My Dad’s Bachelor Trip to Florida

Nose-to-the-Grindstone, that’s my dad. But I have proof in pictures that he once took a fling to Florida with his Lancaster County Mennonite buddies. Judging from the photos that remain and Mother’s comments, I can pretty much guarantee that there were no stops at a roadhouse, nights spent bar-hopping, or brothel visits.

According to their Swiss-German work ethnic and the spirit of the times, these five men, Parke Garber, Dick Sauder, Bud (Wilbur) Martin, Howard Longenecker and Daddy were destined to be dutiful farmers or businessmen, faithful husbands and fathers. But until they hit the groove for the rest of their lives, they would see the world, traveling over 800 miles from Pennsylvania to Florida.

My Dad

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They traveled in a car of this vintage with a road-map, certainly no GPS!

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To Cypress Gardens, Florida 1939

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The craziest thing recorded is a snapshot of the men playing church under the skinny wooden banner Jesus Never Fails. I say they were playing church because that was what Mother told me and I never heard anything to the contrary. The “preacher” was a farmer turned car salesman and my sanctimonious-looking dad (at right), a farm implement dealer, holds a hymnbook or Bible.

Richard Sauder in pulpit, to the right Parke Garber, extreme right Ray Longenecker, my father  (Unidentified man at left)
Richard Sauder in pulpit, to the right Parke Garber, far right Ray Longenecker, my father (Unidentified man on left)

All these pictures were stored in a heap inside our family’s piano bench for decades. Only recently have they seen the light of day.

Based on the date here, my dad was 24. He was married in 1940 when he was 25, a year younger than my age at marriage. Men of this era did not usually marry until they could support a wife. The first question Daddy queried Cliff when he asked for my hand in marriage was “Do you think you can support her?” Looking back, the question seems a little strange as I was already a teacher of four years with a salary.

What I’d like to know:

  • Who’s idea was this trip?
  • Where did they eat? (These men were used to home-cooked meals.)
  • What did they talk about?
  • Did they ever wear casual clothing? (All I see here is white shirts, suspenders, ties and long trousers.)
  • Did they send postcards to their girlfriends?
  • Did they laugh and carry on?

Wouldn’t Dad have been astonished back then if he had known two of his daughters would be raising their families in Florida, so far away from their Lancaster County, PA childhood roots?

Do you have photos in your family albums that pose questions without answers?

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43 thoughts on “My Dad’s Bachelor Trip to Florida

  1. Good morning, Marian. What a treasure trove to find these photos in the piano bench. I love the photos and the story of your father’s “wild” bachelor trip. πŸ™‚ I suspect that coat off and sleeves rolled up was as casual as he got. Are there people still alive who can answer your questions?

    I can’t think of a specific photo, but I know there are some old ones that my mom has or that my sister has from my dad–and probably lots of questions, too.

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    1. When I visit Bossler Mennonite Church, I often see the wife of one of the men, Pearl Longenecker, who could probably answer the question of why they were so dressed up, but I doubt she would have any clues about answers to the other questions. My hunch: This is a formal era. Why, even in mid-century Jacksonville, women were wearing hats to go shopping downtown.

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  2. I love these pictures and the fact that your dad had a little holiday before settling down. Yes, there are pictures we have that raise questions. it is also fun to speculate. I love how men of that time always dressed up for special events like a holiday. Even though my dad was a farm boy, many of the pictures have him in a suit and tie. (Something we rarely saw growing up)

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    1. You and I snap shots with our iPhones all the time, but in those days taking a photograph was a big deal. Their apparel probably reflects that. So, your dad was a Canadian farm boy – interesting!

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  3. Growing up we never met our grandmother on my mothers side. We never heard her talk about family and we never questioned. We were taught to never ask questions nor answer back. At the age of 30 something our mother announced that she was going to pick up her mother. We were shocked. My first response was you have a mother. She said of course. What did you think – I was hatched lol. I asked, Why have we never heard of he?” My mother brought her home and took care of her for 10 years when God took her home. That’s when we found out we had a lot of other family in Texas: When four came to the viewing. I went out to meet them. Recently my cousin sent me a picture of my mother at five years old with her mom aunt and grandmother. I made copies for everyone and gave it to them on Mother’s Day. To see the expression on my mother’s face was priceless. She has it on her coffee table.

    God is good to give these pictures and memories. Dad Longenecker was always a very good looking man. Ive always admired his circle of friends. They’d serve together at church and Gideons and go fishing. First time I saw someone clean fish. Great memories.
    Gloria

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    1. You are the guardian of your family’s memories now and you realize how precious they are because of the secrets in your early life. Thanks for sharing your story here, Gloria.

