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Zan Thompson

39ers: 7 Times 2 Celebrating Their 50th

September 11, 1988|Zan Thompson

They danced to "Star Dust," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "The Balboa Hop," "Deep Purple" and "Skyliner." Then they were Depression kids and were going to fight a world war.

They are seven couples who call themselves the 39ers, and Saturday they leave on a cruise aboard the Royal Viking Sea.

The cruise is to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries, which almost all of them do this year. They will sail up the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal and go on to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. They will go ashore in Boston and Newport and New York and come home to Whittier, Balboa and Laguna Niguel. One of them said, "We're going now so we won't forget to take the trip."

Most of the group went to Whittier or Fullerton Union high schools, and some of them went to both. Jean and Don Heck went to Long Beach.

Jean and Don Heck had an opulent honeymoon because Don's mother had given the bride and groom $100, a fortune. They spent four days in Palm Springs, and were feeling so sophisticated they stopped at Santa Anita on the way home. They lost all they had left and only salvaged enough to buy a hamburger for 15 cents and divide it on the way home. High living.

Before he retired, Don owned men's clothing stores and Jean was the favorite leading lady in the Whittier Community Theatre. She had a hand-span waist, gentian blue eyes and was the best wallpaper hanger in all of Whittier. She is pure fun to be with and a lasting friend. All of that and dimples too.

Faye and Pete Rothaermel were married in 1936. They are included in the group because they are both special and, besides, Pete is the brother of a 39er wife and everyone has known everyone else since birth or the first grade. Most of them have lived in Whittier since their marriages. Pete and Faye now live on a citrus grove in La Habra Heights. He was in the wholesale meat business before he retired. They were married in old Saint Mary's Rectory because, says Faye, "I was a heathen."

"We had a super honeymoon, all the way to Balboa where we stayed at the Balboa Inn. We roller-skated at the old Pavilion on our wedding night and had so much fun, we rented an apartment on Balboa Island for three months until the summer season started and we couldn't afford it anymore so we moved back to Whittier."

Barbara Dawson lived with Pete's family when she went to Whittier College and before she married Earl Maple. The Maples took advantage of a three-day holiday over the Fourth of July to honeymoon on Catalina. A friend of Earl was playing baseball with a farm team on the island. Know a better reason for a honeymoon? They had $50 and came home with 50 cents. Barbara was a teacher and Earl was working in a gas station. He is now semi-retired from the wholesale lumber business and they live in a big gray shingled house on the ocean on the Balboa Peninsula.

Ellen Ferguson, Pete Rothaermel's sister, is married to Gordon Ferguson. Most of the 39ers are native Californians but because of his father's job, Gordie was born in Turkey. When the Fergusons were married, they went to Los Angeles for dinner and then spent a week in Ellen's sister's cabin in Tahoe. Gordon was president of the National Bank of Whittier and has a vegetable garden in which the products look like the ones in four colors on the fronts of the seed catalogues.

Monte Wicker was a longtime member of the Whittier City Council and served the expanding town as mayor. The Wickers have a marvelous camera store in Whittier and Ellen keeps the accounts. Monte is alive, fully alive, every minute. He has been active in the Society for the Preservation of Barber Shop Singing in America, and I'm sure I've left out part of that title. He has also been one of the intrepid band that kept the Whittier Community Theatre alive.

Jim and Agnes McFadden were married in Anaheim and live on the Balboa Peninsula. Jim's family was among the earliest families to have year-round houses there. Jim was the controller of an oil tool company before retirement. Their honeymoon was on a $60 budget and it took them to Santa Barbara, Carmel and Yosemite. The $60 lasted five days.

The seventh couple are Bill and Alice Rosenberger. Bill is a doctor, as his father was. The senior Dr. Rosenberger delivered Earl Maple. Alice lived down the alley from Bill and they have known each other since Bill was in the first grade. The Rosenbergers spent the first night of their honeymoon at the Villa Riviera in Long Beach and when Bill took off his hat in the elevator, rice bounced all over the floor. They drove up the coast, staying at motels for $3 a night, and finished with a reckless splurge of $24 for a night in the Chateau at Lake Louise, Canada. Lest you worry about Bill and Alice, it was American plan.

The 39ers have been having dinner together once a year since their 40th anniversaries. They delight in each other's company, as most of them have since the first grade.

Bon voyage, and I hope the ship's orchestra plays "Thanks for the Memory," "These Foolish Things" and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby." They can all do the Balboa Hop, and if the orchestra plays 64 bars of "Sing, Sing, Sing," they will.

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