The Story Continues


In July of 1946,I finished a six month course at the School of Modern Photography in NYC. One of my fellow students,also a veteran,lived across the river in N. Arlington, N.J. He was opening a Portrait Studio and offered me a job. The pay would be $50.00 a week, which was damn good pay in 1946. So I took him up on it and Jonnie left her Radio Operator's job at LaGuardia and we moved to New Jersey.

It was Portraiture and Weddings,and naturally business was pretty slow. I had joined the N.J. Professional Phtographers Association and became acquainted with a guy who had a studio in East Orange. He specialized in Weddings and Commercial work. In the summer of 1947 he needed another Photographer and offered me a job.   It would pay the same, except it paid another $10.00 for Sunday weddings. My boss was struggling and was more than happy to see me get the opportunity. And thus continued my career in Wedding Photography that would cover approximately 33 years.

My new studio was Ahrend & Fox,  Bill Fox was my boss, Ahrend was no longer with it.  They did specialize in weddings, probably doing upwards of a 1,000 a year.  Some of the Commercial work they did was Year book photos for severl Hi Schools in the area and Seton Hall and Rutgers colleges.  That proved to be interesting work.

In '48 he opened an office in Allentown, Pa. - strictly for weddings.  He also bought a farm in the area and started remodeling the house.  In the summer of '48 I went up to run the Allentown office, and shoot what weddings we booked.  I would also go back to Jersey on  busy weekends to help out.

In the summer of '49 he had completed the house and was ready to move up and take over the Allentown office.  Wanted me to move back to Jersey.  By this time we had two baby girls - 14 months apart.  My Kansas Sunflower and this Dakota boy didn't think N.J. would be the best place to raise our kids.  Told Bill, thanx but no thanx, we're going back to from where we came.


I had a sister living in Des Moines, and that is where we landed.  The studios in D.M. were mostly one man operations, so I had no luck in finding a job in Photography.  A friend of my Sis was a building material sales man.  He knew a Ready Mix Concrete Co. was looking for a Dispatcher, and got me an interview.  I got the job, and for 16 years dispatched ready mix concrete all over Polk County.

It wasn't long until I started shooting weddings for a local studio on weekends.  In 1957 I borrowed $600,00 from my next door neighbor Doctor.  Set up a darkroom in the basement, bought a 4x5 Speed Graphic and started my own Wedding business out of the house.  By '65 business was good enough that I  left the Concrete Co.  Invested in color processing equipment, at the time I was only the 2nd business to do my own color processing. 

Started off by offering color on the formal group photos, but eventually went all color on our weddings.  Using 4x5 kodacolor film, proved to be too costly, so invested in 6 Graflex XL cameras, that used 620  roll film.  I had two school teachers shooting weddings for me on weekends, and we always carried a back-up outfit on weddings, just in case.

In '67 we moved the business out of the house to a commercial location in a small strip mall on one of D.M.'s main Avenues.  Along with the weddings I also did some Commercial work of various kinds.  It was interesting work, and weddings were always interesting, as you never knew what situations you might run into - but they were always happy occasions.  It also provided a good living for us.

By 1979 considering my Air Force time and my own business those 4 dark room walls were starting to close in a bit.  Altho I always enjoyed my work, I figured it might be time to make a change.  Jonnie had 2 sisters living in Denver, and we always enjoyed going out there on vacations.  Sold the studio to one of the teachers and in'80 we moved to Denver.  So ended my Wedding Career, but I would carry many memories with me thru life.

Weddings in the NYC area and the Des Moines, Ia. areas are two entirely different ball games.  Out East the bride dresses at home, takes a limo to the church, takes the limo to the reception.  The reception might be a sit down dinner, champagne affair at a Country Club, Women's Club or Hotel.  It might be a formal affair where the guests - and the photographer - come in formal attire.  On the other hand it might be a beer and balogne sandwich affair at the local Am. Legion Hall.  Depending on the availability of a dance floor, it might have a combo to provide dance music.  As a rule we got the bride & groom in the car shot when leaving the church.  Then after they have cut the cake, had their first dance and the bride has thrown her bouquet, we took our leave.

In the D.M. area 99% of the time the bride dresses at the church; she is married at the church; and the cake & punch reception is at the church.  On rare occasions the reception is at a country club, sit down dinner champagne affair.  You know those are for the rich and famous(?).  Had one at the Wakonda Club one time and took Jonnie with me.  Between photo ops we enjoyed champagne and celery stuffed with cream cheese.  Were'nt too many of those.

On a busy weekend both out East and D.M. on a Sat. - if the timing was right - we could cover 3 weddings.  Morning(for years Catholics had to married at Morning Mass.), afternoon and evening.  You usually had to carry enough supplies for at least 2 of them - hoping to get back to the studio to resupply for a third.  By the time you got home that nite you were beat, botherd and bewildered - there must be an easier way to make a living.

I never did keep count but I expect in 33 years I photographed a few hundred weddings.  There were a few that stuck in my memory for one reason or another.  I will try to recall a few.

The very first wedding I covered in the summer of '46 was a Polish wedding in Kearney, N.J.  The reception was at the American Legion hall.  When I  arrived there was a uniformed, off duty, policeman at each entrance.  When I had a minute, I wandered over and asked one what they were doing at a wedding reception.  I guess I looked kinda young to the guy and he asked if this was my first Polish wedding.  As a matter of fact I told him it was my first wedding, period.  His reply was that these folks can get a bit rowdy, and it helps to have some peacemakers on the scene.  I took the cake shots, the first dance - and I was out of there.  Didn't wait to see the "peacemakers" get in action.

