A Wedding Story – 1943

Ruth Merrithew in younger years

“Here it is: the last days of Ruth Merrithew and the first days of Mrs. H.F. Hubbard, Jr. It’s wonderful – believe me.”

These are the words my mother Ruth wrote across the top of a typed, single space, 7 page letter she sent home to Seattle of her wedding to my dad, Harry Fay Hubbard, Jr.  It was WWII and my dad, a student at the University of Washington, had enlisted in the Navy.  High school sweethearts, the war was not going to keep them from getting married, so saving her money, Ruth, daughter of a divorced, working mom who could not go with her, took leave from her job, traveled east alone from Seattle to Boston to marry Harry the day after he graduated from officer’s training school at Columbia University in New York City. She had relatives in Boston she knew only through letters, who welcomed her into their home and helped her make arrangements for the wedding. Harry thought he’d have a few days off  before his assignment.  The wedding took place Thanksgiving day, November 25, also Harry’s birthday. The first part of the letter describes the train trip, her arrival in Boston, going to NYC for the first time to attend Harry’s graduation, then tells the story of their wedding and honeymoon. Mom’s keen observations and chatty writing style takes the reader into a time capsule – the sailors on the train on leave from Pearl Harbor, dancing to Guy Lombardo, the Broadway shows of the time, popular radio shows they went to, hearing Frank Sinatra – personal lives adjusting to and wrapped up in the backdrop of war. It’s the story of a confident young woman, 22 years old, traveling to meet her sweetheart and begin their life together. It’s a bit long, but hope you enjoy her story.

Dear Friend:

Well I guess it will take the business instinct in me to get any of my correspondence answered. Guess I will try and write all the things I have done since I left Seattle – or at least as much as I can remember at this time.

November 11th – seems ages ago. Finally got on the train with the able aid of Bud Beeler to carry all my “stuff” – mostly food. Went right to bed only to experience a first night on the train – very little sleep. Had a lower berth so laid awake and looked out the window while going up the Sound and into Everett. Finally fell off to sleep and tossed and turned. When I woke up at 7 – think of it, didn’t have to go work but woke up at the same old time – we were in Spokane. We spent about two hours here shuttling cars which nearly knocks the insides out of you from time to time. After getting dressed and returning to my seat discovered the fellow in the upper berth was a sailor and also met his buddies, another sailor and a C.P.O. – all in the Navy Air Corp going home on leave after two years out of the States. They were all at Pearl Harbor and in the South Pacific Area. We (the sailor and I) went to breakfast and then spent the rest of the morning chatting and playing cards. Had only two meals a day on the train – altho my “Sewing Club” girls gave me enough food along with everybody else’s donation to make up the third meal. Well to make a long trip short Gene (the C. P.O.) was my companion the rest of the trip to Chicago. He was a grand guy and took me to all my meals. Saturday night we stayed up until 12 o’clock as we got into St Paul then and wanted to get off as it was a 45 min. stop over. It was very cold through No. Dakota and Minnesota and there was snow in St. Paul.

November 14th – Arrived in Chicago 31/2 hrs. late. Said good-bye to Gene as he lived in Chicago and began looking around for some friends of my mother’s who were to have met me. Found them and we spent a few minutes getting acquainted and then went up to the Palmer House for a turkey dinner. This is certainly a beautiful place. Rushed on then to another station where I caught my train for Boston. Did all this in just an hour and a half. Spent a quiet time on the train to Boston-going through Akron, Cleveland, and Albany.

November 15th – Got up at 7 this morning as I didn’t want to miss anything. The State of Massachusetts was the most like Washington of any of the trip. Very pretty countryside with lots of little rivers. Got into Boston at 10:30 and my Aunt Alice and cousin Phyllis met me. We went home then to her house. She is my mother’s sister and looks, acts, and talks like her. A very lovely Aunt too. She lives in a little town called Saugus that is 10 miles out from Boston. I In the evening Virginia, Aunt Alice’s daughter, came home from work and we got acquainted. She is perfect.  She is the one whom I have corresponded with ever since I was 7 years old. In the evening I waited for Harry to call but finally at 8:30 I called him and sure enough he couldn’t get a line. It was wonderful talking to him again and he gave me the o.k. to go ahead with plans for a church wedding in Saugus. So then I went to bed, exhausted, talked awhile with Virginia and finally dozed off. My Aunt has a very lovely home, two stories with four bedrooms upstairs.

