From 1976-1991 (mostly) I wrote a series of humorous essays for engaged couples at my church. I am going to start sharing revised versions of them with my audience here. Forgive me if I offend anyone and those of you who aren’t from my church, sorry if this is a little too inside.
This is the story of Tom and Mary, two kids growing up in the Heartland (don’t worry, things are working out better for them).
This was originally written in 1980, and we hope that it brings back some good memories for everyone. The original was dedicated Joan Endress and Cheryl Knoblauch, who were among a group of sisters who were sitting at a table together at dinner the young Peoria brothers prepared for the sisters. If you want to know why, you’ll have to wait until the end of this.
On June 18, 1958, a Mortonite scanned the fields near Morton to find his attackers. President Eisenhower called Sherman Adams’ action “imprudent”, but Ike needed him. Lebanese rebels took over a Beruit prison and passage was expected on a series of aid bills by Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, June 18, 1958, Mrs. Fred Rieker of 400 E. Forest Hill in Peoria gave birth to a baby daughter, Mary Sue.
Why did they name her Mary Sue?
They couldn’t think of any other name.
On Feb. 4, 1960, Vice President Nixon cast the key vote in killing a school aid bill, the past of an area housewife tripped her up in hiding her role in a burglary in Havana, the rail unions agreed to go to arbitration, and highway construction lagged in every Illinois county except Cook.
The birth rate didn’t lag in Woodford County, because that’s where Tom Sauder would live. He was born in Peoria on Feb. 4, 1960.
Feb, 4? Oh Tom, you’re in trouble.
Yeah, Feb. 4 is Steve Joos’ birthday.
Now that we’ve got Rieker here and Sauder stigmatized for life, let’s talk about their lives. Well, Mary grew up as the only girl in a family for four. Tom grew up in Roanoke, so we don’t know how many brothers and sisters he had.
Give us an estimate.
With all the Sauders in Roanoke?
Tell us about Mary’s family.
Well, Mary’s dad went into the tire business. He wanted people to tread on him.
His politics aren’t radical, but his tires are radial.
What kind of tires does Fred sell?
Well, well, at least he sells, he sells, fine tires.
Fred’s the type of dealer Harvey Firestone would be proud of.
Hey Tom, what do you think of the book so far?
I don’t see how he gets any laughs.
Tom’s Mary’s older brother. So’s Mike and Jim. Tom, Mike and Mary are nice kids. So’s Jim, sometimes.
Well, you’d be ornery once in a while if you had to pose for a family picture in this checkered suit and white tie.
Mary’s mom is the sister of Dr. Miller’s wife and Chuck Hammer’s wife.
Betty and Marian?
Did Betty Woerner?
About this? Oh no, Betty doesn’t have any kids old enough to get married.
Did Marian Woerner?
About this? No, I didn’t do one of Steve and Jane.
I think we’ll see Norma Woerner.
You better believe it. Six times, as a matter of fact.
You think this is funny, huh Sauder? Wait until we get you into the church, then it will be Mary’s turn to laugh, Mary’s turn to laaa-sugh.
What are you doing? Buzzing Sauder or singing?
Let’s go to the serious relief. Mary and Tom both grew up and soon, they reached the age of accountability. It became apparent that they had to change their lives. Many of Mary’s relatives, including repented at an early age. Mary repented in late 1971 and was baptized on April 16, 1972. Tom also saw his need and was taken up after repenting of his sins and finding peace with God.
Now, before we continue with this story, I should voice my objections to any sister marrying any brother (or vice-versa) born on Feb. 4, especially after 1955.
Well, when Mary was sitting in study hall during her freshman year of high school, I’m sure she saw that she saw that strange guy from church sitting in study hall writing short stories. I’m sure that she knew then and there that people born on Feb. 4 were offbeat.
Yes, but while you were writing short stories, Tom was figuring out interest.
In the seventh grade?
Tom went into the banking business. Ah, you thought that he would be in the furniture business with a name like Sauder. No, Tom’s a banker.
No, actually it only holds my interest for five and a quarter minutes.
