Hotel Queen Anne
My grandparents met in 1943 in North Carolina.
Some 70 years later, my mother, sister, and I were driving around New Bern looking for the location of the hotel where the wedding ceremony took place. We knew that the building no longer existed, but I wondered if anything, some remnant, remained. And if not, maybe whatever took its place would be worthwhile.
My grandmother had enlisted in early 1943 and was sent through basic training with many other women enlistees at Hunter College in New York, then through technical training as an aircraft mechanic in Memphis, and finally to Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, for duty.
This was where she met my grandfather, who was already stationed at Cherry Point in the Aircraft Overhaul and Repair Facility as an Aircraft Programs noncommissioned officer. My grandmother was assigned in the same organization, as a timekeeper and payroll clerk for the civilian personnel who worked in the department.
My grandfather soon was transferred to a Fleet Marine Force unit scheduled for overseas assignment.
Here is my grandfather’s remembrance of that time and the events leading to the wedding:
I first met your grandmother in late 1943. I knew that time was running out for my deployment overseas into a combat zone somewhere in the South Pacific. I tried to take advantage of every minute of every hour of every day enjoying that freedom while I had it. I dated your grandmother every opportunity afforded me. Little did I realize that I was becoming completely attached to her and wanted her to be my wife. Marriage was the least and last thought that ever came on my mind.
Orders came down from Headquarters advising me as of effective date of March 1944 I was transferred from my present job and location to a unit fully trained, prepared, and ready for deployment to the South Pacific. Upon receipt of these orders, I suddenly realize that I would be leaving the person I loved more than anyone in my life. I immediately asked her if she would marry me and she said yes without delay.
The wedding was “one of those fast operations,” as my grandfather recalls, because he had already received his deployment orders. They needed to be married soon because my grandfather wanted my grandmother to receive all the allotment money and entitlements while he was gone. They weren’t able to plan a church ceremony or to invite friends and family from home.
They “didn’t have time to fiddle and screw around with that stuff,” my grandfather remembers. “It seemed the whole way of life was in a state of flux back then, with decisions being made without thinking and hoping all would end well.”
During World War II, New Bern was also in a state of flux as the little town and others like it absorbed all of the servicemembers who came to the area as bases opened up.
My grandfather on talking to the elders of New Bern back in the 1940s:
New Bern today is a cute, walkable town with a historic district, antebellum homes, and lots of green space by the water. With PokeStops appearing on nearly every block, it is a mecca for PokemonGo players, as friendly fellow player told us (“Nothing’s brought people together like this since Woodstock!”) It’s also the home of the Nicholas Sparks Foundation.
My grandparents were able to rent a meeting room in the Hotel Queen Anne. Here’s my grandfather explaining the decision to have the ceremony in New Bern, away from the base:
My grandfather recalls the wedding ceremony:
We were married with a modest wedding by a chaplain from the base at Marine Corps Station, Cherry Point, NC. The marriage was performed at the Queen Anne Hotel in New Bern, North Carolina on 25 March 1944.
I asked a close friend, a staff sergeant named Dale Sittler, to be my best man. Dale was from Indiana and was pleased and happy that I had asked him. Two women marines that were lifelong friends of your grandmother were maids of honor, Helen Perkins and another lady who was from Dutch descent and nicknamed “Dutch” were the two women. The marriage ceremony was short, brief, and to the point without fanfare or celebration was over.
A few other friends also attended. No relatives on either side were present.
Here’s my grandfather on the ceremony:
To my knowledge, no pictures exist of the wedding party. “I don’t even think we ever had a picture made,” my grandfather says.
The hotel where they were married no longer exists. The building is gone and in its place is a bank.
Here’s my grandfather discussing the hotel:
My grandfather on the time after the wedding:
Precisely ten days later, I boarded a troop train aboard the Marine Corps Station enroute to San Diego for boarding ship from San Diego to the South Pacific. Little did I realize that it would be two years before I would be back home.
Photo: Bear in New Bern, September 2016