November 16th – Started out early in the morning to go into Boston to shop for wedding dress. Aunt Alice and Virginia went with me. We had lunch in town with fried clams which sure are good. Got my dress and veil at Stern’s – which is in comparison to Magnin’s, or Best’s. You should see the streets in Boston-just as they say-like cow paths. All of them one way streets with cars parked on one side. No passing of cars at all. This is only in downtown and the older sections of Boston tho. Came home and in the evening all my relatives came over and I met them all. They all are very nice people. Virginia and I laid awake until four o’clock in the morning jabbering. It was loads of fun tho and at four o’clock the roosters were crowing so we got up and came downstairs and had cokes. Then promptly went to sleep for a “few” hours.

November 17th – Went to Lynn, 5 miles north of Saugus and about the size of Everett. This is a large manufacturing center of shoes and General Electric has its manufacturing buildings and offices there. (Don’t you remember from your grade school geography?) Went on from Lynn to visit my great Aunt and Uncle who are 89 years old. They live in a little old house by the side of the road and are just like a storybook. They are very devoted and good example of how perfect one’s life could be if it was like theirs. Uncle is only living until the war is over and then he wants the undertaker to come. They have no electricity or radio and don’t want any. Uncle reads the paper and can discuss any phase of the war with you to the very finest point. Came home and in the evening went with Virginia over to one of my married cousin’s home, Ruthmae, to visit. She has a little boy David who is three years old and just darling.

November 18th – Stayed home today for a change and wrapped wedding cake with my Aunt Alice. Packed again to go to New York in the morning. Harry called about 7 o’clock saying he had just received his orders to report to the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, Virginia, on Dec.17th, thus meaning he had about 21 days leave. I asked him if he wanted to go home to get married and he said no, get married here, and he would talk home-going with me the next day. Do you think I was excited? I’ll say and it was so wonderful to know he had so much leave. We had both thought it would only be a few days.

November 19th – Caught a 10 o’clock train into New York and got in at 3 o’clock. Came through the district of New York where all the tenements are just as you see in the pictures. Arrived at Grand Central Station which is enormous and went to the Hotel Roosevelt where Harry had made reservations for me. Had a lovely room on the 16th floor. Well I was in New York so had to be like all travelers and had a chicken sandwich and tea sent up to my room. Thought this might kill the butterflies in my stomach-but only did a little bit of good. Took a shower and went downstairs for a manicure. Time seemed like eternity until Harry came at 6 o’clock and then, Oh me——-(you guess this part). We chatted for a time and decided we couldn’t possibly go back to Seattle as it would only give us a few days at home and the trip would be too tiring on the both of us. Harry had made reservations for dinner in the Grill at the Roosevelt where we ate and danced to the music of Guy Lombardo-it was just like heaven-never thought I would ever do anything like this. Said good-night to Harry and finally had a nice soft bed to go to sleep in. The hotel was beautiful-no comparison to the Olympic in Seattle.

November 20th – Got up early and started out with a slip of paper in my hand on how and where to get on the subway to get to Harry’s School, Columbia University. Had ridden my first subway in Boston so that wasn’t so bad. They had the Captain’s review on the field at the school where all the Midshipmen marched and honors where presented to the best Company and high scholastic awards to the Midshipmen. I took some pictures but they didn’t turn out very good as it was a cloudy day. Met Harry and we then went in town for lunch and shopping for a formal for me. The stores in New York are lovely we went into several of them. Bought a black velvet and blue marquisette dress at Lord & Taylor’s. Then we saw the stage play “Rosalinda” which was a musical and very good.