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  4. Beach trip! Do you know if they went to Sarasota? Sarasota was becoming quite the go-to place for Mennonites of northern Indiana in the 40s, with many seeking whether they could farm down there and living in tiny trailer cities (remnants still in Pinecroft, of course). I have a book with some of that history but not with me now (and I can’t remember the name or author). Mother was determined they go to Florida on their honeymoon in January 1946, so obviously it was big on their list. Of one thing off your list I’m sure: they definitely laughed and carried on–the “playing church” picture is one proof! What a treat to find these, I’m sure.

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    1. Howard and Pearl Longenecker, part of my parents’ bridal party, spent winters in Sarasota after they retired.

      As to your earlier question, judging by the photos, the men got as far south as Cypress Gardens, but I don’t know if they went farther. You say your mother was “determined to go to Florida on their honeymoon” – good for her. She sounds like a spunky lady. My parents went to Niagara Falls, another popular honeymoon destination for Lancaster County Mennonites in those days. My brother Mark even took his bride there.

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    1. Tracy, your comment sent me on an expedition into your website, where I meandered through blog posts and personal detail. The upshot: I ordered your book! I always enjoy memoir with a firm sense of place. Kathleen Norris’ Dakota: A Spiritual Biography comes to mind.

      I have to believe your butterfly image is a metaphor for triumphs through illness and other snags on life’s trail. See, you never know what a comment on another blog post will do. πŸ˜‰

      Last February I was invited to a writers’ retreat (1 of 5) simply because I had regularly commented on Janet Givens’ blog!

      Your writing sample is marvelous, and I look forward to reading your memoir. Thanks for stopping in today.

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      1. Thank you, again, Marian. I’ve read Kathleen Norris’ writing, too! Really like her.

        The butterfly is a metaphor; but it’s also a Karner Blue. http://tracyleekarner.com/2012/05/02/karner-blue-recovery/

        I’ve been enjoying reading your blog and Facebook posts. I’ll work at commenting more. I’ve been a bit reclusive lately, as I’m immersed in a novel and find it is taking over my life. Thanks for stopping by and waking me back, a little, to the world around me (I’ve been living in my own made-up world perhaps a little too much!)

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        1. I understand completely. Though I’m a neophyte compared to you, I have begun a serious draft of my book after writing/re-writing scenes for 5 months or so in a memoir-writing class. I know I have to stay in the zone/fog/down-in-the-well while I’m doing this. Otherwise, emails and blog posts will take me out of the past and into the now. Even a load of laundry can dis-lodge my thoughts and destroy the mood.

          Now to find out about Karner Blue . . .

          By the way, I see you are married to a chef; I’m married to an artist/performer. I don’t think mates with a scientific bent would be as amenable to the writing life, but who knows!

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          1. I think you’re right — scientific guys who measure everything might not understand the artistic bent!

            Oh-Marian — I’m so glad we connected. I feel like we’re long-lost friends!

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  5. Marian, I love those photos and the idea of “Playing Church.” Your questions are wonderful and I think you could write a bang-up novel based on them.

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    1. A NOVEL – why Joan, I guess you see ambitious writing ahead! Struggling as I am through the first draft of my memoir, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Thanks for the encouraging word this morning,

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  6. I enjoyed seeing your pictures. They would have a suit along for sure, as they would need good clothes for church, should they be gone over a Sunday. I would think they ate in diners which were everywhere, and reasonable. In 1939 , it probably was a lot like home-cooking.

    My mother and a couple of her girlfriends and a couple cousins took off via train out west one summer between school/work. She has a little collection of silver dollars that she keeps in a cup in her high top secretary desk. She says she got them in Las Vegas but has never admitted to gambling. In her pictures that she has, they are dressed nicely in dresses, low heels, no shorts. Always a handbag and a scarf over hair. This would be early 50’s.

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    1. Thank you for adding some shimmering images to this era and beyond. I can see your mother’s cup of silver dollars.

      Yes, I agree, my dad and his buddies probably hit the diners. I wonder whether they played the juke box though!

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  7. Marian β€” Great questions, all. Clearly, INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW! How awesome that you even have these sepia-tone photos. Do you plan on weaving some of the incredible photographs you’ve shared with your readers into your memoir?

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  8. What an interesting trip! What did they do? Where did they sleep? Where did they eat? What were their thoughts? What other pictures did you find? I have so many questions I wish I could ask my parents but, of course, it’s too late. My mother and dad met when my mom went for a motorcycle ride on her uncle’s Indian Chief Motorcycle! πŸ™‚

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    1. Your last sentence could turn into a short, fictional story based on truth. What a wild dialogue that could be – all because of taking that motorcycle ride. Memoir is all about re-creating memories from what little we have to go on. Thanks, Anita.

