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The Convict and the Rose

Rick A Wilcox

Two Generations-Visions of Life, Volume 2

Synopsis: 

Two Generations is not just the story of the Wilcox family, father and son.  It is also a study of life in America for more than 100 years as seen through the lives of one family, ranging from basic pre-electricity and plumbing small-town life in the early 1900s to modern life in a large city, with all its conveniences, far from the family's original home town.  This is a fascinating book of both personal and historical scope, showing how America has changed, anchored throughout with the core

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My letter to Carole Taylor dated Sept. 16, 1963, asking her to marry me.

 

U.S. Army-Ft Knox, Kentucky

September 16, 1963

 

Dear Carole,

Three years ago today I first saw you and asked you for a dance. Carole, I never recovered from that evening for I discovered a very unusual female that I know for sure is the sharpest woman God has created. I have told you before and I will tell you again no other woman could ever match you. Your inner self is so beautiful and perfect, more than any other female I have ever come across, and your physical beauty is way beyond the average female. That is why I want you for my complete self since you will make the perfect wife. You have everything I would want in a wife plus so much more. I will be proud to call you my wife because of what you are. You are the type that can make life so wonderful and fill the soul with happiness. You are the type that a male would come to for a problem or just to talk to. You can bring comfort to a person and just make him feel, "I never want to leave her," and boy, it sure is hard to leave her for she immediately puts you in heaven and that is why I could never let you go. Carole, I will be polite and ask you to marry me instead of telling you, for I will not accept a "No" answer. Carole, please marry me and make me the happiest person. Carole, you mean everything to me and without you I am nothing and life will never be the same for me again. Carole, whatever I do or wherever I go I want you at my side for I need you. You are everything to me, and it is a necessity to have you as my wife not only because I need you to continue my life but also I like the idea of having the sharpest female as my wife. So now, my little beauty queen, I'm asking you to wear this ring to symbolize our union of souls under God.

 

Love,

Rick

 

After Carole opened my package on September 16, 1963, she wrote the following letter and mailed it to me that same day.

 

Adrian College

September 16, 1963 Monday

 

Dear Rick,

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes: Of course I'll marry you. There is nothing in this whole wide world I want more than for you to be my husband and me your wife. You have been and you always will make me the happiest woman in the world. I'm so happy right now that I seem to be at a loss for words. My only wish is that you could have been here in person to ask me and give me the ring. Rick, the ring is just beautiful!!! I just love it! Believe me, I wasted no time in getting it on. I can't wait to "show it off," but the very first thing I had to do was to write to you.

I have locked the wedding band in my little cedar chest. We have been keeping our door locked all the time and I will be sure to now. I'm sure Jan will too. I won't breathe a word to anyone I have it either.

Rick, thank you for such a beautiful ring set. I will wear it proudly not because it is so beautiful, but because it is a symbol of our union. Thank you, Rick, for being the way you are. I know very well there isn't another man anywhere that could top you. You are tops in character, understanding, goodness, religious convictions, interests, personality, love, and on and on. I love you for everything about you. There is nothing basically that I would want to change. I am so proud to belong to you and you alone. There is nothing in the whole world that could ever have made me any happier or done more for my life than you have. I love you, Rick. I love you very much and I need you very much. I promise you, and this is one promise I will keep if I never keep any other one, I promise you I'll be the best wife I can possibly be and I promise to try to always make you happy first. Because whenever I know that you are happy, then I am happy too. My whole life is wrapped around you. My future now really does lie in your future. It always did, but now it's "official."

The sun is shining in the window now and it sure makes the ring sparkle. It's beautiful. I wish you were here to see it too. But come Dec., you will be and we can really celebrate then. Then I can also really begin to show you how I feel. I can't possibly in a letter, but I think, if I know you and I do! you feel the same way as I do.

The way I feel now it's a very good thing I didn't have a 1:00 class. It's now 1:15. I opened your package after I got back from lunch. I honestly never ever thought that you would send an engagement ring so it was a complete surprise when I read the letter. I really thought it was some kind of joke that you wanted no one else to see.

Once again, I'll say thank you for the loveliest ring a girl ever received from her husband-to-be and I will be most happy to be your wife!

Take special care of yourself, lover! I will too. Had no dessert this noon!

 

Love from your wife-to-be,

Carole

P.S. Glad to hear it's paid for!