November 21st – Virginia was coming down to New York for the day and she got in at 5 o’clock in the morning. She piled into bed with me and caught a few hours sleep. We had breakfast at 10 with Harry in the Colonial Room in the hotel which is very quaint and in keeping with the name. We then went over to Radio City and went up to the top of the RCA building. The sun was shining but it was hazy so could not see much but Manhattan Island. Could not see lower Manhattan or the Statue of Liberty. We came back down and attended “Prince Machiavelli’s” broadcast which was grand with their Stradivari orchestra. The halls of this building are just huge with large painted murals all over them. This is in the lobby and then the broadcasting studios are in the 5th to 10th floors, or a few floors about there. The individual studios are very modernistic and beautiful in their color schemes. We then went down to lower Manhattan and had dinner at a restaurant called Luchow’s, which is an old German restaurant and very popular in New York. We had roast goose dinner that really stuffed us up. At 7 o’clock Virginia and I went out to Riverside Church to attend Harry’s baccalaureate services. My but this was impressive to be way up in the balcony and see some 1500 midshipmen march into the service. It was a very lovely service. Afterwards Harry came downtown with us and we had a bit to eat. Harry went back to school and Virginia and I sat around and talked until 12 when I walked down to the station for her to catch her train. You can walk from the hotel to the station through a tunnel that is about a block long.

November 22nd – I shopped in the morning and met Harry later in the day. We had dinner at Stouffer’s, which is a restaurant on the Old English Tavern style. They had very good food too. We just sat and talked as I was dead from shopping.

November 23rd – Went shopping again and finally found what I was really looking for. A robe to go with my pink things the office gave me. Got one that was pink beige but looked like silver almost. It was luscious I assure you. Also got presents bought for the wedding attendants. Harry called for me at 7 in the evening and we went to this Graduation Hop which was a buffet dance and was held on board the ship Prairie State which is permanently anchored at the pier on the Hudson River near Columbia College. The deck has had a large cover built on it making it a hall. We had dinner in the “galley”. They gave gardenias and cute dance programs to all the girls. Met several of Harry’s friends and all the commanding officers of the school. Got home late but the end of a perfect evening.

November 24th – Graduation Day! A day looked forward to for sometime. Attended graduation ceremonies at 11 o’clock at the church of Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This is an enormous church very beautiful. Just to be in one of the cathedrals gives you a thrill and feeling of being closer to God. The ceremony was very impressive and the fellows looked so stately in their new Ensign’s uniforms. There were about 1000 in the graduating class and Harry stood 65th in his class. This also meant so much to me and made me very proud of him. Well at 12 o’clock when graduation was over Harry and I made a mad dash back to his hall to pick up his bags and then a taxi to the hotel to get my bags and made a 2 o’clock train back to Boston. We had lunch on the train and got into Boston at 7. Came out to my Aunt’s and opened wedding presents that had arrived and dashed over to the church for the wedding practice. Had some lovely gifts. My Aunt gave me a sterling plate and my cousin gave me a sterling candy dish to match. The best man Gail Rogers, Harry’s best boyfriend who he had gone to school with since the first grade, and who now works in Akron, Ohio, came and also gave s a sterling plate. Also got a $25 war bond, two gifts of $5.00, a crystal and sterling candy dish, crystal jelly dish, picture, pair pillow slips, table cloth, desk pad, book ends, etc. All the people at the practice came back to the house for refreshments, and, not nice to say, but finally went home around 12. We turned in then completely exhausted.

