1955-1956

Preparing for wedding and marriage-When I got home from the Army, I was lucky to get a job in the bank for the summer. Our wedding was planned for Saturday, September 3, 1955. Sandy and I signed up for a short pre nuptial course at St. John’s and had our engagement blessed there. I cannot remember much about that summer, but I did contact Wayne Freund in North Dakota, my outstanding singing friend from St. John’s, and he agreed to come down to Cold Spring to sing at our wedding. I also contacted Father James at St. John’s to attend our wedding and he co-concelebrated with whomever was the pastor at St. Boniface at the time. One other very important task I had was to plan our honeymoon. Other than that I don’t think there was anything special that occurred that summer.

Our Wedding-Our wedding was held at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. Phil Weber was my best man, Tom Krause (I stood up for him in Austin, MN earlier-see above) and Gene Ley (my first cousin) were the groomsmen. Sandy had her sister Helen as her maid of honor. Sister Ermie and Marlene Christoferson (friend from work at Honeywell) were bridesmaids. We had a rehearsal dinner at my parent’s house in Watkins. The wedding was at 10 am and immediately after it there was a reception in the next door school basement. Father James Kelly from St. John’s, the men’s chorus director and head of the music department, was present and co-concelebrated the mass. The women from church put on the noon dinner for the reception and, of course, we had a bar set up as well. We did take some movies of the reception with my Dad’s camera (black and white 8 mm w/o sound).

Our Wedding

The day before I had arranged to hide Mom and Dad’s car, a new 1956 Chevy, in their garage. We wanted to take it on our honeymoon and there was sort of a weird custom for ‘friends’ to rig up all sort of things on the newlyweds get away car. We wanted to and did avoid that. I simply cannot remember any of the other details about our wedding. After the reception, someone gave us a ride to Sandy’s house so she could change clothes and then they took us to Watkins, where I changed and we took off on our honeymoon.

Honeymoon-Our destination was Glacier National Park in Montana, about a two and a half day drive away. No freeways in those days. We headed west on MN hwy 55 and stopped briefly outside of Glenwood, MN to look at the view from an overlook. Onward to Fergus Falls where we ate an early dinner. We then drove on to Fargo, ND where we looked for a hotel or motel. Virtually everything was full and we got worried about finding something. Finally, we found a cabin on the far west end of Fargo and it was getting dark. At one point in my planning for our trip I had reserved the honeymoon suite at the new FM Hotel in Moorhead, MN (just across the river from Fargo). Sandy thought the $25 room rate was just way too high for us because we had almost no money. I cancelled that reservation and got our money back.

The next morning we went to church and then headed west on US 10 to Jamestown, ND and then NW on US 52 to Minot, ND and finally west on US 2 to Williston, ND. We found a very nice Best Western Motel there. Next morning we were off West on US 2 again toward Glacier. We stopped at Ft. Peck Dam (Missouri River) halfway between Wolf Point and Glasgow. We continued west to Havre, MT and stayed overnight there. From Havre we continued west on US 2 and by early afternoon we were within eyesight of the Rocky Mts. Still 50 or so miles away. We were both very impressed by the sight. We got to the foothills of Glacier Park by mid afternoon and then headed north and west on US 89 where we crossed over the mountains at Logan Pass. What spectacular scenery. We got to Apgar on the west side of Glacier and stayed overnite there. Lois and John had told us about Apgar because I think they stayed there on their honeymoon. The area around Apgar was very scenic and it was just a short walk to Lake McDonald. Because our plan was to drive up north to Canada around the west side of Glacier, where there were no towns, we bought some lunch meat, mayo, bread, etc at the little store by our motel in Apgar and made some sandwiches. I should add that we were there after the tourist season and therefore there was almost no one else around. Anyway, we headed north on what at times was a gravel road. It was scenic, but rather lonely. We stopped near a river on the way and ate our lunch. We finally got into Canada (no passports required) and found the main highway going east to Lethbridge, Alberta. Lethbridge was a relatively large town/city with a population of maybe 20,000. We found a nice motel and then went to dinner. Sandy started to complain about stomach cramps and I am not even sure she finished dinner. She was in pain all night. In the morning we headed back down SW to the US and our destination, Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. On the way I started to feel a little punk myself and we soon realized that we probably got food poisoning from the lunch meat we bought in Apgar. Anyway, we got to the beautiful hotel in the pm and went to our room where we both tried to sleep. We were too sick to go to dinner. We were on the American Plan and thus all our meals were included. That night I thought Sandy was going to die from the pain and suffering. I called the hotel nurse (there was no doctor in house) and she just gave Sandy some pepto bismol or something like it. I was not as sick as Sandy. In the morning we went down to breakfast and I think all we could eat was some toast and honey and tea. We moped around all day and could not go on any hikes, etc. That night I think we had some dinner, but I am not sure. By the next morning we felt better and took off for Great Falls and points SW of there. We took a very remote route across eastern Montana until we got to US 12. I do not remember where or whether we stayed overnight enroute to Mobridge, SD, but I know we made it to Lemmon, SD to see part of a rodeo on either Saturday or Sunday pm. We also looked through a petrified wood park there. The following day we drove all the way back to Cold Spring and the honeymoon was sort of over. We took movies of our trip with Dad’s 8mm BW and I may get them converted to DVDs. Sandy had some of them converted to VCR tapes years ago.

