“Won’t you want the honeymoon suite?”
My bacon was saved! In May 1967, I got a weekend pass and flew home from Selma, Alabama where I was completing flight training with the Air Force, to escort Miss Connie Duncan to the Chi Omega formal. During the weekend, I also convinced her marry me. We settled on a wedding date of August 17th, and I returned to Alabama where I got my wings in June. I returned to Salt Lake for a only a few days before leaving again for Minneapolis for transition training in the Boeing C-97. Thus, Connie made most of the wedding decisions and arrangements, thus sparing me the personal agony of endlessly shopping for and selecting just right dinner ware, table ware, etc. And, I was delighted with all of her choices.
About my only duty was to finalize the details for the honeymoon, including a room for our wedding night. While in Salt Lake, I was on full-time duty with the Utah Air Guard at the SL Airport. A brand new Holiday Inn on the west side of town on the corner of North Temple and Redwood Road seemed an ideal choice, as we were heading to the California coast for our ‘moon. Thus, it came to pass that on my lunch hour I proceeded to aforesaid Inn to make the reservation. Though nearly 26 years old, I was still new to the idea of sharing a room with a woman. With that as a backdrop and dressed in my AF uniform, I walked confidently up to the reservation desk. To my dismay, it was staffed not by mature and discrete adults but by two quite young and not unattractive ladies. I panicked, did an about face and proceeded to the restaurant where I enjoyed lunch. Nothing at the desk had changed as I left, so I just decided to take care of it later.
As we left the Wedding Breakfast following our marriage, Connie indicated she would be busy all afternoon with the last details for the reception and asked, “What are you going to be doing?” She was more than a little chagrined (and probably seriously wondering if she’d just made an overwhelming mistake!) when I responded, “I guess I’ll find us a room for tonight!”
I assumed it would not be a problem on a Thursday night, not realizing that most hotels and motels are busier during the week than on week-ends. Hotel Utah, Little America and all other downtown hotels had the same response to my increasingly anxious calls: “Sorry, we’re booked!” Starting with the listings on west North Temple, my fingers did the walkin’ through the Yellow Pages. I got lucky on my fourth or fifth call with the Se Rancho Motel, located west of the railroad tracks at about 6th West where I-15 now crosses North Temple. “Yes, we have rooms!”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Wanting to be sure he’d hold the room (no Master Card or Visa in those days), I said we’d be arriving quite late as we’d be in a reception all evening. “So, are you getting married?” When I replied in the affirmative, he said the special honeymoon suite was available. “Wow,” I thought, this is indeed the best day of my life!
Connie had planned for this night in a big way. After I assured her that I had belatedly made all appropriate arrangements, her dreams of wedded bliss returned as she envisioned a beautiful bridal suite with a large, mirrored bathroom. Her plan was to change into her beautiful new VaLoy’s nightgown and robe and make sure everything was just right in the mirrors before presenting herself to her new eternal mate.
Alas and alack, the “suite” turned out to be a room about the size of a large, walk-in closet, adorned with a cheesey love seat/sofa, a cheesier tufted chair, embroidered with alternating pink and white rows of hearts and “I Love You”, and finally a small, four-poster bed, that was so high it had me looking around for a ladder or at least a foot stool. Prayer time had our heads truly pointed heavenward. Connie, obviously dismayed, but displaying her grit and being the good sport she has always been, took her suitcase into the bathroom to change. It was so tiny that she had to put the suitcase in the tub to close the door, and the only mirror was the small one over the sink, which at least didn’t shatter along with her dreams!
But, she could not have been more beautiful in a room of splendor with all of the expected accouterments as she walked back into our “suite”. I don’t recall laughing about all of this until at least the next day, but it has brought many a chuckle since.
I do regret not returning there for an anniversary celebration before the Se Rancho was demolished as part of the highway expansion. Marge Hinckley, when asked about what adjustments she made as a new bride to Gordon B. said simply, “Well, I lowered my expectations!” If there was a positive to come out of my ineptitude, it was that Connie lowered her expectations, and that has made all the difference!