November 25th – The day of days, Harry’s birthday – Thanksgiving Day – and most important our Wedding Day. Everything had to function on schedule today. We all went out to dinner in Lynn at 2:30. Had all the fixings and everything. Didn’t think I could eat a thing, but through coaxings and everything managed pretty good. Harry ate everything, just as though nothing was happening-just like a man. We met Gail at 4 o’clock and brought him home with us. Sat around for an hour or so and did “last minute things”. My stomach was rather off key today. But I felt okay though. At 6 I started to dress as the photographer was coming at 7. The florist came at 6 also and decorated my Aunt’s home as the reception was to be here and I wanted the flowers here. The best man and my cousin Freddie who was ushering were going to help Harry dress and by 7 when they all got pushed out of the house I guess he really was in a dither. I then had my pictures taken of myself and with my cousin Virginia who stood up with me. At 5 minutes to 8 the limousine called for us and we went to the church. When I started down the aisle there was a great big smile that broke forth on Harry’s lips. You see I am either superstitious or old-fashioned, but hadn’t told him or anybody about my dress or nobody had seen it. He didn’t even know if I was having a long dress. My dress was ivory satin trimmed in lace with a train. Had a fingertip veil with a lace coronet and wore a pendant that was very small and dainty that belonged to my mother’s mother. My bouquet was white carnations and sweet peas and some other frilly white flower. My cousin Virginia wore a gold velvet and chiffon dress and carried roses that were almost like talisman’s and wore one in her hair. Gail was the best man as I said before and my cousin Fred and Lt. Edmund Carlson ushered. Ed was a Seattle fellow that both Harry and I knew and Harry had ushered at his wedding in Seattle May of this year. He is stationed at Wellesley, Mass. Oh yes he and his wife gave us a lovely green blanket for a wedding present. My Uncle Ray, Virginia’s dad, gave me away. The ceremony was over in just a short while and we dashed back to my Aunt’s for the reception. The photographer then took about 10 minutes of our time to take pictures of Harry and I. Well you know how a reception goes, poor Harry meeting all the relatives and trying to remember each and every one. We had about 40 or 50 guests. My Aunt cut my wedding cake and my cousin Deanna who is 5 passed out the wedding cake. About 10 o’clock we decided to try and get away. I wore my velveteen dress and hat I had made (American Beauty color) and Harry gave me an Eisenberg clip and earrings as a wedding present. I gave him a sterling identification bracelet. I had a pure white orchid corsage. Well the only way out of the house was down the front stairs so I threw my bouquet there and so everybody was waiting for us to come down. Our luggage had already gone out to the taxi and we made a dash for it. Confetti flew all over and even in my mouth. Guess it was my own fault for not keeping it shut. We went into Boston to the Statler Hotel for that night. Forgot to brush all the confetti off before getting to the hotel so we had smiles from everyone we met. Well there it is – the end of the most wonderful day in my life. Hope everyone I know can have just such a same day. We wired both of our families when we got to the hotel.

November 26th – The Sattler Hotel was very nice and we had breakfast in our room in the morning. Caught a 2 o’clock train for New York as we were going to spend our honeymoon there. Got into New York about 7 and went to the Vanderbilt Hotel only to find our reservations were not as we had requested so we went on to the Roosevelt Hotel and got a very nice room. By then it was late and we went to dinner at Stouffer’s again and called it a day.

November 27th – Well I don’t remember what we did this day but we had dinner at a restaurant that featured Idaho baked potatoes and Wenatchee baked apples. So we had turkey with the baked potatoes. Made us feel good to eat in a place that stressed western products. We then went to the play “The Merry Widow” with Jan Kiepura. He is a wonderful singer and his wife played the feminine lead. This made the play all the better because in one place he held a kiss longer than usual and she got so flustered and embarrassed she couldn’t go on with her next line.

After the play we had tickets for the “Hit Parade” broadcast so made a dash to that which was a 12 o’clock. This is the one you hear in Seattle at 9.

Well we saw Frank Sinatra, but I didn’t squeal because I don’t like him and anyway Harry said he would pinch me. All the Brooklyn young girls are the ones that do the squealing. It is more a publicity stunt because he never even once looked at the audience. Just sang as if there was no audience. Sorry if I spoiled your dreams of him but honestly he does look just like a 4-F. Had a bite to eat and called it another day.

November 28th – Finally came the day when I had just done too much, beginning back about two weeks before I left Seattle, so I spent the day in bed and Harry read and wrote letters. We had originally planned to go to church but I couldn’t make it. We had a radio in the room so listened to it and had dinner in the room.

November 29th – We walked around town and had dinner at a place called Child’s which is nice and has a chain of restaurants in New York. We then went to see “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, which is a very fine show. After the theater we ate in the “Divan Parisienne”. This is a very small place but very high class. Everybody sits on divans that hold two – very chummy – especially for newlyweds. Most of the people in there were talking French or something – not New York lingo anyway.

