My Forty Years Scribblin's
Interviews
What Constitutes a Honeymoon?

In this interview from 1996 (published in the May-June 1996 issue of The Montana Journal. Mrs. Townsend describes romance in "the good old days."


In years long gone, some couples thought a honeymoon necessitated a trip to Niagara Falls or a stay at a posh hotel. The lady felt the need for a trousseau of velvet and lace. But the more familiar and perhaps the most enduring honeymoons occurred when she packed her carpet bag and moved into his sod shanty or traded her girlhood for a perch on the seat of a covered wagon headed west. Some left jobs and security as teachers, seamstresses, or milliners, and jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

Closer to home there was Miss Ethel Lynn who married Joseph Waldbillig of Drummond at her parents' ranch at Ovando. She said good-bye to a family of lively siblings and climbed atop a wagonload of supplies to become the only white woman in Swan Valley, a lonely beginning for her married life. She would have Indian women neighbors whose families wintered in the Swan because wild game was plentiful but with whom she could not communicate.

My near neighbor, Herbert Townsend, first heard of his future bride while trailing horses over the Jocko Trail to the Double Arrow Ranch at Seeley Lake. Someone told him the Sperry Family "over there" had a house full of girls. He and Elta Sperry met some time later at a Christmas dance at the Stacy home, a log cabin near Seeley Lake. Elta, a sister, and a brother made it to the dance by automobile from Placid Lake, but Herb arrived on horseback, towing a little old lady, the Double Arrow cook, on a hand sled. The couple married the following May at the parsonage of the Methodist Church in Missoula. Officiating was Justice of the Peace Ralph Starr. Herb had fifty dollars in his pocket, a considerable sum in those Depression days. He worked the following summer for the Forest Service on Morrell Lookout.

Elta had never ridden on a train, so Herb thought they should make an overnight wedding trip to Butte. On the return trip, Elta sat with a lady who entertained her with stories of the days when her husband had owned a livery stable in Missoula. The train was so crowded that Herb stood in the aisle.

Asked if she had a trousseau, Elta said, "Oh, yes. I had a linen-like dress and a floppy hat. I sent to Sears Roebuck for the outfit, and it cost me two dollars!"

They returned, temporarily, to the Sperry family ranch at Placid Lake where friends gave them the customary charavari, more commonly called a "shivaree." The normal way to celebrate a wedding was to dance. The fact that there was a fire in the heating stove was of small consequence. Some of the men put a board under the stove and carried it out—fire and all. Music was from a "squeeze box" (accordion), rendered by a friend, Walt Haun, who resides at Superior. Later the couple moved to the Bitterroot Valley where Herb worked on a ranch belonging to the doctors, Charles and Will Thornton.

Two sons were born to Herb and Elta. They came back to become the oldest "old-timers" in the Seeley—Placid Lake area. From a small beginning, the marriage has lasted almost 64 years. Could be a honeymoon is mostly a state of mind.