For months Mary Love Lewis and her family and friends had been preparing for the big church wedding scheduled to take place in the Patterson Baptist Church in the afternoon of February 17th, 1946. This was to be the first church wedding since the end of WWII, and it was to be to a Captain in the United States Marine Corps - in his dress blue uniform yet! Mary Love had been working in Washington, D.C. for Mr. J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the war. And had she made a catch!!
The groom and two of his brothers, Lewis and C.W., had arrived on the 14th, and preparations were continuing on the morning of Saturday, the 16th. About midmorning Mary Love and I had walked up to the drug store to arrange for the ice cream for the reception. It being a chilly morning, her sister Ruth's husband, Fred Creighton, built a fire in the stove in the "front room"or parlor. This was a front room facing the street with a bay window and window seat on which many of the wedding presents were displayed.
As we reached the depot a short time later we met sister Ease charging up the street in a car with the horn blaring, and she yelling "FIRE!" As we rounded the depot we could see smoke coming from the house. Being a small town there was no fire equipment to speak of, so most of the effort was toward getting things out. The fire had started from a faulty flue connection between the stove pipe and flue. And the flames had gotten into the attic and roof and spread before it was noticed.
We all joined in trying to save what we could. Brother Lewis and one or two others moved an upright piano out into the street, and later it took six or seven men to load and move it to the Depot. Mary Love charged in and got her wedding dress and some other clothes. As it got hotter and hotter we concentrated on the back rooms. Lewis got an axe from some place and chopped the electric wire going to the kitchen range and sparks flew! Lucky he wasn't electrocuted! I remembered that they had put a new electric water heater in the bathroom which had not yet been connected. So I climbed in the window of the back bedroom and into the bathroom. Flames were licking thru the ceiling as I reached up to tilt the heater toward me so I could drag it out. It was so hot on top that it burned all of my fingers, but I got it out anyway. This same heater was later installed in the new house that Mrs Lewis built and was still in operation when she sold it in 1972, 26 years later!
By this time the place was fully enveloped and all we could do was watch it burn. We hosed down the barn to keep it from going up also. Later in the day the saved stuff was either stored in the barn or the freight depot. Grandma (Mrs. Lewis) and Ann took up residence with son Clyde next door. She had cut or skinned her shin quite badly in the fray and I guess that was the beginning of my reputation with the family for first aid and home remedies. I cleansed and bandaged it and gave her a good jolt of Bourbon. (Doubt if she had ever had a taste of that remedy!)
A quick inventory of the salvaged items revealed that the wedding cake had been burned; most of Mary Love's shoes and hats; her veil had spark holes; but most of the wedding presents were saved. Fortunately due to shortages left over from WWII there were only gift certificates for the China, Crystal and Silver. These were later reproduced by the merchants in Waycross from whom they had been purchased.
After all this Mary Love felt we had to postpone the wedding. But the neighbors would hear nothing of that!
A wedding rehearsal and rehearsal party for that evening went off as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile other neighbors scurried around and brought pound cakes and pieced together and iced a wedding cake. And on the next day, Sunday, February 17th in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Forty Six at sometime between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m.at the altar of the Patterson Baptist Church before the town assembled, Mary Love Lewis and David Wilson Schumaker were joined in Holy matrimony by Cousin Lester Dixon.
He did a good job of it. After fifty four (54) years, four (4) months, and (6) days; three (3) children; and six (6) grand children the bond is as close, or closer than ever!
Writ this 23rd day of June 2000
David W. Schumaker, Sr.
Colonel, USMC, Retired
A HOT TIME IN PATTERSON, GEORGIA
By: David W. Schumaker
Through the ages there have been many ruses and stratagems employed to keep one's spouse from going "home to mother". In my case the home place was burned down!