Don Whitney - In His Own Words

Engagement and Wedding (June 21, 1947)

"That Spring I started dating a girl I had met at Church around Christmas time. Jan claims she had known me for years, but I had to have Mother introduce me to her at a church dinner. For me, it was an unlikely place to meet — I was not an enthusiastic churchgoer. Shortly after the New Year, Jan gave a party and I was invited. We began to date shortly thereafter...

I took the summer off, and my romance with Jan began to blossom. Our favorite date was to go to the Totem Pole Ballroom, which we did on a regular basis. During one of those Totem Pole dates in early Fall, we took out a canoe during intermission, and it was there that I proposed. Jan said ‘Yes' and we went together to Bigelow Kenard to buy the engagement ring. On October 2, 1946 we became officially engaged at a party given by Jan's folks.

...On Friday afternoon, June 20 (1947), I left work a bit early to start the weekend of my wedding. I remember, as I went out the North Street Gate at AO, the guard stopped me and asked where I was going. I replied that I was off to get married. His response, which I will never forget, was, "Why, you're just a child!"

That Friday evening we had the wedding rehearsal at Central Congregational Church, followed by a dinner for the weeding party at Hartwell Farms, a well known restaurant just north of Waltham. The following morning I awoke to a bright, sunny day. As I was getting out of bed I remember my father saying to me, "This is one of the most important days of your life." There was no disagreement with that statement.

The wedding was held at 4:00 PM, followed by a reception in the church parlors, and then a smaller reception back at Jan's home. The reception in the parlors included the usual receiving line, and though it was rather long, things went smoothly. Back at the house, Walter Burt tasted punch from one of the bowls, and went around telling people to avoid that bowl – there was something wrong with it. Mr. Burt had been a teetotaler all of his life, and I don't think he had ever been exposed to spiked punch.

Jan changed into her going away outfit, the photographer did his thing, and we took off, being chauffeured by Ed Mahoney, my best man. We were chased for a few blocks, but finally lost them and headed for the Ritz Carleton Hotel in Boston, where we spent our first night.

Since I had been with AO less than three months at the time of the wedding, I was told by Laboratory Manager, Byron Ziegler, that the company would allow me to take a week off without pay. He added, however, that if we would settle for three days, then the company would pay me for the entire week. Our financial situation was such that there was little choice – I took three days off from work.

After our first night's stay in Boston, we boarded the train for New York City. Because of my previous experience with trying to get a hotel room in New York, I had decided to take no chances. I made reservations at five hotels many months in advance, telling each of them that I was on my honeymoon and wanted nice accommodations. As the time approached, I relinquished all but two of them. Guided by the AAA Handbook, I selected the McAlpin in Herald Square, and the Biltmore near Grand Central as a second choice. It was mid afternoon when we arrived in New Your, and we took a taxi directly to the McAlpin. The lobby was jammed full, and it was a while before the desk clerk checked us in. Finally, a bellboy escorted us to a room on the second floor, and when he opened the door, I couldn't believe what I saw. There was an old metal bed in the middle of a very small room, with a bare bulb lamp hanging from the ceiling. The room was dirty and generally deplorable. I looked at Jan in dismay, and she indicated that it would be ok – she said we s\wouldn't be spending all our time here. I said we wouldn't be spending any of our time her if I could help it, and asked her to wait in the room while I went down to the front desk to see what could be done.

Before approaching the desk, I decided to check to make certain our reservation at the Biltmore was still being held. It was. I then went to the room clerk, and explained that our room was totally unsatisfactory, explaining, again, that we were on our honeymoon. He said that as the best they could do – they had nothing else. I then said I wanted to check out at once, and would find a room elsewhere. He told me that there were no rooms left in all of Manhattan, and that I was crazy to leave. I told him I would take my chances.

So we left the McAlpin, took a taxi to the Biltmore, and had a beautiful room – just as nice as the other was awful. It was large, comfortable, nicely appointed, and probably better located than the McAlpin would have been. There was a floor-lady stationed on each floor, just opposite the elevators, and she was both friendly and helpful.

We made the most of our three day stay. We went to Radio City Music Hall and, when it came time to leave, Jan announced that she had lost a shoe. It was, of course, a continuous performance, and pitch black, so I went after an usher, who used his flashlight to locate the shoe a couple of rows down. Jan got a cinder in her eye during a windy afternoon on Sixth Avenue, and blisters on her feet from wearing new shoes, Our floor-lady was helpful in both instances. On our last night in New York, we went to the Rainbow Room at the Waldorf Astoria. It was a nice honeymoon.

On Wednesday, we took the train back to Boston, and picked up our car in Newton. It turned out that some wedding pranksters had thought we would be taking the car on our honeymoon, so during the wedding reception they went to the garage, took the doors off the hinges, and place a bunch of marbles inside the hub caps of our wheels. This was a minor annoyance, and I was happy to learn how disappointed the pranksters were when they learned we wouldn't be using the car on our honeymoon.

Other Excerpts:

Notes from Don's father
Being sent to Camp
Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
Glenn Miller
Asbury Park
Harvard Days / Remembering Jack Lemmon
The Totem Pole
Engagement to Jan
Starting at AO as an Apprentice Lens Designer
Why Dick was once named David

Full Autobiography:
Download Complete Autobiography (Zip file of 360 k, in PDF format)

Updated on June 21, 2007 (60 years later)

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