 

I was counting the days when September 16 would arrive. The day came and I had her on my mind and hoping she didn't forget to open the box I mailed her. The end of the day came and the lights of the barracks went out. I lay in my bunk just thinking of her. I couldn't sleep. I was extremely anxious to know if she opened the package with my letter and rings. I got out of my bunk and got dressed. One of the men on my floor always had a lot of coins in his pocket. I woke up this person and said that I needed to call my girlfriend, would he please loan me a dollar or two worth of coins? I went outside to a phone booth near the barracks and was surprised there were about three men waiting to use the phone. When my turn came I asked the operator how much money was needed to call Adrian College. I think it was thirty-five cents for the first three minutes. I deposited the coins and dialed her dorm's floor. A woman said hello and I asked for Carole Taylor. She said she would go get her. Apparently she recognized my voice and told Carole that her boyfriend was on the phone. Several seconds went by, then I heard, "YES, YES, YES!" It was music to my ears! I told her that my sergeant believed that I would be home before Christmas. I told her I would like to get married at this time, which I didn't mention in my letter. I mentioned the benefit of her being my wife, which was she would be getting fifty some dollars monthly, which we could use. Then perhaps she could join me after she graduated from Adrian College. She was in favor of this. We agreed to a small family wedding including our college friends Phil and Irene Rundell. After our phone conversation Carole wrote another letter and mailed it to me the following day, Sept. 17, 1963:

 

Adrian College

September 17, 1963 Tuesday

 

Hi Lover!

How's my handsome husband-to-be?

I've been practically living on cloud nine these last two days, but I really won't be living high until I am with you again. I really do miss you now and I just can't wait until Dec. comes. You really do think we can be married for sure in Dec.? I guess that's really a silly question, but it just seems too wonderful to come true. There isn't a chance of your leave being cancelled, is there? I do definitely want to marry you then, even if it is in name only until June. Besides the reasons you gave which I agree with thoroughly, I want to be "Mrs. Wilcox" for my last semester. I really would. I want Wilcox to be on my diploma. I was really disappointed about that when you were drafted. I thought I'd have to end up with Taylor after all. Then, of course, the very most important reason of all is that I love you so very much. You say I will make an ideal wife, and I say you will make an ideal husband. Yes, I really mean that and don't you deny it!

I know very well there is no wife that will be loved and cared for as well as I know I will be with you. I know there is not a man anywhere, husband or not, that could make his woman feel any happier than you do me. There is no couple that could feel any closer or a part of each other than we do, so close and so free that we do not hesitate to confide in each other our problems and troubles.

Rick, you have no idea how much you have done for my life. Actually my life just began three years ago. You, yourself, have made me what I am today. You have put the sparkle in my life that did change me physically and spiritually. You have given me a purpose in life, someone to love and care for. You have made me the happiest person possible. Thank you, Rick, for all you've done. I do hope I can make you an ideal wife because I will be very disappointed in myself if I don't. You deserve to have the best of everything in life and I intend to see that you have it to the best of my ability.

You know, I still can't stop looking at the ring. It's so pretty. I never saw a fellow that had as good taste as you. I guess another reason I keep looking at it is that it's still hard to believe it's really there! I never expected to have one so soon. I'll admit I was kind of thinking you might give me one when you came home in Dec., but I think I feel as Peggy Richardson said, "It's the most romantic engagement I ever heard of!” Thank you, Rick. It was such a lovely thought to give it to me on that day and such a lovely ring. But of course, what it represents is the loveliest of all and it's what I think of every time I look at it¾our future union, two lives made into one.

Everyone else thinks the rings are beautiful too and have been giving us "best wishes." Mrs. Shipman said to tell you that she "highly approves." Jan, my roommate, said to tell you you're a good boy, but you should have let her be with me when I opened it! Ha ha! She said she likes the ring. (Dick) Kapnick came in the library this morning and I showed him too. He seemed surprised and said, "I didn't think he'd do it."

I called my parents last night after supper to tell them. I talked to Dad first, since he answered. He was very nice about it. Mother didn't know quite what to say, I think. But I think I'll have to let them get over this blow before I hit them with our Dec. plans!

Rick that reminds me, how much have you told your parents? The only reason I'm wondering is that I have to write them a letter and I don't want to ignore it nor do I want to refer to something they don't know yet. Remember that green coat I left at your house last June? It's still there! I forgot all about it until I got ready for school.

It was so good to talk to you on the phone last night. It seemed so long since I had talked to you last. It was wonderful to hear your voice. How did you come out moneywise?

I got two letters from you today, one written the 12th and one the 14th. Both were postmarked 10:30 a.m., Monday the 16th. Did you realize this? They were such lovely letters. I don't know whether it was just me or what, but you know you sounded more like your old self in those letters than you have for several weeks. It really made me feel good and I promise to not "spout off" at the army and what they do anymore. I imagine things are different and if you say it isn't so bad, OK, I'll take your word.