That’s worse than Mary’s father wanting people to tread on him.
You better believe it. I can found more excitement at a savings and loan.
Better interest rates, too.
In banking, Tom would vault to the forefront.
There’s also no Jimmy Stewart imitation to break the ice, either.
That’s all right. The ice was never that thin to begin with.
After a while, Tom and the rest of the Roanoke Young Group started running around with the Peoria Young Group. Does that include Som Tauder?
I think you’re getting ahead of things. Yes, that included Tom Sauder.
Does Peoria include Mary Rieker?
Last time I checked, it did.
Ahh, the Peoria and Roanoke Young Groups kept getting together. Going to singings, picnics, church trips, ski trips. Having old-rime pictures taken.
In Colorado, on ski trips.
5o what are you leading up to?
There were weddings between the Peoria and Roanoke Young Groups.
Don’t you think this is a little early? I mean, it’s amazing that you think that all that can be said about the Peoria and Roanoke Young Groups has been said in four pages. EVERYTHING about the Peoria and Roanoke Young Groups is in these four pages.
You are wrong volleyball breath!
There were other weddings between Peoria and Roanoke. Randy Feucht and Carol Barth, Julie Hoerr and Jim Barth.
So much for the Barth family. Now, how about the rest of Roanoke, if you please?
Well, in January, the brothers in Peoria had dinner for the sisters. Some of the sisters got to talking about marriage.
Could be trouble.
A few of them said that maybe the sisters had as much perogative to ask for a brother as the brother did to ask for a sister.
Are you sure?
Oh, they just got to talking about marriage.
I know, but that could be trouble.
What do you have to worry about, Bob?
Getting back to the point, some of the sisters got to talking about marriage, but nobody really thought much about getting married.
Anyway, let’s get back to the Roanoke connection. As time went by, Som, er Tom got to know Mary better. You know what that means, don’t you? Of course, Tom’s love grew.
He prayed about marriage, thought about marriage and finally, the answer came.
Tom took his proposal to Don Sauder, the elder at Roanoke.
Don took Tom’s proposal to Roy Sauder, the elder at Peoria.
Roy took Tom’s proposal to Mary Sauder, the sister in question.
Hold it, hold it.
You’re getting ahead of yourself again. Mary’s a Rieker.
Aw, just because she’s Tom and Jim’s sister, doesn’t mean she’s all that bad.
No, no, she won’t be a Sauder until after the wedding.
She accepted the proposal?
Good, good. MAY WE SING FROM NUMBER 212 PLEASE? TWO HUNDRED AND TWELVE?
What’s that supposed to be?
No, that’s Joey Herman.
This is really getting ridiculous. I mean, Jeanne Haefli said that she just about fell off her chair, but she didn’t seem too surprised.
Well, you know something, don’t you?
Tom got married five years after Mike got married.
Mary’s getting married four years after Tom.
In three years, some sister could get Jim (Jane Leuthold please take note). The Lord willing, of course.
Speaking of weddings, you didn’t give the pertinent dates.
They were announced Feb. 24, and will be married June 1.
Then we don’t have much time.
To save Mary.
From marrying a guy with the same birthday as Steve Joos!
What are we going to do?
You haven’t seen Tom drool over the Peoria section of the Silver Lining?
I understand he never gets past the correspondents’ by-lines.
Whenever he gets lost with his friends on the North side of Peoria, he always goes over to Cody Court.
Not always when he gets lost. It’s frustrating, too. Ben Leman doesn’t always want to talk tires with Fred.
Tom’s car is on automatic pilot. Programmed straight to Peoria.
Going over to Peoria, huh Tom?
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Tom’s ever gotten out some old records and added new words.
“Mary Sue, Mary Sue, pretty, pretty, pretty Mary Sue.”
How about “Well, hello Mary Sue; Goodbye heart! Sweet Mary Sue, I’m so in over you.”
