I am more fortunate than many genealogists in that my Grandfather, Lloyd Oscar Krueger, wrote three books about his life experiences. Mostly the books concern his activities during WWII, but there are numerous other stories about his life sprinkled throughout, and it is a true gift to have them written down first-hand. The following description of his wedding to my grandmother, Norma Ann Schmidt, and the reception which followed, is assembled from his book “Enjoy Lest Tomorrow Flees”, written in 2002.
Little by little I was exposed to the myriad of decisions that had to be made when planning a wedding. One of the questions that needed to be answered was “How many of your relatives would attend the wedding?”. Hell, most of them didn’t even talk to one another. I wasn’t even sure how many relatives I had. My mother had come from Iowa, and her side of the family was scattered to the four corners of that state. She assured me that none of these relatives would come because they could not afford to make the trip.
My father’s tribe all lived in the Wausau area, but family disputes had most relatives not having contact with one another. Much of the dissension was due to the actions of the dozen or more male cousins. Nearly all of my aunts and uncles on my father’s side of the family had three or four sons, just like our household. I recalled that when some of these relatives got together the first line of business was to get the boxing gloves on several of the boys. We would beat the heck out of one another until someone got a bloodied nose or said he’d had enough. The only satisfaction gained by one of these debacles appeared to be solely by the fathers; the wives blew a fuse when they saw their son with a bloodied nose and his clothes in disarray. Usually they would get pissed off and insist on being taken home.
For some reason my parents seemed to be the only ones who had and maintained contact with all of the other relatives. I grew up looking at all of my cousins in Wausau as pugnacious offsprings of each of my aunts. We grew up to be bitter rivals and competitors in all the sports in which we competed against each other.
I was now expected to inform those planning the wedding how many aunts and uncles could be expected to attend the ceremonies. I tried picking the minds of my Mom and Dad and got conflicting guesses of who would or would not come to our wedding. “This one would show up if that one stayed home.” They went through innumerable combinations and possibilities. All of this was conjecture, obviously. Eventually, I decided we should just divide the total of potential relatives by two and this might be somewhat realistic.
At last, Saturday, October 21, 1944 had arrived. The wedding was scheduled for 4:00pm at St. Paul Evangelical church and I had the greater part of a day to walk the floor, smoke endless cigarettes, take nervous pees, and wonder what I was getting into.
At the prescribed hour, George Cormack, my brother Bobby, and I waited up at the front of the nave with Pastor Orwein. This large church seemed to be packed to bursting. I couldn’t believe or understand why. Every pew was filled, not only by relatives and friends of both families, but by the multitude of curious strangers. There did not seem to be enough room for each to twist around, snap photographs, and get their first view of the bride. Unbeknownst to me, my arrival back home from combat had been written up in the Wausau Daily Record Herald. Inquisitive old women discovered a place to be entertained and had filled this large church to its capacity. I glanced around only to realize I hardly recognize a face in the entire church.
The organ had been playing for some time, but now with a slight pause, the wedding march started to slowly filled the air. All heads turned. First came little Kay Johnson, the flower girl, nonchalantly scattering small flower blossoms along the carpeted path. Then came Elaine Poore, Norma’s friend from nurse’s training in Rochester, Minnesota. Next came Nathalie Johnson, Norma’s roommate from the University of Wisconsin. Nathalie was the Maid of Honor.
Finally, Norma came into view on the arm of her father, Edwin Frederick Schmidt. He turned out to be the best father-in-law anyone could ever have, and he will always be remembered by me as just plain “Ike”, his nickname. This was Ike’s baby and youngest daughter about to get married, and all of the deep wrinkles on his face were arced in the form of an unmistakable smile, all the while he tried to look somber.
It was a scene that felt like it had been cast for a movie. Norma had concealed her athletic appearance behind a beautiful wedding dress. There was a crown on her blonde hair and she carried a large bouquet of yellow roses. Her personality was concealed somewhere within this satin wedding gown and her veil made of Italian lace. It took her and her father forever to arrive at the front of the church as they both marched slowly in stutter-step.
Ike proclaimed that he would give his youngest daughter away after being prodded by Reverend Ortwein. Norma and I stood together as the ceremony was pronounced, then finally the good Reverend raised his hands above us to formally pronounce us “man and wife”. When he said, “you may now kiss your wife”, I closed my eyes, puckered up and leaned forward to give Norma a kiss. She had already turned and started down the aisle, with her husband a step or two behind. Our embrace had to wait until we reached the far end of the aisle.
The reception, in one of the large dining rooms of the Hotel Wausau, was a large affair. Family, friends, relatives, an many people who would be perfect strangers to me attended this banquet.
From there, the entire entourage left to go to a Pavilion next to Norma’s home in the village of Rothschild. For this special wedding they had fixed up this unused old structure, cleaned and decorated it, and waxed up the floor for dancing.
My parents and I had believed only about half of the relatives on our side of the family would show up. We were so very wrong. Every last one of these relatives, who seldom spoke to one another, were going to the dance. During the Flying Dutchman Dance, each of my four aunts tried to out-do each other on the dance floor by nearly tearing my arms off. By this time I was completely out of uniform with my blouse stashed somewhere and my tie pulled off. There were times I felt like I had been in a wrestling match!
Just about the time that the evening was reaching its climax, an unexpected hush suddenly came over the crowded dance floor. We all moved away from the center and formed a circle of astonished eyes to watch my 87-year-old grandfather waltz across the floor with my new wife. Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Krueger and Norma Ann Krueger were flowing across this unique dance floor to a Viennese Waltz. It was beautiful to witness this young bride, in her wedding dress, and this proud old German, with his waxed, handle-bar mustache, glide effortlessly within the tight circle of spectators and admirers.
If there had been any dissension between my relatives, they now had forgotten what it was. They not only were talking, they were dancing with one another. Around 1:30 am Norma and I stole away from the party, which was still going on… the orchestra still playing, and the bar still open.