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PART EIGHT: The Burns Disapora  

Chapter Two: Ebba Ties the Knot

Cleveland, Ohio
August 11, 1941

1 - Rugs to RIches
2 - Ebba Ties Knot
3 - Love and War
4 - The Prodigals
5 - Trick or Treat
6 - Star-Crossed

More Information

Description: Ebba Marriage License

My Dear Family:

This week has passed on strange swift wings, and each day has seemed so full and running over that I wonder now in retrospect if I will be able to recount it to you with clearness. [1]

The Sunday before our wedding day was marked by the arrival of your flowers.[2] We had spent most of Saturday moving our worldly possessions, which seemed so meager until we were actually faced with the task of collecting them and moving them from one place to another, and Sunday found them piled (piled, but neatly) in the center of the small space that is our bedsitting room. The Wee House hid its head in shame at the lovely gracious bouquet sent clear from Seattle to make it feel at home, and promptly vowed never to be caught with its “back hair down” again. [3]

Jerry and I placed the lovely blossoms in Great-grandmother Mason’s old stone pitcher and set them where we could see them throughout dinner, which we ate from the top of the old bridal trunk. We went earlier in the morning to the west side to bid Mrs. Burke good-bye before she left for Detroit but arrived just shortly after she had left, much to my chagrin and Gerry’s great sorrow. Gerry actually cried during the trip back home and it was not until we opened the flowers and had some food that the skies seemed even half as fair as they really were.

Description: Shower Card - PinkIn the afternoon we bought a dinette set from a Jewish widow on the Heights and were fortunate in getting a lovely one for only $7.50. This also cheered us.

Monday – the day – arrived, quite warm. And I arose early, corrected my final examination papers and handed in my final grades before going for my treatment [4] at 10 a.m.  Mrs. Pickens was especially nice when I told her that I was to be married in the afternoon and charged me only half the usual amount because it was a special day. She gave me sound advice concerning how to pursue one’s profession and stay happily married. In the afternoon I “borrowed” something from Pauline and spent about an hour having my final spinster chat. Then to Mrs. Howell’s office to receive her blessing, with only 45 minutes to array myself in bridal finery.

Description: Pay Stub -- Marriage LicenseI had planned to wear a black and white dotted faille suit with my white hat, gloves, etc., but Inez – the colored maid at the school – made me promise not to be married in black, and since the day was so very warm,[5] I finally decided to wear the blue chambray I bought in Seattle last summer. Gerry likes it and it seemed a link with Seattle and you. I did not wear a hat, but fastened a few of the yellow daisies and delphiniums [6] which Gerry selected for my bridal bouquet in my hair. I don’t know what the final effect was – Gerry says I was a lovely bride.

We got into a little difficulty with the “oily” justice of the peace who married us because Gerry demanded a certificate of marriage and the justice said he could not give one unless we paid an extra $2.00. After a good deal of marching about the courthouse and pressure on the justice, Jerry emerged triumphant with the certificate only to find that we had a ticket for parking without putting a nickel in the meter.

This was the comedy relief for what might otherwise have been a really too sweet, too solemn affair. We had our wedding supper at the Canary Cottage [7] and toasted ourselves, then went home.

Description: Crane's Canary Cottage

We sent telegrams to you and Gerry’s mother and then too tired to attack the mess in the Wee House, shut our eyes to it all and went to bed. The rest has been a more or less constant fight to get things into a state of order. Added to the chaos has been the uncertainty attending our stay here.

In all the excitement she did not forget Patty's third birthday.
Click to see the entire poem.

I guess I forgot to tell you that the little house we first selected didn’t pan out. [8] When we went down to take the first payment, Gerry found that two young men who had formerly lived in a questionable neighborhood had arranged to take the suite above us and promptly canceled our taking the apartment.

Description: Shower Card - Lavender     Description: Shower Card #4

The next one Gerry selected was nice but very far from the hospital and $7.50 more per month rent. We had moved in most of our clothing and furniture and had made our first payment, had the lights and gas turned on, when Gerry spotted our present location. It is just an ordinary two-room apartment but pleasant and close to my work, so after much calling up of apartment owners, gas companies, etc., we finally made our third move here. 