Well, I hope I haven’t offended anyone tonight. Mary won’t get along with her brothers for a while, but then again I’m a little more sure of myself this time. Besides, wait’ll you see what I’ve got in store for Jim. I do wish you’d reconsider. Remember, he’s got the same birthdate as I do. Oh well, I do wish you the Lord’s blessings in your new walk of life. Good night.
Before we get back to our original text, I have some extra items that in some ways need explaining. Consider these extras that weren’t in the original, like my aside about Jim’s Jane and something I should have added to the part about Tom’s reworked record collection (“Oh no! Not the deejay jokes again!”).
There is also this:
You know, on Feb. 4, 1960, I got a Terrytoons cartoon form, a Casper the Friendly Ghost velcro scene and a oy gas station.
Well, Tom’s mom got a better gift than those.
Better than a toy John Deere tractor?
Better than a toy International Harvester tractor?
Better than that,
Tom’s folks were converted when he was born, right?
So what would his mom want with a toy police car where if you spin the wheels, the two policemen shoot at the bad guys?
She had a little boy. Tom.
Tom was little once?
Now, back to the original (you have been warned).
I stand corrected. The name Rieker is not spelled Reiker.
That’s not the first time I’ve heard that. It’s usually Brother Reiger.
No, Brother Reifer.
Tonight, we have a visitor from the east, er, southwest, well more like the south and west along the river. He has no supernatural or paranormal powers, but he will be able to see the answers to these questions. No one has seen them and they have been hermetically sealed since the Sunday Tom and Mary were announced in a mayonnaise jar on Joe Aschelman’s back porch and he will see the answers. Here is the first envelope.
Ask a friend about Firestone.
Ask a friend about Firestone.
I said that, ask a friend about Firestone. (Opens envelope) How do you make Tom Sauder blush?
Five and one-quarter percent.
Five and one-quarter percent.
I said that, five and one-quarter percent. (Opens envelope) What other thing caught Mary Rieker’s interest at the Roanoke National Bank?
Jokes not going over very well.
So that’s his excuse.
So that’s his excuse.
(Opens envelope) What do the sisters at the lunch table in Peoria say when Tom Sauder says he comes there for the rolls?
I said that, Norma Worner. (Opens envelope) What did Fred Rieker tell his wife when Mary got announced?
Are you done yet?
No, I’m just getting started.
Did you know that Tom Sauder gets butterflies in his stomach whenever he has to pray in the little kids’ Sunday School class in Peoria?
I don’t know.
Explain the dedication.
Well, last January, I sat at the same table with these seven sisters and Joan and Cheryl are the only ones I hadn’t dedicated books to.
OK, I just remembered something.
Five of those sisters are still available.
Do you want to know the real reason why Tom’s marrying Mary?
Not another one of these.
He couldn’t think of any other sisters born in 1958.
It’s starting to get to him. The other day, Tom co-signed a loan “Mary”.
Did the other party Sue?
You said it again. Tom’s melting.
Mary Rieker opened an account at the Roanoke National Bank.
She got five-and-one quarter percent interest.
Compounded daily and added quarterly.
She also got the banker.
Along with a calendar, piggy bank, shoe horn and window scrapper.
Don’t forget the coin purse.
Yeah, but the bride’s family is supposed to provide the dowry.
You call four steel-belted radials a dowry?
They’ll look good on the car.
Now what’s this about sitting at a table with five sisters?
No, there were seven sisters. One’s married and the other’s engaged.
And five are still eligible.
Ah ha ha Steve.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. You know any brothers who might be interested? One of them was Diane Hohulin. Now come on Tim Roecker, get back here.
One’s Jeanne Haefli.
There’s gotta be somebody out there for Jeannie. I mean, I didn’t butter all that bread and make all those sundaes so you could tease me about her. C’mon, surely there’s a lonely Morris brother who’d be interested.
Keep checking Francesville.
She’s got three brothers-in-law out there. Surely there’s a husband.
Sherri and Joan.
At least all my dedications are taken care of.
What about Tim Funk?
Hadn’t thought of him. Besides, Deb Feucht didn’t sit at that table.
I’m trying to get out of marriage jokes and he’s doing Gary Unsicker.