I suppose in a way it’s fitting that the photo toward the bottom of this post is the final one from Dad’s photo album.
My siblings will recognize this photo and will know the story behind it as well or better than I do. So this is for the rest of you.
It is necessary to set the stage. Dad didn’t necessarily let on, but he was quite a romantic. Mom, on the other hand, was an intensely practical person. I don’t mean she was in any way uncaring (or even that she wasn’t romantic in her own way)—just that she looked at things from a very practical perspective, and spoke very plainly.
By April 1933, Mom and Dad had been pursuing a romantic relationship for nearly two years (by Dad’s conservative estimate)—ever since Mom returned to Albany after completing nurses’ training. Dad arranged for the two of them to float down the Santiam River on April 23rd, 1933. They put in at Lebanon (bottom right corner of the map below) intending to drift to Jefferson (upper left corner of the map).
When they reached the confluence of the North Santiam and South Santiam (just a bit below Jefferson on the map), Dad steered the boat to the left shore. They got out and climbed a bluff that rises about 100 feet above the river. I think they had a picnic lunch on the bluff, but I may have that detail wrong.
While they were on the bluff, observing how the rivers came together, Dad told Mom he wanted their lives to flow together like those two rivers. Mom replied, “Okay by me.” Mom would never live down her nonchalant response to Dad’s carefully planned and picturesquely symbolic marriage proposal.
Nonchalant though it may have been, it was an acceptance. Mission accomplished, they climbed back down, got into the boat and continued to Jefferson an engaged couple. They would be married less that three months later, on July 9, despite the bank closure that left Dad with no money.
The joke in the family was that what Dad really said to Mom as they floated along was: “Marry me or I’ll push you into the river.” But Mom doesn’t look too concerned in this photo.