Joseph Philip White, who turned out to be our two witnesses at the wedding, Yes, Edwin showed up while Philip, my dad, and I were seated at a table in the drugstore where we each asked for a glass of water. They were always courteous when you got only water (in those small coke glasses). Edwin said he had gone into the movie theater and watched a "show".
My feeble attempt at explaining to Edwin how and why I missed the bus seemed inadequate to break the ice that had formed between Edwin and me. He shoved the white carnation corsage he had with him toward me. Then he pinned it on my black wool coat with the big squirrel-trimmed collar on it. I thought sadly about my dear mother who was at home still sewing on a light blue gabardine suit for my February 15th wedding date. I had brought her the cloth about two weeks earlier. She didn't have any idea we had changed the date. There hadn't been enough time to send a letter and there were no telephones at Red Bud. WHAT A MESS!
Edwin had learned that the Calhoun postmaster was a preacher. He was on the job that Saturday. The cobblestone First Baptist Church he pastored was located right beside the post office. We went into the post office and talked to him (Rev. Henry Holland) about marrying us at the church. He said he would perform the ceremony, but he asked if either of us had been married before. He said he didn't marry anyone who has ever been married previously. He unlocked the church, which was ice cold. He started the ceremony by telling us Adam and Eve were the first married couple. The service only lasted long enough for Edwin's nose to be icy cold when he kissed me.
I had gotten married in a square-necked, beige, rayon pebble crepe dress with rhinestone arrows on it, the new white gloves, my black, mink-dyed squired trimmed coat and a blue gabardine hat that matched my blue suit that Mama was still working on when we got to my parents' farm house (at Poarch Place near Crane Eater, where they had moved a month earlier).
Edwin didn't want to be warmed up with a kiss in the back seat of the Ford sedan. My dad was driving and Philip was in the front seat beside him. Edwin was afraid my dad might look in the rear view mirror and see us kissing. We were married, but that hadn't done much to warm up the groom!
My mother was very sweet in accepting the news of the Valentine's Day marriage. Maybe she was relieved that she didn't have to finish the suit by making the button holes for it. I just pinned the buttons on the suit and wore it on our Greyhound Bus ride back to Chattanooga. We had to go out to Edwin's folks for some quilts and pillows and Edwin's clothes. We took a taxi back to our High Street efficiency apartment in Chattanooga. We got to the apartment around 2:00 A.M., and counted our total dollars left from our combined assets before turning out the lights. We had a total of $40 left out of our paydays. We said our prayer and turned out the lights - and this story stops here, but our marriage lasted until September 6, 1976. (However, it is still alive in my memories. How they linger! How they ever flood my soul!)
WEDDING DAY MEMORIES
By Alice C. Williams