Wartime Wedding – March 3, 1943

Tuesday the three women made arrangements for a reception. They knew how many to plan for because they had made all those phone calls. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what else they were up to. My job was just to stay out of their way.

Rosemary had set up a cot for me, and I went to bed that night thinking the next day I’d be a married man. It was a wonder I could get to sleep. But I did.

In fact, Rosemary had to wake me up Wednesday morning. “Joe, go to Grand Central to meet your mother and father and bring them here.”

And I did.

By the time we got back to the house, Rosemary had a nice breakfast ready for all of us. Here she was the bride—going to get married at four o’clock that afternoon—and she was making my mother and father breakfast!

“Now you two have been traveling all night,” she said to Ma and Pa. “You’d better go in and have a nap on my bed.”

Meanwhile, all I had to do was sit around and look smart. I didn’t have to worry about a tuxedo or anything else. The war was on. I was in uniform. As a matter of fact, my uniform was tailor made. I was a sharp sailor. I had tailor-made whites and tailor made blues.

When it was time to go over to the Church—Immaculate Conception in Astoria—a limousine was waiting for us at the front door. We got to the church, and it was like an icebox inside. Somebody asked the priest to turn the heat on, and he did. But by the end of the ceremony, it was nearly just as cold as when we got there. We were so happy, though, we didn’t care. The ceremony. The reception. It all was just a happy blur to me.

The weather was bad that night. Icing conditions. The plan had been that after the reception Mary would drive us over to the city. But Rosemary said, “No way am I going to ride in a car across the Triborough Bridge in an ice storm. We’re going to take the subway! So Mary drove us around to the subway.

We were on the train, heading to Penn Station when I realized I was in a bit of a jam. With all her careful planning and preparations, the wedding went off without a hitch. But the honeymoon: that was my job. And I hadn’t given it a thought.

Right there on the subway, I did some quick thinking. Of course, hotels in New York during the War—they were always full. But somehow they can always find a room someplace.

Hotel Pennsylvania was one of the biggest hotels in the world; I don’t know how many rooms they had but I knew it was more than two thousand. And it was a beautiful place. The lobby was like the inside of a palace. A couple of stories high. A stained glass skylight. And lots of nice lounge chairs and sofas if we had to wait a bit. I was pretty sure that would be our best bet.

Plus, it was right across the street from Penn Station. So when we got off the subway, I told her we were going there. And we walked over.

I went up to the desk. Of course I was in uniform. I said to the desk clerk, “We just came in from Boston, and we need a room.”

He looked over at Rosemary, sitting in one of the lobby chairs with my duffel bag and her suitcase on the floor right beside her. She looked so pretty. “You wait a few minutes, and we’ll see what we can do.”

What a place, that lobby.  I sat down beside her, but we didn’t have to wait too long, and he got us a room.


Later on we heard about a conversation one of Rosemary’s neighbors who lived a couple of houses down had with her husband.

He came home from work that night—he was a fireman—and said to her, “I thought you told me the Bartels girl was getting married today.”

“Yes, “the wife said, “She was married today and I was over to the church.”

“Well,” he said, “I just saw her on the subway with a sailor.”