The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Honeymoon: Virginia 1935

By Paula A. Kerns © 1988

Issue: January-February, 1988

Arta received her wedding ring six or seven months before the elopement. Maurice told her simply "When you're ready to wear it, I want you to do it." It was a lovely platinum band with several small diamond chips. As the months rolled by, he had to wonder if Arta would ever decide to wear that ring. She kept it. She carried it with her. But she had numerous excuses why they should not marry. He was shorter; he was younger; she felt obligated to her family. She could rationalize and reason for all she was worth, but it was impossible to deny what love and fate had in store.

On a steamy August day in 1935, Maurice (and love and fate) finally won her over.

Arta dressed in a colorful, but simple, cotton dress, a perky hat, and her white gloves. Her sister allowed as how she was mighty dressed up for a casual drive. But Arta was a shy and private person. She gave her sister a secretive grin and let her think what she would.

Maurice, too, was "overdressed" for a casual drive, but of course they knew what this trip was going to be and it certainly was not casual. It was the beginning of their lifelong commitment.

They began their trip in his little old 1932 four-cylinder Pontiac. The windshield wipers were operated by hand - and it rained intermittently during the entire honeymoon. He drove and operated the windshield wiper and (I'm certain) managed a pat or a squeeze between raindrops.

Arta Lockridge Nottingham and Maurice Kistler Chappius were married in the first good-sized town, which was Staunton, Virginia. As soon as the license was purchased, they learned there was a three-day waiting period. Having already waited quite long enough, he located a lawyer. An old lawyer, perhaps too stifled from a dry law practice to remember spring-time and summer and young love. He was no help. Undaunted, Maurice moved on to another law office. Success awaited. After mirthfully enjoying the young couple's predicament, this lawyer said he could help; he could speak to the judge and have the waiting period waived. And he did. Arta would not permit a justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. It had to be a preacher. That caused additional delay. In 1935, a preacher in Virginia would not marry folks he did not know. Persistence prevailed though, and a young, hungry preacher was found. Due to his meager circumstances (it was Depression time, you recall), this preacher agreed to perform the ceremony. Afterwards, the preacher's wife kissed the bride; the groom made a generous ten-dollar donation to this understanding young preacher; and on they went. Arta soon commented, "You didn't even buy me any flowers." In the damp, hot, humid weather, with the various delays in getting this show on the road, Maurice did indeed forget the flowers. Just for the record, though, he corrected that oversight time and again.

On the road to Charlottesville, they stopped for a break at a roadside stand. The proprietor offered them each a bottle of beer which they gratefully accepted. They then received a lengthy lecture about beer - how it must be kept a precisely forty degrees; that's the only way to keep it palatable; and the only place they knew how to brew beer was Jersey; and on and on.

In Charlottesville, Arta and Maurice stayed at an old hotel which had been renovated. Now these folks were not youngsters or backward, but one would have thought so to observe their complete awe at this hotel's elegant dining room. The amount of white linen was incredible. There was a Negro waiter, decked out in black pants, spotless shirt, white jacket, and white gloves, for each table. Maurice wondered if he would be able to eat with the waiter hovering over. He did indeed feel somewhat self-conscious, but managed to come through it. Arta managed nicely - less awkward; always ladylike.

They visited the lovely Monticello and Monroe's home and then headed toward Richmond. The hot, sticky weather and recurrent rains continued. In Richmond, in the rain, the old Pontiac finally became waterlogged. Unlike most pieces of machinery, at least this one chose a proper place for the breakdown - right in front of a garage. An older fellow sauntered out, umbrella in hand, to lend assistance. Remaining under his umbrella, he managed to wipe dry the terminals and coat them with a glue-like substance to protect them from the water. The car re-started.

The next stop was Williamsburg. After a long day of sightseeing, they decided they would like a beer. They purchased some and placed it in cold water in the bathtub to cool. The water was not all that cold and the beer never did make it to the highly-touted forty degrees.

On they traveled to Yorktown where they visited Monroe's law office. Next door to the law office was an apothecary shop. They purchased a miniature pestle and mortar which today still sits in the living room.

From there, they drove up through apple country where some Virginia senator (cannot remember his name) had numerous apple orchards. In that area, they stopped at a restaurant where Maurice ordered country ham. The waiter inquired as to how he would like that sliced. Now Maurice did not have that soft and delightful southern accent as did the new Mrs. So he may well have been pegged as a Yankee and the waiter may have been having a bit of sport. That being what I think; I can just see the delight on the waiter's face as the order was placed for a thick slice of country ham. No doubt about it, only a "dam Yankee" would order a thick-sliced country ham! Giving credit where due, Maurice did finish off that ham, swearing to this day it was the toughest piece of meat he ever ate.

And on they traveled to Warrenton in Montgomery County - horse country. They stayed at an old hotel where all sorts of horse goods - boots, saddles, riding habits - were displayed. Right outside their window, they overheard much talk about "hosses."

On to Warm Springs they went. He was not familiar with the area and became quite irritated trying to get back on the right track. "Some little Southerner told me to 'quiet down'." Sage advice and he took it.

They drove over untamed mountains, not on roads of today, but over horrid ruts and bumps. He could drive only about five miles per hour. Arta feared a wildcat would drop down on to the roof of the car. Maurice stopped once to avoid a snake in the road. She remained securely inside the car as he found a stick and prodded the snake to go on its merry way. Can you imagine that in today's hurried society?

Thank God for memories; for giving us the ability to recall the past; to be able to look back and smile at all the irritations which were major, but which time has softened.

This honeymoon had its share of irritations: the delays even after that long wait, the road conditions and the atrocious weather. Yet years later when Maurice was serving in World War II, Arta wrote him a letter in which she was reminiscing. She told him, "I don't believe any girl had a more lovely honeymoon."