Thursday, March 3, 2011

November 10, 1945 - Memories from a Member of the Wedding

Here is another wonderful article written by Donna (Quien)Osen who grew up in our old house. Donna and Mary Jane are granddaughters of the second owners Thomas and Maren Quien. The Quien family members owned our old house from December 1917 until April 2007--90 years!

As you read Donna's story below, keep in mind her sister Mary Jane's wedding date was November 10th, and the mother of the bride's birthday was November 10th, and by golly--as the third owner of this old house I'm proud to tell you my birthday is also November 10th.

Above: The Bride to Be, Mary Jane Quien

"Memories from a Member of the Wedding", by Donna Osen Quien.

The summer of 1945 was a bitter-sweet time for many families. The war in Europe had just ended, but battles were still raging in the Pacific. Troop ships were arriving daily, trains were rolling across the country bringing the military men and woman home to joyful reunions, but there was sadness too when a gold star hung in the window.

In our family we had concern for my sister’s fiancĂ© someplace in the Pacific, but were cheered by the belief that the end of the war with Japan was imminent and that Ed would be safely home soon.

Mary Jane Quien and Edward Fossum met at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota when she was a sophomore and he a junior. They were a steady couple from then on. Ed was from Estherville Iowa, but managed a trip up to Wisconsin each summer usually between the pea and corn canning season at the factory where he was employed. From his earnings he was able to buy a diamond ring for Mary Jane.

When Ed graduated in 1942, furious fighting was going on in the Pacific in several areas in the war with Japan. Patriotic young men everywhere were leaving school, jobs and homes to go off to war. He was sent to Officer candidate school in Virginia with other promising college graduates. Mary Jane, as many other girlfriends and wives did, went out to Quantico to spend Christmas 1942 with him before he was “shipped out” the following spring. V-mail and long letters from remote islands in the Pacific filled Mary Jane’s mailbox for the next 2-1/2 years. Because of the censorship, no one knew exactly where anyone out there really was.

In the meantime, Mary Jane graduated from college, and took a job teaching biology and girls’ physical education at Neillsville High School for the next two years.

At Easter of 1945, Ed had ordered a corsage of sweetheart roses to be sent to Mary Jane to wear to church that day. But because of some glitch, it didn’t arrive until Mother’s Day. Since she wasn’t a mother or about to be, she wouldn’t wear it so our mother reaped the benefits.

During the summer of 1945 wedding plans were in the air and wedding preparations had to be made. The world rejoiced again when VJ Day arrived on August 11. We were all confident that Ed would soon be home safely, but we didn’t know exactly when. Nonetheless, my mother immediately started saving sugar stamps for the wedding cake and ration points for other things we’d need.

Outside of Mary Jane, who had visited them, the rest of us had never met the Fossums from Estherville. Concerned about what they might think of us, we decided we’d better fix up the house. We began by having many of the rooms re-wallpapered. Mrs. Carr, a large woman but nimble on a step ladder came to do it for us. But even more important we felt we needed to install indoor plumbing or “waterworks” as my dad called it. While we had a very nice roomy house, it was built in 1893 and didn’t have all the amenities.

So the plumber came with his willow wand and found the water source while we decided that the pantry was to become the new bathroom. But first the dirt floor cellar had to be enlarged to become a basement. So Dad, Mary Jane and I started digging out. First, some of the large rocks in the foundation had to be pulled out by tractor which I usually drove, because Mary Jane was “squeamish” about driving anything when Dad was around. She had had an unfortunate incident when she was learning to drive, accidentally putting the car in reverse and pinning him against the house. No one was hurt except her pride.

Well, we shoveled and dug and dug and shoveled and finally were on the way to having a bathroom! However, things were still in short supply and we sometimes had to wait weeks for the fixtures. In fact, we didn’t even have a bathtub by the time of the wedding.