Description: Shower Card -- YellowBy Wednesday, we were really beginning to live, when Jerry’s key stuck in the lock and in order to get it out, he had to remove the lock. When he got it out he discovered it had been tampered with so he took it to a locksmith and had it repaired and changed. The following day the custodian discovered the lock had been changed and approached Gerry, who told him to go to hell – or words to that effect. Words followed words until the custodian finally told us we would have to look for another apartment.

I’m tired of looking and tired of moving, so have just decided to sit tight until they actually evict us. Meanwhile, poor Gay, at my tearful insistence, has swallowed his pride and apologized to the custodian, the owner, the man on the street, etc., though I know what he would really like to do is mash them all to a pulp, and life goes on as usual. Gerry is working on a big crane, which is tough going, and I hate to have him upset by this business of finding and keeping a place to stay, but after all, we have to light somewhere.

Well, this is enough to let you know that we are together, are living happily, interestingly, and fully, and that we think of you often and look toward the promised land….

Thanks a million for your sweet letters. They came Monday a.m., and we read them just before the ceremony. Both Gerry and I were touched by Dad’s letter [9] , and I was strengthened by the calm practical suggestions [10] in mother’s and Helen’s messages. Gerry will write to you one of his usual “letters” as soon as he winds up his affair with the custodian. It will, I know, give no hint of the regard he has for you nor of his really deep appreciation of your message. You would have had to see him reading it to know what it meant to him. 

                                                                                                            More soon,  Lyn   

Author’s Note

The month before her wedding, Ebba confessed to her mother that she was “no less vacillating than eight years ago – no more certain of what life holds for me or what I want of it.” But if she had lingering doubts about marrying Gerry, she kept it hidden after that small hint of uncertainty. And when he received an education deferment in July 10th (after much lobbying of the draft board), they decided to get married right away. But Ebba’s dream of moving to Seattle that year – and taking “the loveliest trip of all time to Seattle via 'Lovers’ Lane'” – was also deferred.Description: Ebba's Honeymoon Spot

The nursing faculty hosted a shower for her on September 11th, and the Wee House was soon filled with enough “silver tea sets, rose bath mats, napkin rings, and bridge table covers to last us until we draw our last tremulous breath.” When he wasn’t attacking his texts in biology, English, and quantitative analysis, Gerry “sawed and hammered, puttied and painted until the neighbors were exhausted.” The apartment was soon transformed into the first real home Ebba had lived in since Center Street – with second-hand rugs and Mrs. Burke’s old chair slipcovered in sky blue, two maple chests in the bedroom, and in the dinette, two small chests joined by a wide shelf for Ebba’s new toaster and waffle iron. Pictures and curtains completed the domestic scene, and she eventually stopped sighing and grinding her teeth thinking about the family furniture left with strangers in Apple Creek back in 1935.

The honeymoon was postponed for almost a year. They rented a cabin near Cook Forest State Park in Cooksburg, Pennsylvania, shortly before Gerry left for Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Ebba must have known that Cooksburg is within 15 miles of Rose and Pine Creek, where Lorenzo and Mary Rebecca had grown up so many years before.

Gerry and Ebba on their honeymoon in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania


[1] All details taken from contemporaneous letters, later letters, and Bob's recollections.

[2] Ebba had always wanted to marry in May, but Gerry’s induction into the army put an end to that dream. She expressed herself happy to “plight [her] troth in the hottest, glariest, doggiest of all days…”

[3] Nineteenth-century expression for behaving informally and without restraint.

[4] For neck and shoulders…

[5] But not as warm as the week before, when an all-time record of 103.2 degrees was set!

[6] Remnants of these flowers were sent to Bob, as the last unmarried Burns child.

[7] Still operating as the Inn of Chagrin Falls, in a very small town east of Cleveland.  I e-mailed them to ask if they had any old photographs, and had a scanned photo from them within hours! I also dropped in on my 2015 cross-country drive, only to see, as I drove by the front, a BRIDE emerge from the door. A rare old Karmann Ghia (Ebba's car in later life) drove down the block at the same time.

[8] Ebba had written enthusiastically about this one, including penciled floor plans, in an earlier letter.

[9] Addressed to “My New Son”

[10] Ada wrote: “I am satisfied that your chosen mate is above the average in intelligence, but being perfectly normal, like the rest of his kind, will try your patience, develop your understanding, challenge your courage, fence with your technique, expect his cup to be pressed down and running over with the good things that you can give, never being quite satisfied with what you can do. Impatient, irritable, but reliable, honest, faithful, courageous, honorable.”