November 30th – Well we went Christmas shopping and went into some of the nice stores including B. Altman’s, Arnold Constable’s, Stearns, and Wanamakers, the latter which we liked best. Later in the afternoon went out to the Planetarium and took a trip to the moon. This is certainly an experience. Downstairs there is a room that shows the solar system and how all the planets move. Upstairs is a huge dome and when the lights are off a large projector shows just as if you were looking into the sky on a summer night, and then you go to the moon and land on it and look back towards earth. Something no one should miss if in New York. Well we had dinner somewhere and then saw the play “Life With Father”, and this is certainly a riot. It was really good and afforded a lot of laughs.

December 1st – Seems as though each day we vowed to get up earlier, but the earliest on our honeymoon was 10:30. Every night we would be up so late that our days usually consisted of breakfast or brunch at noon, dinner in the evening and then eat again before retiring. Oh well it was wonderful and honeymoon’s you only have once. We made the best of ours. Well today we went out to the Museum of Natural History and wandered around for several hours. This is also another place of beneficial knowledge. The exhibits are wonderful and all the animals are so lifelike. Had dinner some place and then went to the Ice Follies which had just stated the week before. This was Shipstad and Johnson’s 1944 show and is certainly excellent.

December 2nd – This was our anniversary, we had been married a whole week – my but it is wonderful. We went up in the Empire State Bldg. today – had been waiting all week for a bright clear day but none would avail us. All the days were clear and cold but hazy. This day we went to the very top – I think it is 122 stories. We could see most of the city – but as we looked down towards lower Manhattan we could only see the tops of the buildings in the clouds – just like a fairy city. I wanted to take a picture but it was not allowed. After this we came back down and went down to lower Manhattan and walked around all the large business concerns. Saw Wall Street and all the famous buildings. Stood in front of Fraunce’s Tavern where Washington gave his farewell speech to his officers. It is a restaurant now but is the same original building. Also went through, I believe it is Old Trinity Church which was just recently written about in the Life magazine. Saw the graveyard with all the old graves, etc. Also wanted to go out to the Statue of Liberty but the day was too hazy and they were not taking people out. We then went up to Greenwich Village and looked it over. Harry bought me a pair of sterling earrings in an old Indian jewelry shop. They match the ring that Peggy Runner at the office has. We then had dinner at the Jungle in Greenwich Village. Goodness I am mixed up on my nights as we went to the Ice Follies this night so don’t remember what we did last night.

December 3rd – (It’s now two days later since I started this letter so will put my thinking cap on and finish if possible). Well today was a nice sunny day, so we walked up Fifth Avenue and looked in all the nice shops and went in one door and out the other of Tiffany’s, and then went on to Central Park. Walked through the park some and saw the animals and fed the squirrels – which delighted me no end to have them come up and take peanuts from you and to have the pigeons fly up and light on your hand to feed, but peeve Harry at my simple enjoyment. In the evening we had dinner at Rockefeller Plaza and watched them ice skating right outside the window. There are two restaurants here – English and French and we had dinner in the French one. Afterwards we went to the Radio City Music Hall and saw the Rockettes who really are marvelous. There were other numbers on the stage that were interesting and the orchestra was grand. We saw the show “What a Woman”. Harry was coming down with a cold – not used to gallivanting around so much so the refreshments this evening consisted of his having hot lemonade.

December 4th – Harry really felt punk today so I kept him in bed. I went shopping as there were several of the stores I wanted to go in yet. We had done a little hit and miss shopping during the week but couldn’t do regular Christmas shopping because couldn’t carry it back to Boston. Anyway I went into Saks – very nice, Arnold Constables, B. Altman, Stearns and the one we liked best was Wannamaker’s which was quite a ways farther down town but the nicest. Went into Alfred Dunhills cigar store on Fifth Avenue to get my Uncle Ray a box of cigars. It surely is a beautiful store – like Friedlander jewelers – not like the corner cigar stores in Seattle. We never did get down to Macy’s but to New Yorkers it is not very high class and it didn’t appeal to us either. I had dinner in the Colonial Room at the Hotel with blueberry pie – something my mouth had watered for ever since I had been in the East.