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  9. Marian, I loved reading the story of your dad’s “fling” before he settled down. The images you’ve shared certainly took us right to the time and place. Yes, I have many photos about which I have questions. Fortunately, my mother answered some before she died, but we couldn’t get through them all. I suppose we’ll just have to use our imaginations about those. Thanks for a lovely start to my day!

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    1. Since you are on Pacific time, I believe your day may start a few hours later than mine. I welcome your comments anytime, Sherrey.

      About our photos from long ago: As memoir writers, I guess we have to settle for “what could have been” or “what probably was” when we are not sure.

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  10. My Aunt went through pictures the day before Grandma J’s funeral, and found a lovely one of Nana…with another guy! There’s a story there and I will have to get it tfrom my aunt the next time I visit! πŸ˜‰

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    1. It’s good to start early for who/what/when/where questions about photos as you can tell from comments above. Then it won’t be speculation when it comes time to write your memoir. “NaNa with another guy” – yes, there certainly is a story there worth investigating!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Could the man to the left of the pulpit be Wilbur Martin? I hate to spoil the upstanding characters but I remember a picture where all the guys were swilling beer from bottles sitting around a table. Does that spark a memory?

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  12. Based on the face shape of Wilbur Martin, the guy I can identify for sure in the Cypress Gardens photo, I don’t think that is Bud in the church picture.

    Yes, now that you mention it, I do remember beer bottles in a photo. Do you think Mom destroyed it? Now that would be a juicy bit, last chance to sow some wild oats which seems pretty tame these days. Ha!

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  13. ‘Late , late for a very important date ‘ ( Mad hatter in Alice In Wonderland ) hope you get this even if you are about to send your new blog .
    Those amazing photos of your Dad , would you not love the answers to all your questions . I have vivid imagination and what I don’t know , I just make up . I try to imagine what was going through their minds at the time and try to put my own words in the mouths . Don’t you think history tends to be a bit like that , some truth , some myth …who knows.
    I have a picture of my dear mum ( wish I could show you but not sure how to send photos ) when she was about 19 . It was in the second world war and she had just joined The A.T,S . She couldn’t have looked any happier if she tried … she glowed , Marian , and we know it must have been a scary time , war time . I guess she was happy because it seemed exciting and because she was with a great bunch of people . Life before was maybe little boring a whiff of poverty in the air , then suddenly there she was helping with the war effort .The picture says it all …you can only imagine .
    Cherryx

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    1. It’s never too late to comment here, and your comments sound so conversational I can almost imagine our sipping cups of tea together. Yes, I agree history tends to record some truth, some myth, a mixture – simply because people have different perceptions and interpretations of what actually happened.

      I’d love to see your World War II photo. I don’t know how to post it here, but if you have Facebook you could for sure post it there, and I could make a mention here to my readers. Thanks for checking in today, with all of your sparkly ideas, Cherry.

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  14. Fantastic photos Marian. And wouldn’t dad be surprised to know that his daughter was telling this story and showing these photos decades later in the cyber world. πŸ™‚

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    1. Yes, he has no control over what I say – ha! Fortunately, I am kind here.

      I wish he or another ancestor told his/her story. About twenty years ago, one of my dad’s cousins did publish a large scrapbook-type book about our branch of the Longenecker family in Lancaster County, but there is very little detail about our own family for reasons I will not disclose here.

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  15. Wonderful, Marian, and as always, over the top photos. One of the sad things of my life is the few photos I have of my dad as an adult, but I have wonderful ones of him as a child. Fortunately when I inherited these photos and wanted to know more, my uncle was only to happy to tell me–and tell me when I had the family stories wrong. So who was right? My dad (or my memory of what he’d told me) or my uncle? I’ll never know.

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    1. That’s funny that you mention lack of photos, Elaine. You seem to have so many pictures from long ago. And your posts never seem to lack for illustrations. But, yes, stitching together the past is a sketchy business. Who said what and how and when and why – a puzzle that fits together imperfectly. But we do our best.

      Thanks for mentioning your uncle and his recollections. This reminds me of how authors handle acknowledging memory in their disclaimers. For example, Carol Bodenstiner in Growing Up Country says, “This narrative is an account of events as I remember them.” And Kathleen Pooler says this in hers: “This is a true story reconstructed from memory. . . . These are my memories and may differ from other’s memories of the same events and conversations.”

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