June 15, 2003
late parents never told me the story of their wedding. They
left me only two clues.
is a yellowed clipping from the newspaper in Cambridge, Ohio, The
Daily Jeffersonian. On Monday evening, November 18, 1940,
the following ran at the top of Page 5:
other clue is this white plastic box, which apparently once held a
relatively inexpensive wedding ring. (The diamond would arrive
33 years later as a Christmas gift.)
The imprint inside reads, "J. Newstate, Jeweler & Optician,
519 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky."
decided to discover what these clues could tell me about my parents'
Kentucky city, population 43,000, sits on the south bank of the Ohio
River, just across the Suspension Bridge from downtown Cincinnati.
has its landmark Fountain Square. Covington's counterpart is
the fountain at the right, located in the Mainstrasse park,
which depicts a rustic German immigrant carrying a goose on each hip.
of the homes in Covington are detached row houses, constructed
mostly in the 1870s. These houses aren't usually built right
next to each other; there's a six-foot gap between them.
these narrow passageways, the house on the left has numerous windows
but the house on the right has a blank wall, so the passageway forms
a little urban garden for the house on the left.
future father would have been familiar with Covington, because he
once worked for the Chevrolet dealer in the town of Falmouth,
Kentucky, 37 miles to the south. He started there about 1929
and continued until he moved to Cambridge, Ohio, in 1938, where he
met my future mother.
as far as I know, neither of them was acquainted with anybody in
Covington itself. They both lived in Cambridge now. Her
parents also lived in Cambridge, and she was their only daughter.
would have expected that they would have been married in Cambridge,
perhaps in a big wedding in the local Methodist church.
they eloped and got married in another state. Perhaps they
didn't want a big wedding. Perhaps they wanted to spare her
parents the expense; the Great Depression had never really ended, and
money was still hard to come by.
they had merely wanted to cross the state line to avoid a waiting
period, there are parts of Kentucky that are closer. For
example, Ashland is only 150 miles away. And in the other
direction, it's less than 50 miles from Cambridge to Wheeling, West Virginia.
parents lived in Livermore, Kentucky, where he had been born.
A glance at the map shows that Covington lies halfway between the two
hometowns, which are about 420 miles apart.
guess is that the couple, in the midst of a trip from Cambridge to
Livermore to visit his folks, impulsively decided to stop and get married.
impetus in 1940 might have been the looming threat of war.
Only a month before, Vernon and 16 million other American men had
been required to register for the military draft. Just over a
year later, listening to reports about Pearl Harbor on the car radio,
my future parents realized that he was actually going to be drafted.
(He was inducted in April 1943.)
Covington, Vernon and Ann looked up the most prominent Methodist
church in town, which turned out to be the First Methodist Church on
the corner of Fifth and Greenup Streets.
had become the "First Methodist" only the year before, in
a merger of congregations. Previously, when this old picture
was taken, it had been known as the Union Methodist Episcopal Church.
building was constructed in 1867.
comes from an archived 1999 article by Jim Reis of the Kentucky
this house across the street, General Ulysses S. Grant's parents had
watched the church go up. Jesse Grant, the father of the Civil
War hero and future President, was the postmaster of Covington at the time.
Methodist was damaged by fire in 1947, and its steeple was damaged
by a windstorm in 1986, but both have been reconstructed. Today
it's called First United Methodist. Here's what it looks like
from the Grant house.
attached three-story building to the left at 511 Greenup Street is
now called the Parish House. In 1947 news accounts, it was
referred to as the parsonage. In 1940, it probably was the home
of pastor Harry F. King, and if so, it was the place where my parents
I've heard from Rev. King's grandson! And I've found half a
dozen other stories of out-of-state couples Running
Off to Covington
to get married.
father would have had to walk only two blocks west to buy the
wedding ring at the jewelry store at 519 Madison Avenue. Today,
the Community Ventures Corporation occupies that address, but there's
Avenue Wedding Mall" just a block away.
at 9:00 on that Saturday morning, the couple entered the parsonage
to solemnize a marriage that would last until her death more than 41
were no bridesmaids; all her friends and family were nearly 200
miles away. There was no best man, although the groom had
friends in nearby Falmouth. There was no wedding gown, no
reception. It was a very private, simple ceremony.
parents never talked about their decision to get married in
Covington, and I never asked. They kept this special story to themselves.