(reading time approx. 6 minutes)
It was late when we pulled into the Castle Warden Hotel in St. Augustine Florida. The date was November 4, 1946, on the third day after our wedding vows. We still did not know each other in the Biblical way. Why? simply that since my regimen was to arise at 5:00 AM in the morning, I also did so on our wedding day. On the way to Florida, we stopped to visit my cousin in Newark Delaware. He and his wife generously offered us his apartment for the night since they were spending the weekend with friends. Great, no motel costs! We accepted. We were both depression babies, and such things were not unusual growing up in the thirties.
While my new bride was changing into her full length pink flannel sleeping gown, I lay on the bed awaiting the girl of my dreams and promptly fell sound asleep. I did not awaken until my usual time of 5:00 AM. That is when I saw my bride in her pink flannel adornment. (not too unlike what my grandmother wore around the house in the mornings) Since this was our first marriage and both inexperienced in such matters, only 20 years old, we both got up, dressed, made up the bed, wrote a thank you note to my cousin, packed up and took off for Florida, still virgins.
We drove about 500 miles that second day. At 10:00 PM +/-, we pulled into an all night hamburger and grocery store with a big parking lot, to get some food and a drink. The two of us were so tired and after eating the burger, holding hands endearingly, we both fell sound asleep in the car, still as pure as the day we were born. Came 5:00 AM, the third day of our honeymoon, we awakened at the sound of a rooster crowing nearby. We drove to the nearest gas station, filled up with gas, used their facilities to refresh ourselves, and took off once again for Florida in our beautiful shiny black 1940 Buick Limited sedan which I purchased from an undertaker.
On the third night after our nuptials, we drove to the oldest city America, St. Augustine, Florida. We registered at the Castle Warden Hotel which once a private residence, designed to replicate a beautiful medieval castle. It was purchased and converted into a Hotel by a lady called Marjorie and her husband, a well known hotelier.
We were greeted registration desk by the owner whose name was Marjorie. When we mentioned that we were on our honeymoon. She was delighted and gave us a special honeymoon suite, along the balcony, overlooking an atrium above the entertainment and party center on the floor below. There was also a very beautiful hand carved bar and dining area in the atrium with a place for a small band to perform. It was now about 9:00 PM and we were ready to start honeymooning. But that was not what our hostess had in mind.
Marjorie insisted that we join her for a special honeymoon cocktail, guaranteed to enhance our dreams, before we retire. We were to be honored as a guest, together one other lone patron, a U.S. Coast guard chief petty officer, sitting at the bar with a beer, smoking a cigarette. Not wishing to offend our hostess, Winnie and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said, certainly, why not? What we were not prepared for was, that Marjorie was a story teller.
This was our first trip to Florida. From the moment we sat down at the bar, Marjorie started telling us stories about St. Augustine. She talked of Cross Creek, a pet deer, a pony and other towns in Florida while refilling our glasses. We were fascinated but the clock went on. It was a Monday night, apparently a slow night at the bar. She explained how she held special parties for the servicemen in the days before they shipped out overseas to war.
One oddity on the bar was a wine bottle where the men shipping out dropped small notes on a folded piece of paper with their secret wishes to be opened upon their return. It was now almost 2 years after the end of the war. No one had yet returned to retrieve the notes as was the plan. The bottle was sealed with many burning candles, which while burning down, eventually covered the entire bottle with melted wax to seal it. The plan was that it was to be opened after the war. The plan never happened.
It was not until 20 years later when my wife, Winnie and I went back to St. Augustine that we found the Castle Warden Hotel was now Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. It was also then we discovered that Marjorie, as we knew her, who tended bar that night, was actually the very wonderful and famous author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She was our hostess. The bottle with the messages is still there. It has not been opened since 1942 when it was sealed, and is now on display in The Ripley’s Believe Or Not world famous Museum. .
Marjorie Rawlings was a prolific writer. Her stories include a few dozen books of short stories, the most famous of which were the Yearling and Cross Keys. Meanwhile, the internet has dozens of delightful short stories written by the, Marjorie Rawlings for your enjoyment. I was there, she treated my new bride and me to a honeymoon cocktail, regaled us with stories. I actually hugged and kissed her and held her hand in mine, the real Marjorie Rawlings in the flesh and at that time we didn’t even know her from Adam’s Eve.