Meanwhile, Mary Jane was busy sewing her wedding dress from some damask patterned white satin, and made a trip to Milwaukee to look for attendant’s dresses. Lots of item were still not back in the stores, but she did come home with some pretty cornflower blue faille dresses, unfortunately, one of them had been in a window display for some time and the sun had faded one shoulder and sleeve. Since I was “family” and the other two attendants Charlotte and Peggy were not, it was decided that I would have the “faded streak dress”. We sort of doctored it up with some blue chalk.

Well, things were shaping up and we had the dresses and sort of a bathroom, but no bridegroom yet. Finally, in late October, a message arrived saying Edward would soon be home and would have three weeks before his next assignment which would be back in Quantico, Virginia.
So now things really flew into high gear.

The wedding date was set for Saturday November 10, which was also Mother’s 49th birthday. Invitations were hurriedly issued, cakes and cookies were baked for the reception which was to be in the church “parlor” or basement following the evening candlelight ceremony.

I was able to get a day off from my teaching job in DePere to come home and help out. The Iowa guests arrived and they were all no nice. They just pitched right in and helped with things too.

Most of Ed’s friend hadn’t been mustered out of the service yet so were unable to attend, but cousins and others filled in as attendants. Our house was bulging with people for meals and overnight, but it was all so much fun. Our neighbors, friends and relatives provided beds for some of the guests.

I remember Marietta (a cousin) sitting up in the west bedroom making last minute adjustments on the wedding veil. I remember too, leaving all the supper dishes on the table so we could get to the wedding on time. I remember the best man was named Bob, ( I don’t know his last name) He was very nice but older and a little bald. Ed wore his dress blues and looked very handsome.

At the reception two of Mary Jane’s high school friends set out the food for the receptions which followed. I remember mother and aunt Gusta being upset that they put out plates with a slice of ice cream and two small cookies instead of having large plates of associated cookies so guests could help themselves to as many as they wanted. The guests were mostly relatives and friends from the community because the immediate planning time was so short and also trains and busses were still flood with homecoming troops and gas was still rationed.

After the reception the newlyweds changed, Mary Jane into a black dress and hat and Ed into civilian clothes. They waved goodbye and we wouldn’t see them again for two years.

No pictures had been taken because film was still scarce. Mary Jane and Ed did, however, have a rather formal photo taken the following week in Iowa. The fresh flowers from her wreath were long since gone so some rather stiff artificial ones were substituted, but it was a wedding picture nonetheless.

After a short stay in Iowa and Wisconsin, the young Fossums headed east where they lived in a tiny house at Henderson Island, Virginia.


Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) 11/22/1945
Quien, Mary Jane (Marriage – 10 Nov. 1945)
Word has been received here of the marriage of Miss Mary Jane Quien, former English instructor in the Neillsville high school, to Lieut. Edward L. Fossum. The marriage took place on Saturday, November 10, at the Scandinavian Lutheran church.

The bride wore a gown of brocaded satin with a fitted bodice, a peplum and a full skirt with a short train. She carried a white Bible with satin streamers and white roses.

She was attended by her sister, Miss Donna Quien, as maid of honor, and two former schoolmates, Mrs. Stanley Thompson, Spencer, La., and Miss Peggy Mann of Seneca, Ill., as bridesmaids. The best man was Lloyd Nasby of Estherville, Ia.

After December 1 the couple will make their home at Quantico, Va., where the groom is stationed.


  1. Oh how I love this. I just love to read about the times during WWII, I guess it makes me think of my parents. Isn't it great knowing what went on in your house? I have the wedding picture of my aunt in 1943 standing in the foyer of my home.

  2. Very interesting story. Also the writing is well done. You can almost imagine being there. What a great treasure about your home.

  3. Love the old photo and a wonderful sweet story. Thanks for sharing. Drop by any time. Richard at My Old Historic House.

  4. It's so nice when people leave written documentation of their lives. Although the present always seems mundane in comparison, people in the future will be just as fascinated by our stories... if we take the time to write them down!