Chicago-We were very thankful for using Mom and Dad’s car on our honeymoon and even drove it to Chicago and used it till we got settled. Within a week or so, I think Dad and Mom came to Chicago for the American Banker’s convention and then drove their car back to Watkins. Driving to Chicago in those days was quite a trip. We took US 12 almost all the way and it took about 12 hours to go the 500 or so miles. We arrived in the Chicago area at dusk and little did we realize we were basically almost in Arlington Heights, but on Hwy 12. We stayed at the Keys Motel (still there and right next to Rolling Green CC). There were not many motels in those days and Rand Rd. US 12 did not have many commercial establishments on it. We ate dinner at a little road house on the SW corner of Rand and Dundee, that is no longer there. The next morning we drove into Chicago and set up shop at a motel near the corner of Milwaukee and Elston. We started to look at apartments to rent on the north and northwest side and it was depressing. None of them looked clean for the money we thought we could afford. The buildings were old and in run down neighborhoods. We looked at a lot of them and were getting depressed. Finally we found an ad in the Chicago Tribune for a furnished english basement apartment in a house at 5918 N. Manton, which was parallel to Elston and one block east and north of Central, We called and went over to look at it. The landlords were Betty and Ray Youngstrom. Ray’s parents had been living in the apartment, but had recently just moved to retirement in Florida. We never met them. The apartment was one bedroom and sort of an L shaped living, dining and kitchen area. Very small and low ceilings (I had to duck to get thru the doorways). We had to walk through part of the unfinished basement from the rear of the house to get to it. Still it was clean and nicely furnished and only $100 a month, utilities included.

Our First Place

At Home

We took it on a handshake and were tickled pink to have it. We were only two blocks from the bus stop on Elston. The Jewel store was about 8 blocks west on Milwaukee and St. Tarcisius Catholic Church was just a couple of blocks from the Jewel.

Sandy’s job-Before we got married, Sandy had asked for and got a transfer to the Honeywell plant on the northwest side of Chicago. I think it was at about 3400 N. Cicero (near Lawrence), a 30-40 minute bus ride with one transfer. Sandy was welcomed by everyone at Honeywell and they got a kick out of her accent. They called her head scarf a babushka and back in MN it was called a bandana. Sandy’s job was essential for our plan to work because she was going to be the sole bread winner and help put me thru school for two years. It wasn’t long before she learned that Honeywell was moving from that location to a new plant in the northern suburbs just off Dundee Rd. and east of Rand Road. This was amazingly close to where we stayed on our first night in town. The company was going to run buses from the city out to the new plant for the foreseeable future so we breathed easier. I remember going out to the open house for their new plant and meeting all her co workers. Amazingly, her boss, Bill Roche, settled in Arlington Heights and many years later we met he and his wife at St. James Church. He died several years ago and we think is buried in a plot next to the ones we purchased in St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Palatine.

Roland’s school-It must have been around September 15th or so when I first took the bus and L down to Northwestern University on East Chicago Avenue. I had to transfer on the bus at Lawrence and then take it to the L station at Kimball. From there I had to transfer to the State Street subway at either Belmont or Fullerton. This was all so new to me (and Sandy too), but I found it sort of exciting. I walked east on Chicago Ave. from the State St. subway across Michigan Avenue and about three more blocks to the entrance to Shaffner Hall. Going to register was very uplifting. I was impressed with the way they treated me. Everyone I met was impressive and very polite and considerate. I also applied for my GI bill money there. Soon I was going to classes. They were about two hours long and met twice a week. This was all business for me and I took school more serious than ever before. I wanted to get all As, but that was not quite to be. I remember getting one C. that was in business statistics, a course I really liked. I talked to the prof, but it did no good. He assured me that one C would not ruin me. Most of my other grades were As, but I got a few Bs too. I studied every night either in the bedroom or at school. I always had papers to type out for the case studies that we had.

At school I met several guys (and their wives) that we socialized with a very little but did not keep in contact with. They were all in similar circumstances and did not have any money. I particularly remember Hugh from Cleveland Ohio. He and his wife had a baby and lived in a high rise on the near north side. We visited them in their apartment one time. We also attended a couple of social functions sponsored (and paid for) by the school.

At school we went on several field trips that were very interesting. One was to Abbott Labs in North Chicago and another was the US Steel works in Gary, Indiana. There were a few more too but those two I remember most. We got sort of VIP treatment on these trips and they treated us to lunch and showed us the real inside workings of their facilities. I guess they considered us potential hires, as well they should have.