By the way, I did get my shower last night. Right after the dorm meeting they came in after me. I think the whole floor was there! They put me in the shower and then a bathtub full of water! Cold, of course!

Well Rick, its 12 o'clock and I guess I should be saying good night. Take care of yourself. I love you very much.

With all my love,

Carole

(the future Mrs. Wilcox!)

 

P.S. I will write just as often as I can but I don't know, the way the work keeps coming in!

 

Carole's September 18, 1963, letter to me:

 

Just took a shower after finishing my studies and now I, of course, must write a few lines to that extra special person in my life. Before I forget again, sure, it's okay to pay just the twenty-five dollars next month. I told you before you didn't even have to pay any if you need the money yourself. I won't need it until January. I'll be getting over one hundred and fifty dollars at that time anyway with my checks from the [Indiana] toll road [summer job] and from the library [part-time job at the college]. So go ahead and keep it. [Carole had loaned me some money prior to my draft.]

I received your letter today, which you wrote after our phone call. I also got a very lovely letter from your mother. She's so sweet. I like her so very much. I'm so very happy to be getting such wonderful in-laws.

Still, when I think of our wedding being in December only three months away my head swims. As I said before, it still seems too wonderful to be true and to be so close at hand. But gradually, pretty quickly, my "noggin" is getting used to the idea. Don't misunderstand me, Rick, I'm not scared or it's not that I don't want to get married then, I do want to, very much so. I'll be extremely disappointed if something should come up to prevent it, but I can't think of a thing that could, thank goodness! As you said, we can keep it secret if we have to.

Yes, I'll see Dean Sanford as soon as possible. I knew when I first started thinking about the kind of wedding I'd like to have (and it was before you gave me the ring) that you would have Phil [my brother] be best man. I want him to be too. As to who should be our maid of honor, I have two girls in mind, but I think now I've decided on one. I would like to have either Irene [Rundell] or Margaret, she's the girl I was maid of honor for. However, I do think I would rather have Irene because you know her too and Phil and Irene have always been and always will be good friends of ours. What do you think?

Rick, I hope you agree with me on this and I think you will, but don't be afraid to disagree. I would like to have just a small family wedding in a church, of course. I would like just our immediate families and grandparents there and perhaps a few close friends, but I don't know where to draw the line on those few close friends so it may be better to stick to the families.

I have several reasons for wanting it this way. One of the most important ones is that to me a wedding ceremony is a close, intimate, personal thing and not a "public style show." Some people may think it's very nice to have all their relatives and friends there and it is nice to some extent, but to me it's not that important. The only important thing to me is that I will be marrying you and it doesn't take a church full of people to do that. If I did have a church full of people watching, I'd be nervous. I don't want that. I just want to concentrate my whole soul and body on uniting with you. I used to dream of a big church wedding until I was in Margaret's and then I could see what a physical and nervous strain it was. Ever since then I've dreamed of a small family wedding. Another reason is my practical mindedness.

I cannot see spending all that money, especially one hundred dollars or more on a traditional wedding gown. I could never see putting that much money into a dress you wear for a twenty-minute ceremony and then stick into a closet to yellow.

I would like to get a white wool sheath dress to wear for our wedding that you especially like and that I will be able to wear on other occasions, only with you, however. I will never wear it unless I am going with you. I think I'll use the rest of the money Grandma and Grandpa [Vesta and Rolfe Taylor] gave me to buy it. They've been so good to both of us. If you're wondering why I didn't choose one of my sisters for maid of honor, I feel it's impossible to choose just one because they are both so close in age. I'm sure the other one would feel hurt. I don't want that, and with a small wedding, one couple standing up for us is all I want.

Now as to place, in some ways it would be nice to have it in my home church, but I would rather have it held here in Adrian, because this is where we met, fell in love, and grew up together. I feel our lives are here and this is the place where we should be married. As chaplain of our college and because he is so nice, I'd like to have Dr. Emrick perform the ceremony. What do you say?

Would you like to have our wedding on a Saturday or Sunday? I think I've heard Grandma say that everyone (themselves, my folks, and Aunt Susie) in our family were married on a Sunday and she'd like to see the tradition kept. To me, it doesn't matter what day it is just so we are married some time. In some ways, I like Saturday better because then we could go to church the next day as Mr. and Mrs. and worship God to show our thanks.

Now one more thing, I believe I would like to have a double ring ceremony. I would like to give you a symbol of our union and never-ending love, also. Do you have any way of finding out your ring size for me? If not, maybe I can send you a ring size measurer out of some catalog.

