Off Beat: Newlyweds’ practical joke takes the cake, out of their mouths

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After 70 years, a Vancouver bride and groom finally got to enjoy their slices of wedding cake.

And the policeman who interrupted the proceedings this time was packing a pardon.

It all was part of the reception when Phil and Helen Arnold celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Jan. 23.

Their seven decades together started in hectic fashion, with the “arrest” of the happy couple. It was a real policeman who barged into their wedding reception on Jan. 23, 1941, just as they were cutting the wedding cake. But the staged arrest actually was part of a plan to let Phil and Helen get a head start on their honeymoon.

“My husband-to-be was (and still is) a trickster,” Helen wrote back in March for one of The Columbian’s “Everybody Has a Story” segments.

Phil, a longtime cartographer who is still making maps at the age of 95, had pulled a few pranks when his friends were married.

The Arnolds were afraid those guys were eager for revenge and might be plotting something to mess up their honeymoon getaway.

With a firm hand on each of their shoulders, the officer escorted the Arnolds out of the reception hall in the church basement, put them his police car and drove off.

By the time people realized that the cop was actually a neighbor, Helen and Phil were on a train to Seattle.

There was an echo of that event during the Arnolds’ anniversary reception earlier this month at the Vancouver Barracks Red Cross building.

After the Arnolds renewed their vows, another officer — accompanied by a state trooper — walked in. He presented the Arnolds with a Vancouver Police Department pardon for all the practical jokes Phil had pulled during the last 70 years.

A 70-year wait

And then it was time for some unfinished business — a bit of wedding ritual that was 70 years in the making.

“We finally got our cake. We got whisked away last time,” Helen said. More than 100 family members, friends and other guests enjoyed the four-flavor creation.

Helen had a slice of chocolate cake; Phil had banana.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.