Some couples did it on the sly. Others made the choice for simplicity’s sake. Some were in a hurry and just wanted to get the deed done.
No matter what the reason, there were dozens and dozens of couples from southern Michigan and northwest Ohio who chose to marry in Angola, Ind., during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
“I think it was a fad around that time,” said Wilma Fink, who married there in 1939, and she thinks she knows the reason why.
When some couples made the decision to get married, three or four days was simply too long.
From the Morenci area, Angola was the first county seat in Indiana for matrimony-minded couples.
Wilma and her then-boyfriend Charlie were students at Adrian College when they headed to Indiana. They planned to go to LaGrange, but the car started coughing and sputtering around Fayette.
They had it checked out, but of course there was no problem when the mechanic drove it for a test, so on they went toward Indiana.
“It started coughing again so we decided Angola was just far enough,” Wilma said.
They asked about a Congregational Church, but there wasn’t one in town so they went to the Methodist parsonage. The pastor accepted whatever payment was offered, which wasn’t much.
“I think Charlie only had five bucks,” Wilma said.
They stopped for a hamburger on the way home—probably in Fayette—then drove back to the college.
“I went to a sorority party that night and Charlie went to a fraternity party.”
It was a clandestine affair and three weeks passed before Wilma mentioned her new status to her mother. Was she angry? No, she had another concern.
“What were you wearing?” her mother asked.
Wilma told her and her mother was satisfied.
“At least you were dressed decently,” she said.
In the chapel
Big weddings weren’t all that common back then, said Elizabeth Barron, who was married in Angola in 1950.
She and John told people ahead of time they were going to Angola to be married. She made the choice just because it was simple.
The Barrons were married in a chapel that no longer exists in Angola. Elizabeth has looked for it, but it was reportedly moved from the downtown in the 1980s.
Wedding and three bellings
Lesley and Louella Christenson went to a preacher’s house for their wedding in 1945. Louella’s cousin and her husband came along to serve as witnesses.
They spent the night in Angola, then returned to the Morenci area and faced a few bellings.
“We had three bellings,” Lesley said.
Guests show up in the middle of the night, Lesley said, fire off a few shotgun rounds, maybe light some dynamite, break a window or two, perhaps.
The hosts then pass out candy and cigars to their “friends.”
A rainy wedding
“It was an interesting day,” said Mary Borer, about the time she and LeRoy were married in 1954.
“We decided on Wednesday and got married on Saturday,” she said. “The only reason we got married then is because it was raining—LeRoy was a farmer.”
They headed for the justice of the peace office and Mary’s aunt and uncle—Bill and Harriet Buck—served as witnesses. The newlyweds’ mothers were also present.
After the ceremony, they drove back east for a wedding reception in Sylvania.
“The brakes went out in Morenci on the way back. We stopped at Gardiner’s Five and Dime and bought silverware.”
Weddings were generally simpler back then compared to contemporary affairs.
“We couldn’t afford a big wedding,” Mary said. “This was easy and simple.”
Home on leave
It was a matter of convenience for former Morenci residents Ward and Kathleen Hough.
Ward was home on leave from the service in 1955 and he didn’t have much time.
“We went to the justice of the peace. His name was Harvey Shoop,” Ward said. “It was quick and that’s what we wanted. Convenience was the main thing. A three-day waiting period didn’t look very good to me.”
It turned out to be a double date. Friends of Ward and Kathleen got married at the same time.
Quick and easy turned out to be a good plan for the Houghs. They were just a few months short of their 50th anniversary when Kathleen died.
The Houghs’ daughter, Wendy, still has the dress her mother wore at the ceremony.
When Richard and Blanch Sterling drove to Angola in 1952 for a quick wedding, Richard was home on leave from the Army.
They went to a church on the Main Street, where Blanch’s sister was married just two weeks earlier.
“The lady who played the organ was there that day and she played the wedding song for us,” Blanch recalled. “I walked down the aisle just like a big wedding. We were really surprised.”
The Sterlings’ wedding itself was somewhat of a surprise.
“We didn’t expect to do it,” she said. “It was just a spur of the moment thing.”
Worth a hill of beans
Earl Woerner didn’t have a lot of money in 1956 when he was drafted. He was working, then going to school, then back to work. He and Joyce decided to get married when he was to be home on leave around Christmas.
“We didn’t make a big deal out of it,” Earl said about his return home. “We just said we were going down to Angola since there was no wait.”
But what about some money?
“My dad still had some soybeans left that he hadn’t sold yet,” Earl said. “He told me to load up the pickup with beans and whatever you get out of it, that will be your wedding gift.
”We had very little money, but we had enough for gas, and since it was late in the day, got a motel room in town. We even had enough to go to a movie.”
The Woerners have gone back to Angola a couple of times to revisit the past.
“It was a trip down memory lane, but the lane didn’t look the same,” Earl said.
Angola isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the years. Joyce still has the dress she wore that day in Angola, but she points out that it no longer fits.
Customs have changed over the years and the road to Angola is no longer as crowded with young couples looking to get hitched.