We knew a wedding was the joining of two people in Holy Matrimony, but it also gave the young men in our community an opportunity to reach into their bag of tricks to make the event more memorable for the happy couple.
First, a close member of the wedding party was recruited to find out what automobile the newlyweds were going to drive on their honeymoon. The tipster had to make sure it was not a decoy because a mistake on his part would bring on the wrath of the gang of pranksters.
Timing was important, as much had to be done during the ceremony. A string of tin cans tied to the back bumper and the usual writing on the car were the first chores to be completed. "Hot Springs Tonight - Deadwood Tomorrow", with it's double meaning, plus "Just Married" were written with white-wash, or in later years, shaving cream. A potato was stuck into the exhaust pipe, Limburger cheese was put on the heater, and a few nuts and bolts were placed in the hubcaps.
If the new husband was mechanically minded and had a good sense of humor, we might take the steering wheel and doors off the vehicle and leave a map as to where they were located. The newlyweds were sent on their honeymoon, officially blessed by their friends and the local hooligans.
In our parent's time, the newlyweds were not properly accepted as a married couple in the community until they had been the victims of a "Chivaree", described in the dictionary as a noisy, mock-serenade to newlyweds.
The location of the chivaree was the home of the newlyweds. The time of the event was a well-kept secret. The arrival of the group was a noisy affair involving beating on pots and pans with wooden spoons, whistles and occasionally fire crackers. The newlyweds were surprised but would have been disappointed had they not been included in this old tradition.
The event included music by local musicians and dancing inside and outside the home. There was beer and cigars for the adults and candy for the children. The food was plentiful, and the deserts were works of art. A few tears were shed at the departure of this jovial crowd, and the happy couple wore their stamp of approval with pride.
In a conversation with some younger folks, I was explaining the meaning of the word "Chivaree" and how I had attended one as a child. One of the group said, "We still do that, Morrie, we just didn't know what to call it".
©2002 Maurice Karst
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