David and I were married at St David's church, Austin, on the afternoon of February 24th 1968. It was the most glorious winter day with bright sunshine and warm temperatures.
But why did we marry so far away from our home in England?
In the summer of 1967 David was offered a place to do a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. We had become engaged that year and the plan was for him to do his Masters and return to the England for our marriage.
Sometime in late September I decided I was going to join him. I can't remember now if I even asked him. A friend and I took the day off work to visit the American Consulate in Liverpool, where I learnt that in order to work I would have to apply for a green card and this must be done through the embassy in London. I began the snail mail process. Always another letter asking for this, that and the other. My finances, my education, references from my work etc. And then at the beginning of February a letter came inviting me for an interview, two days hence, at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London.
I travelled down on the train with no idea of where I was going to stay. I remember walking out of Euston station and asking a policeman if there was a hotel close by where I could stay. Policemen were a good source for everything in those days. He pointed down a street where I saw a sign in the window 18/- Less than a pound a night. The mind boggles. It was a pretty awful place and I don't think I slept all night, partly for safety reasons and partly because I was terrified of oversleeping. A taxi took me to Grosvenor Square where I spent the whole day. Endless interviews, medicals including chest x rays and tests for syphilis! But at the end of the day I left with my green card, my documents of immigration and my chest Xray. I was on my way to America.
I handed in my 2 weeks notice at work and headed home to spend a few days with my parents. David was busy making preparations in Austin. He moved into an apartment, the Braeburn, on Speedway, and regaled me with stories of swimming pool and laundry room! I went shopping for my wedding outfit. A white lace dress and coat and one of those, silly to me now, hats made of white petals. And the 'going away outfit' although I didn't think I was going away anywhere after the wedding. I bought my ticket for February 19th. I had never flown before.
On that Monday morning Manchester airport was fogged in and they scrambled to get me on a different flight to the US. PanAm to Chicago, Chicago-Dallas and Dallas-Austin. I arrived at 9pm to David waiting for me at the airport. I wonder how he knew about the change of plans or did I manage to get the same Dallas to Austin flight.
Someone today might ask why we got married such a rush. After all we could have just lived together and returned to England to be married with our families. All I can say is things were quite different in the 60s.
The next few days were taken up with preparations. Fortunately, The International Society of Austin had assigned a Mrs Betty Kemp to help David with his transition to life in Texas. She was an enormous help, offering to have the reception at her house and helping with all the other arrangements; church, license, blood tests, flowers, caterers. Fortunately my father had given me some money to make sure we had a nice wedding. Can you imagine doing all that in 4 days?
Her husband was to give me away and her daughter, Donna, was to be my bridesmaid. One slightly different custom was the bridesmaid walking down the aisle in front of the bride.
I spent the night before the wedding at their lovely house on Windsor Drive. I recall being exceedingly impressed that Mrs Kemp served these warm rolls for breakfast. Had she rushed out to the bakery to buy them? They were Pepperidge farm. We had never heard of such a thing in England.
We were a small group and I didn't know anyone save for the Kemps. David had met several international students, rooming for a couple of months with 2 of them, and they all came to our wedding, most with their American girlfriends. He invited Dick Oliver, an Architecture professor at UT, whom he had met on the rowing team at Pembroke College, Cambridge, to be his best man.
Everything went off smoothy and in no time we were married and heading off to the Littlefield Fountain, on campus, for photos and then back to the Kemps.
I'm not sure I ate anything at the reception although it was a wonderful spread. (I doubt I even knew where I was with all that had gone on in the last 6 days). Mrs Kemp had taken along her vases and bowls to the florists and indicated the colors of the rooms so that the flowers would match! When it came to the cake I had been quite surprised by its low cost and was to discover why when we cut into it. It was a sponge cake. In England the wedding cake was always a fruit cake with marzipan and icing. Usually with 3 tiers and, by tradition, the top tier saved for the christening. If you have ever looked at old census records the first baby usually arrived within a year and sometimes quite a bit sooner. I wasn't going to be putting little pieces in boxes to send to people back in England who couldn't make the wedding. Another English tradition.
Someone had provided a little guest book and there were little bags of rice to throw. Another different custom.
And then we all went outside for a group photograph after which we headed off in a guest's red triumph spitfire. It was his wedding present lent us for the weekend. I keep asking myself why was there were no photos of the reception and that car. The following day we headed out in glorious sunshine for our honeymoon visit to Hamilton Pool. It was privately owned at the time. We saw our first armadillo and have a grainy image of it disappearing into the bushes-but no picture of Hamilton Pool! Since then there have been many photos as we return there year after year on the 25th. This year will be no different.
Sadly the Kemps are all gone including their daughter Donna who was killed in a car accident. We attended Mr Kemp's funeral some years ago. The best man died in his 40s. It seems all the more poignant that we are back here in Austin to celebrate this special day and remember each and everyone who shared that day with us.
I thought I would add a photo of my maternal grandparents' wedding at the beginning of WW1 and my parents' wedding who married during WW2, just for comparison. They celebrated their Golden Weddings in 1964 and 1991 respectively.
Happy Anniversary to the man I have been fortunate to share my life with for so many years.