It was a beautiful day in April. It was to be their wedding day. The wedding was to take place in Alton Hollenbeck’s hometown of Bainbridge, New York. The only problem was that the groom was stranded in Texas by a flooded Mississippi River, while his bride, Edyth Reichard, waited in Earlville, New York, at her sister’s house, knowing it wasn’t going to happen on that day.
Alton and Edyth had been looking forward to this day for well over a year. It was 1943 and WWII was in full force. Alton was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, where he worked for the Army in a research lab capturing, identifying and labeling mosquitoes, trying to determine which species were most likely to carry malaria.
Edyth worked at Syntilla, a factory helping with the war effort.
A couple months later, on June 1, Alton contacted Edyth to say that he was on the way home. The river had subsided, and the trains were running again. His leave had been granted. They could get married!
Edyth worked up a frenzy of planning to get their wedding underway. Her dress was ready. Her eldest sister Ruth, and her husband Bill, (with whom Edyth was living) would be their attendants. As for flowers – now, that would easy – the yard was filled with wildflowers, and Alton’s family had a greenhouse and florist business.
Alton arrived in Bainbridge right on schedule and set off to line up a church and preacher. Then the trouble began. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and all the pastors (even the Catholic priest) were out of town. What would they do!?
A vehicle drove into the yard, and his cousin came to the door. Aha! Their prayers were answered! Cousin Bill was a Methodist Pastor! He could marry them! He was willing, but didn’t have the proper apparel – he was dressed to help his aunt (Alton’s mother) with yard and household chores.
He tried on Alton’s pants – too tight and too long… “Guess we can roll up the bottoms and leave the waist button open.”
They headed to Alton’s family’s Methodist church. Wait! Someone was ringing the bell, calling members to come to midweek services. Word wasn’t out that the pastor was out of town. So, the church filled with people coming to prayer services — instead, they witnessed a wedding. What an exciting time!!!
After the wedding ceremony, Alton and Edyth stood on a corner waiting for a bus to take them away for their short honeymoon. Bill (Edyth’s brother-in-law) drove past, stopped, backed up, and said, “Why are you two kids standing there?” When they told him they were waiting for a bus, he shook his head and told them there wouldn’t be one until the next day. He then gathered gas rationing cards from family members, filled the tank and handed the keys over to them. They had transportation!
The marriage lasted 65 years, until my father’s death in 2008. Mom often lamented that when he died, she lost half her brain.
Of course, the wedding happened before I was born, but my mom loved telling the story over and over again – and I loved hearing it!