Then there was the garden wedding in the Short Hills area.  This is a rather exclusive area with some rather well-to-do people living.  The wedding was at the brides home, and would take place in the, well landscaped, back yard.  After getting the pre wedding shots of the bride and her attendants, I looked up the groom and his guys.  He was already loaded to the brim.  With some help from the best man, he did make it thru the wedding.  But I'm not sure he knew he was a married man when he sobered up.

One of my buddy photogs had a friend getting married one Sat.  He had already been scheduled for another wedding, so I photographed the friends wedding.  With my buddy's wife in tow.  He would join us when he was done, and I could go home.  The reception was a sit down dinner affair at a restaurant.  I sat down at a table with the wife and a couple of her friends.  I had a beer with my meal.  After the meal they brought a bottle of champagne to each table.  There were only two of us that drank it, so I drank my fair share.  About 9:00 o'clock my buddy showed up.  Nothing would do but I had to have a drink with him  before leaving, had a hi-ball.  That was the first and last time I ever mixed drinks.  To get home I had to drive thru the heart of down town Newark, N.J.  To this day I don't know how I made it, and it was a good thing that I wasn't pulled over by a cop.  Jonnie was not at all happy with the stranger that crawled in bed with her that nite.  She had never seen me drunk, and has never seen me drunk again.  I enjoy a cold one on occasion, even a rum & coke on occasion - but I know my limit.

Montclair and Upper Montclair were two upscale communities in N.J.  They had their fair share of mansions and estates.  I had a Sat. nite wedding in Montclair.  I arrived at the home for the dressing shots.  It was a gated mansion and there was a guard at the gate.  Had my camera and equipment with me, but still had to show my assignment card to get in.  I asked the guard why all the security.  He said there was $200,000 worth of wedding gifts in the house, and they didn't want anybody stealing any.  This was in 1947, you know they were rich people.  In the wedding business you had occasion to mix with that type of folks - but as a photographer you would never join their ranks.

As mentioned before if the timing was right and the locations were right, on a Sat. you could cover 3 weddings.  On the other hand, if not you could spend the whole day on one.  I did have one very long one.

The bride lived in Elizabeth, N. J., was married in the Little Church on 34th St. in Manhattan, and the reception  was on 265th St. in the Bronx.  I started at the brides house at 12:30 PM.  We made our way thru the Holland Tunnel and found the church on 34th St.  Then with some instructions from family members, I found the reception on 265th St.  After the dinner, cake cutting, first dance and throwing the bouquet I finally left at 12:30 AM.  Found my way across the  Hudson River on the Geo. Washington Bridge, and on down to home in N. Arlington.  It was a long day.

Broken families can be a problem.  Included in the formal group photos is one of the bride & groom with her parents by her side and his parents by his side.  If there are any divorces, it can create a prblem.  One or two isn't too bad.  I had one where both parents of both the bride and groom were divorced, and all of them had been remarried.  You figure it out, how many parents group shots  I had.  It runs in my mind there were about 6 to 8 different parents shots.  From the Photographer's point of view,  it would be nice if they would out law divorces.

Weather can always be a factor in weddings.  Rain in the case of an outdoor wedding or reception, can create problems.  Winter time blizzards can do likewise.  In '47 Christmas was on a Thurs.  From Fri. nite to Sun. we had 25 weddings booked.  I started to work Fri. morning and it was snowing, about 4 inches on the ground.  Felt like a good old Dakota snow storm.  Stoped at the  corner gas station and had them put on a  set of chains.  By the time it quit snowing we had 30 inches on the ground.  That weekend my car and the boss' were the only   two cars in operation.  We covered all 25 of those weddings. 

In D.M one weekend while I was still working at the concrete plant, I had a wedding booked for 7:30 Fri. evening.  When I went to work in the morning it was snowing.  By noon it was eveident we were in for a good one.  Normally I would have time to go home, eat dinner, gather up my equipment and get to the church on time.  During lunch time I headed out to the house and got my equipment.  When I left the concrete plant I headed right for the church.  The wedding party and the families did make it; but they were married in front of an almost empty church.  Not very many guests ventured out that nite.  I expect that couple well remembered their anniversary date.

I pretty much stayed in the D.M. area, and as a rule didn't get very far from home.  But now we were within shouting distance from a lot of family in Kansas, Mo., Colo. and Nebr.  There were a pretty good number of neices out there from our two families, and we started traveling to photograph their weddings.  This took us to St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha and Denver.  These were always nice, as they were a family gathering, rather than a business affair, ofcourse, they were not profitable but we loved the opportunity to get together.

I had a Jewish wedding at one of our local synagogues one weekend.  They had a sit down dinner in their club house.  When it got time to toast the Br. & Gr. the best man got up for his toast.  The bride was from D.M. the groom  was from Chicago.  His toast: "this is not a wedding, this is a merger".  Evidently two business families.

In 1975, Sherlyn, one of Jonnie's nieces in Denver got married.  Rather than drive out we flew. We found the cheapest fare on an airline no longer in business. That was in the days of Stapleton Airport in Denver. When we landed, carrying my camera case and another carry-on, headed for the terminal. Discovered why the fare was cheaper - seemed like we walked half way to Denver, it was so far from the terminal. 

The wedding  was quite normal, except another opportunity for a family gathering.  For lunch the day of the wedding Sherlyn's Dad took us to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, I ordered some HOT Mexican chili. Never have ordered it again, it was HOT.