I guess that's all about the wedding plans I've thought out so far. If I've forgotten anything, I'll let you know later. Let me know honestly what you think about them and suggest anything else if you want to.

I'm still staring at the ring. It is sure hard to study and pay attention in class, but I'll settle down after a while, maybe. Walt Radike heard the news elsewhere as he came up to me and said, "You have something I should see." He congratulated me and then said that he should congratulate me for finally bringing you around to doing it. Ha! Ha! John Sweet came up to me as I had just gone through the line tonight (dining hall) and asked if you had graduated. He had thought you had one more year, but he kept seeing me alone and wondered. I told him you had been drafted and then showed him the ring too! He gave us his congratulations also. Everyone has, in fact. Lee was cute. He said, "I knew but I didn't tell anyone." He was working in the library with me today. Did Don Turner know too? He has a class in N320 right after my accounting so I usually see him and today he asked to see it.

Guess I'd better be starting to taper off on this letter if I'm going to send you some blank sheets too!

 

Sigma-Sigma-Sigma is having a slumber party Friday night, but Jan and I have a notion not to go since you don't get much sleep and both of us have very much to do, so we probably won't.

I love you!

I gather you've written to my folks about December. In that case I should be hearing from them very soon! I'm sure they will go along with us.

 

[I agreed fully with Carole regarding her wedding plans. I too wanted a small wedding and to be married in Adrian.]

 

Carole’s September 19, 1963, letter to my parents:

 

Thank you, Mrs. Wilcox, for your very lovely letter. It was good to hear from you folks again. I miss it this year since Rick is not here to tell me the news from Ferndale.

I was surprised, but of course extremely happy to receive the ring from Rick Monday. It is very beautiful and I do hope you will be here soon to see it. I may be prejudiced, but I think it's the most beautiful engagement ring a girl ever received. I still find it hard to concentrate on my studies without looking at it.

I consider myself a very lucky girl to be engaged to someone as wonderful as Rick. I know I could never find a better man than he. Thank you for raising such a fine son. I will always do my best to make him happy.

I also consider myself very lucky to be marrying into such a wonderful family. You have already made me feel like a member of the family and now I really will be. That makes me very happy. I couldn't ask for a nicer pair of in-laws.

And now, at long last, I will have a brother! You mentioned Phil's new job. Rick hasn't said anything about it in his letters. What kind of job is it? I'm glad he's in something he likes. Did you know that Rick called me Monday night? It was about 9:30 p.m. It was so good to hear his voice again and to talk to him. He said they were easing up some in the evenings so he could go to bed earlier, which I was glad to hear. We, of course, talked about our December plans. Tomorrow I have an appointment to see the dean of women about it. I hope it will not affect my loan or scholarship for next semester.

I can see this is going to be a very busy year for me. I will not be doing my student teaching until second semester, but I am anxious to begin. I observed and participated in the first week of school at home [Niles, MI] with a third-grade teacher and enjoyed it very much. I wish I could go back and do my teaching under her. This semester I am taking History, Problems of Education, Essentials of Art (for elementary teachers), Modern Grammar, American National Government, and Accounting. Guess who requested I take that last course! I do think I will enjoy it very much, at least so far. I am also working in the library again this year, eleven and a half hours a week. It is such a pleasure to work in such a lovely building.

Homecoming is October 12 this year. Will you be able to come down for it this year? I know you've always been here before for it and it would be all right too. I am anxious to see you again. [Mom and Dad did come for homecoming and took Carole out for dinner.] Oh, I almost forgot again. I think I left my green raincoat at your house last June. I forgot about it until I got ready for school. I think it was in the back bedroom closet. You can just bring it with you when you come. Hope to see you soon.

 

 [As mentioned Carole's parents, Bryce B. and Lucille Louise Taylor were dissatisfied that she planned to marry me before she graduated from Adrian College. They wanted her to marry me when I was employed in the States. Carole told me what she said addressing this issue, but I can't remember her exact words. She made it clear that this was her decision and no one could change her mind. She would marry Rick that December. She was determined. She did explain the financial benefit and the fact that she wanted to live with me wherever I was stationed. Her parents did come to accept our decision. Carole and I communicated back and forth in reference to the wedding in December. She did pretty much all of the necessary tasks for our wedding. Eventually we decided that the wedding on Adrian College campus or at Adrian's Methodist church was not a good idea for family members. I picked the date of December 22, 1963, since I thought this would be a date that I would definitely be home. Carole wrote that her parents wanted our wedding to be in the family church, Wesley United Methodist Church in Niles, Michigan, on December 21. The reason for this is that Carole's great-grandparents, Cora Edith Fellows and Artemus Daniel Bartholomew, were married there on December 21, 1892. Carole thought we needed to be agreeable on this issue.]