Because I was on an odd schedule at school, I don’t think there was even a graduation when I finished in late August 1956.

Money-As I mentioned before, we basically had no money. We came down to Chicago with a few hundred dollars that I think Sandy had saved. I kept a ledger which tracked every cent we spent. Literally, at the end of each day I would ask Sandy how much she spent and on what and then enter that with my spending. We even entered any coffee and candy purchases. I cannot remember how much I got from the GI bill, but it all had to be paid back and was just a low interest loan. Do not remember Sandy’s salary, but we used all of it. Our only luxury was an occasional movie at the corner of Milwaukee and Lawrence. On Sunday we would have one martini each before dinner. We never ate out. We both took lunches with us to work or school. Once in a while I would have a beer with our landlord Ray Youngstrom. Ray worked at Bowman’s Dairy. Betty did not work and they did not have children. They were very nice to us and we became close friends from that time on. Because of the money situation, I got a job at Marshall Field’s in downtown Chicago over my three week Christmas break. I sold bedroom and other slippers in the shoe department on the third floor. We got a modest salary and then commission for sales over some amount. I did not make much money, but it helped.

First car-After a couple of months, now about October 1955, it was clear that sooner or later we were going to need a car. Of course we did not have any money so I think we took out a loan from Dad’s Bank. Cannot remember how we learne3d about it, but one day a young man and his dad drove over to our apartment and we bought a 1950 Nash Rambler for $500. It was small, but very adequate for our needs. Soon found out that it got about 40 miles to the gallon in overdrive. I gave Sandy driving lessons by driving around the block over and over and soon she got her license. There was no driving test. This car lasted several years and several trips to MN. I think we traded it in when we bought our second car.

‘and baby (Stephen Roland-6/9/56) makes three’-It wasn’t too long after we got settled in Chicago when Sandy went to Dr. Stolarski, an OB, and learned that she was pregnant. We were happy as larks, but had to change our plans accordingly. We knew Sandy could only work for about 6 more months and I would have to change my school program so that I could graduate without my CPA in 4 quarters instead of the 6 we had planned for. This meant I had to take an extra course each quarter and put myself in the job market a year earlier than planned. I don’t know what we planned on living on from about April 1 to September 1-a 5 month period. We must have borrowed the money from somewhere, maybe from the GI bill. We might have saved a little money while Sandy was working, because we knew we would be out of income after April 1. Sandy’s due date was for early June. Maybe they let her work longer than April 1.

As luck would have it, Sandy started to have contractions on a Friday so off we went to St. Anne’s hospital (not there anymore) on the near NW side of Chicago. Stephen arrived very early on Saturday (no school) June 9, 1956. I had gone home for the night to get some sleep and when I came back to the hospital early Saturday morning Stephen had already been born. In those days, husbands were not allowed in the delivery rooms.

Stephen Ley

Stephen Ley

Sandy’s Mom, Rose, came down on the train to help out. To our surprise, my Dad flew down, via Midway airport of course, on the next Saturday to be present for the baptism, which was held on Sunday, June 17, 1956. I cannot imagine where my Dad slept because there was no room in our apartment. Perhaps we got him a room at the motel we stayed at when first coming to Chicago. Sandy says her Mom slept somewhere in our apartment, probably on the (sleeper?) sofa in the living room.

Thanksgiving 1955-Lois and John had reminded us that John’s brother Vic and his wife Louise lived in Chicago and suggested we look them up. I had their telephone number and that was all. I did not remember Vic because he was at least ten years older than me. When I called him I found out that they had moved into a house out in a far NW suburb called Carpentersville. They had also just adopted a family of four children, ages from about 2 to 8. They invited us out for thanksgiving dinner and we drove out there. It was a long way out, maybe 30 miles. Vic and Louise were obviously very charitable, but also very strict and perfectionists. They had a lot of trouble controlling the kids and it got worse as the kids got older. I don’t remember the background of where the kids came from. Vic and Louise were avid bridge players and I think we played a little bridge or whist while there. We saw them occasionally after that and finally had them over to our house finally many years later when we lived in Palatine. Louise was a nurse and did not have good health. Vic sold advertising for woman’s Day magazine and maybe others and traveled a lot throughout the Midwest. He tired of that rat race and went back to school at the University of Chicago to get his law degree. With that they moved to a nice house out near Woodstock on about ten acres of, what would become very valuable, land. Vic set up his law shop in Woodstock and practiced there for the rest of his career and life. Louise died maybe in about 1995 and we went to her funeral out in Crystal Lake and then Vic died a few years later and we also went to his funeral. Their children came to the funerals and we met again for the first time since that first one in Carpentersville. Lois and John came down from Elk River to both funerals and it was nice seeing them even under sad circumstances.

 

 

 

 

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