“You must bring a witness in before I can issue you a marriage license,” the gal in the courthouse window said.
Ross and I looked at each other. We were just dumbfounded. What kind of state was this, that required a witness to attest to our character and moral development? We were in our 20s, college graduates and eager to get married. And we didn’t know anyone in Vancouver that late August day.
We were introduced nine months earlier at Utah State University by my roommate, who was student teaching with Ross. I chose to sign a contract to teach kindergarten with the Portland School District and Ross was still looking for a job. We had decided to carry on the tradition of our parents in eloping to get married — with a twist. Both sets of parents knew what we were doing and offered their blessing. Ross’ parents had met in Pennsylvania and married in Kentucky; my parents had been high school sweethearts in Colorado and married in New Mexico.
We had tried to find an apartment in North Portland near the school where I would be teaching, but after several days of looking without success, Ross said, “We’re going to Vancouver.”
Having not looked at the map, I thought it was a long ways away. A quick drive over the bridge and we had no problem finding something we could afford on Evergreen Boulevard. Now all we needed was to get the marriage license. Piece of cake. Ha ha.
We stood outside the courthouse wondering what to do. I knew I had an uncle in Portland, but I had never met him and wasn’t sure he would come to Vancouver to help. Do we walk up to a stranger on the street and ask? We hadn’t had an opportunity to go to church yet.
Then Ross suggested we go back to the apartment we had just rented and ask the landlady if she could help. She was delighted and very willing to go back to the courthouse to sign the requisite paper so the license could be issued. I wish I could remember her name.
We have been married more than 50 years. Not sure that rule is still in place for the state of Washington, but we are grateful that an almost-stranger was willing to sign a document that allowed us to get the marriage license.
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