 

September I wrote to Dad, You mentioned in yesterday's letter that all of you would like to see me before leaving for Fort Polk. Well, I would like to see you two and Carole. Next weekend looks like the last opportunity to do this before Christmas. The following weekend I should be on my way to Fort Polk in Louisiana for eight to nine weeks. I'm in infantry, but that doesn't mean I will be just a soldier. I may have a desk job in the division of infantry, which I'm really hoping for. So if we plan anything it will have to be next weekend. What do you think? I'm almost positive I can get a pass, but I will check either tonight or tomorrow. I will call you two Tuesday night around 9:15 p.m. I hope you get this letter Tuesday. I sure would like to see Carole and you two before I'm shipped out. I know Carole would enjoy it too. I hope we can work something out!

It happened! I believe Carole, Mom, and Dad arrived late Saturday morning. We were together for close to twenty-four hours. We had dinner, and then Mom and Dad retired early to a nearby motel. Carole had a separate room, and I stayed with my parents. Carole and I spent a few hours together in her room. I talked about my military life, and she about Adrian College and our upcoming wedding. I was confident that I would be home in time for the wedding. When it was getting late I knew we needed to say goodbye for the night. We hugged and kissed and said to each other, "I love you and sleep well." Sunday morning came. We had breakfast and then the three of them took me back to Ft. Knox and went home. Carole was back at school Sunday evening, ready for Monday morning, and the same for Dad back to work. It was hard to see the three of them leaving me, but I knew I had to get back to my life in the U.S. Army. I knew the special day of our wedding would come.

 

Sunday, October 6, 1963, letter to Mom and Dad:

 

It's 3:00 p.m. and we are still here. I may be going out any time (to Ft. Polk). I have been thinking about the wonderful past twenty-four hours, and I sure had a good time. I hated to see all of you go, but I know we have to do this and soon we will be together again. I wish you didn't have the long drive ahead of you, but before you know it, all of you will be home. My prayer is for a safe arrival.

Mom and Dad, you don't realize how much of a "lift" I received these last twenty-four hours. I sure appreciate your long drive to come here to bring Carole and to see me. I know you sacrificed other activities for this and it was a tiring drive, but I appreciate it. I just can't express how grateful I am for your trip. It was so good to see you two again and Carole. It was also so nice being alone with Carole and talking with her with her head on my shoulder. Thank you for your understanding of our own personal desires to be alone. Carole and I think very highly of you two and we are very proud to call you parents and parents-in law. Carole certainly is thankful to you two for the opportunity to be together, even though it was short. It was so good just being a civilian once again and seeing all of you. Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for you two will never realize the wonderful effect it had on me seeing you three. I hope something can be worked out for Thanksgiving.

Shortly after this Sunday I was sent to Ft. Polk in Louisiana. My next training was in government administration. I was glad that I would have an administration job. Again, when I reached Ft. Polk I was too late to be a part of a group unit and therefore had another zero week. I was disappointed since that meant I had to be at the base for nine weeks instead of eight. Life was much better since almost all the training was inside. Near the end of the nine weeks we got our orders regarding our position and where we were going. I was to go to Germany. A lot of the other men had stateside assignments. I was disappointed because I didn't want to go overseas. However, when Carole and I were in Germany I was very thankful that it had worked out this way. This was a big benefit that I could not have foreseen. Sometimes when the situation doesn't look good, there is a rainbow waiting for you. We can't see God working in the background. That is why we need to praise God in all situations. He is awesome!

My activity during free time at Ft. Knox and Ft. Polk was reading books and writing letters. I would go to the library on base and read books that Mom would send me or books from this library. I enjoyed reading about other people and fiction stories tied to American history. The library had very few people, and I felt safe from being interrupted from a command for work duty such as in the yard or in the mess hall. I wrote many letters to Carole, Mom and Dad, and Carole's grandparents. When I visited Carole during the summers, I would always stay across the street from Carole's house at the Taylor grandparents. I would go to bed late and they would wake me up for an early breakfast by turning up their record player/radio very loud. I was amazed that they could bear the loud sound. When they heard me, they would turn the radio off. They wanted me to have breakfast early since they probably realized that once Carole was up they wouldn't see me until a mealtime with the others. Carole's grandparents were very special! They wanted time with just me and took an interest in me. We had good conversations. I got the impression they really liked me, and were interested in knowing more about me and my family. I enjoyed these mornings with them even though I was always very tired.