December 5th – Sunday and we vowed to go to church. Awfully hard still to get up in the morning so we had to go to church without breakfast. Harry bought me a gardenia to wear so I was happy anyway. We went to Riverside Church where he had attended vesper services Sunday evenings. Went up in the tower of the church which is 22 stories up and could look out all over the upper part of Manhattan Is. We had dinner in a Restaurant out near the Church. This was certainly a windy day as the church is on the bank of the Hudson River and a full sweep of wind hits you. Had to hang on to our hats until we got back down town. Came back through the park only to discover that the New York squirrels get so much to eat on Sundays that they won’t eat peanuts in the shell but will only take pecans. Wonder if they don’t know there is a war on? Well today was our last chance to go out to the Statue of Liberty so we went down again only to miss the last boat out for sightseers. It was a clear cold crisp day and you could see all of the harbor. Therefore we took the ferry out to Staten Island and back and really saw more of the harbor this way. We went right by the Statue of Liberty and on pass farther out in the harbor. Saw lots of large ships coming in and out and saw the Normandie where it is being worked on to be put back in use again and also the Gripsholm anchored on the New Jersey side. When we came back we had dinner at Luchow’s again and they were playing dinner music which made it very delightful. Then we went to the show and saw Guadalcanal Diary.

December 6th – Well this was the end of our honeymoon and so we caught a 10 o’clock train back to Boston to stay the rest of Harry’s leave with my Aunt. We spent a couple of days just resting up and as my Aunt had had her tonsils out while we were in New York I did the “honors” for a while. We then went Christmas shopping and managed to get our packages in the mail. Visited my various relatives, etc. Had a lot of fun shopping in Boston and didn’t get lost. They have some very nice stores in Boston and the people move at a much slower pace which is good from the hurry scurry of New York. Took a day or so to get all of our packing and odds and ends finished up and Wednesday evening the 15th of December Harry left for Yorktown. Until this morning (Dec.18th) I did not know much about where or what I was going to live in as I am leaving Monday (Dec. 20th) for Yorktown and Harry was to let me know what sort of living quarters he could find. I got a wire this noon saying he had found a furnished house out in the country that would be suitable. Sounds like a lot of fun so I do hope I will have some more time to write now. Would love to hear from all of you and will send my address to my mother as soon as I know what it is.

Oh, yes, one Saturday after we got back to Boston we went out to visit Lt. Ed Carlson and his wife. He is stationed at the present as an instructor at Wellesley College and they have a furnished (pardon me they furnished it themselves) house, quite small and cozy, in Wellesley. They have loads of fun together and we had a swell time at there place (whoops, the wrong kind of there – their I mean). So from what they had I am looking forward to housekeeping.

To the kids at the office I got a letter just today from Jenness in answer to mine. Didn’t have a minute to write until after our honeymoon and am afraid I will not get to see her. She is swell and loves housekeeping – she said the cooking part and trying out new things, but not the drudgery of cleaning house. Would love to have seen her but time limits everything it seems. She said say hello to all the office gang.

Oh yes, I do want to mention the temperature back here – it has got as low as 5 above which is terrifically cold as far as Harry and I are concerned. For several days it just stayed around 10 and 20 above and finally today it got above 30 again. Nobody believes me when I say Seattle never gets this cold.

Guess I had better close as I am afraid no more pages would go in one envelope. All typing errors are due to lack of practice, this horrible portable Corona typewriter of my cousin’s – but very convenient, and anyway the Government isn’t paying me to type this. Oh dear I am ran off the page again, so MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.

LOVE, RUTH

Wedding Day

4 thoughts on “A Wedding Story – 1943

  1. Hi Penney, I just had to leave a note to say that your Mom was quite a gal!! Taking that trip with the ensuing adventures is a very good read. I will, however be calling you with a couple of followup questions later. My Mom had a similar trip during that same period, ask me about it some time if you’re interested?

    Best,

    Chester

    Liked by 1 person

    • Through her letters I’ve learned just what a gal she was! Much of her independent nature, wit and story telling was overshadowed I think.

      Like

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