Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - A True Romance
|The story of my brother Dick's engagement to Peggy is certainly among the most romantic episodes yet recorded in the "VanderPutten Family Memory." You might note that he wrote this on their 34th wedding anniversary.|
is a real story of the climactic two-week's ending of a whirlwind
courtship that all took place between March and October in 1965. Some
data to illustrate the times:
In 1965 rural Ireland, you had
a better chance of winning the sweepstakes than getting a telephone call
I had a good entry-level
job in construction making about $100 per week. I was fresh out of the
Army and dead broke.
A round trip commercial
ticket to Ireland cost about $300. A charter flight to Ireland
cost about $150, but there were no transfers. You either got on that
plane or kissed your pre-paid ticket goodbye.
"Sale Moor" was
an obsolete name for a town in England near Manchester. “Old-Timers”
only called it that. The current, official name was "Sale."
The image of America
and Americans in rural Ireland was not exactly what the Chamber
of Commerce would recommend.
Most people who left Ireland
did not return for many years -- if ever. Fifty years was not uncommon.
No, I did not have to look
any of this up and, yes, I cried while typing it.
We met on a blind date in March and
progressed rapidly into "an item.” Peg had booked a
charter flight home with her sister and her family for the month of
September. That also was a convenient time for me to have some necessary
surgery, with about a 2-week recovery time (Pilonidal Cyst,
look it up). She brought with her a letter from me to her parents,
introducing myself and promising to love, honor, and all that for their
When her month’s holiday was over,
her dad got nervous about her marrying the Yank with all those
letters. Her sisters and a cousin had all married fellow Irish
expatriates, and out of love for her, they naturally expected she would
do the same. With torn loyalties, she did not get on that plane. Her
brother Pat, who had come from England for the family
get-together, suggested she come to England with him, get a job,
and sort out her conflicted feelings. After sending off a telegram, they
did just that. They stayed in a rooming house run by an old-time Irish
lady who gave her address as 6 Alice St., Sale Moor.
Back in the States, her thoroughly confused family and I read and reread a 1-line telegram, had another drink of John Jamieson, and did some serious bonding. Someone in a bad moment said, "Daddy will not let her come back."
Finally, a letter came from Peggy
with a return address and an attempt at explaining the situation. So, I
borrowed about $400 from a good friend, Pete Melomo, looked at
the map to locate Sale Moor, and panicked.
Since I needed to go to New York
City to get an emergency passport, I visited the British Tourist
Board who had to pull a musty old reference book out of a closet and
search for a non-existing town. To their credit, their records and
friendliness were excellent. Most of the East Coast was at JFK
Airport to see me off on this adventure, with my mother's engagement
ring, a special gift from my dad, in my pocket. (Did I mention that I
had not yet had the surgical stitches removed?).
One of the possibilities that occurred
to me was that we would get married over there, and Betty and Pete
promised to come over as witnesses. I arrived in England and
asked a cop for help. He put me in a cab driven by an old-timer and we
found the house about mid-morning. Mrs. Manning, the landlady,
had her nephew contact Pat at work to have Peggy come
Brother Pat, fearful of some
vengeful Yank who was probably heavily armed, stood guard outside
her worksite for the rest of the day. At quitting time, Peg
convinced him that I did not own a .357 magnum, and it was safe to bring
her home. So, after a long talk, I put mom's ring on her finger at about
1AM Greenwich time (Zulu, for the youngsters) on October
14, 1965. We still celebrate that date as our actual anniversary.
Naturally, we then
had to return to Ireland to meet her parents. The tearful
farewell with Pat at the Manchester railroad station is so
vivid I can still hear the sobs. I had never seen a man cry like that.
The trip from Manchester to Castlerea took about 24 hours,
including three trains (just like those compartmented trains in the
movies), one cab, and a ferry across the Irish Sea at night.
May 5, 2001, Our 34th Anniversary