My maternal grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt were married on New Years Day, 1917 in Drake, Saskatchewan. I have a picture of them standing on a railway car labeled The Los Angeles Special- Kansas Express. They are dressed fashionably. Grandma is wearing a pin-striped coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Grandpa has a soft fedora, leather gloves and a double-breasted jacket. They look dashing and adventuresome.
My grandmother kept a journal, a daily record of her first year of marriage, which included a four-month honeymoon trip. Traveling by train, steamship, car, horse and buggy or sleigh my grandparents went west to Vancouver and then south to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. They traveled on to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas and finally made their way home via Minneapolis.
My grandmother writes about the many relatives and friends they visited, the “grand ” scenery, the concerts and movies they attended, and the various sightseeing excursions they enjoyed. She describes the hotels they stayed in and the stores where she went shopping.
The trip with its myriad of experiences was taken almost a hundred years ago, yet reading the journal you almost imagine yourself there. I’ve sometimes wondered if might retrace my grandparents’ honeymoon trip. Could I go to the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and watch the seals on the cliffs the way my grandparents did? Could I find a 400 acre orange grove to visit and take a glass bottom boat trip to Catalina Island? I know Busch Gardens is still open. My grandparents toured it on the same day they stopped in at an ostrich farm and an alligator ranch. Could I go mountain climbing in California and take a harbor cruise in Los Angeles. My grandmother loved those experiences.
My grandparents also made sure their trip was a time of spiritual growth. They spent a week at Bethel College in Kansas taking a Bible course. They attended all kinds of churches on their travels, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Methodist and Catholic. At a time in history when many Mennonites were skeptical about denominations other than their own I’m impressed my grandparents thought there was something to be learned from visiting and worshipping with such a variety of congregations.
What strikes me about Grandma’s journal is that it makes little mention of the newsworthy events going on around her. World War I was raging and in just a few months conscription would be introduced in Canada. Although my grandparents were conscientious objectors because of their Mennonite faith I know from my mother that some of their relatives served in the military. Canada held an election in 1917 but Grandma doesn’t mention it. Women in Saskatchewan had just received the right to vote. Did Grandma take advantage of her opportunity to cast a ballot for the first time? Perhaps as a honeymooning bride Grandma was so wrapped up in her new marriage relationship that her experiences with Grandpa were more memorable than what was happening in the news.
I think about someday retracing my grandparents’ honeymoon journey. I’m glad Grandma kept a journal of her first year of married life. It offers a fleeting glimpse into my grandparents’ lives and gives me an appreciation for the optimism and sense of adventure they shared.
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