Friday, August 17, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Keli Gwyn, "A Shotgun Wedding"

Four months ago, this conversation happened:
That was my first encounter with the wonderful Keli Gwyn. Who knows what angsty thing I tweeted (let's hope not too angsty) to curry such compassion, but I do remember that Keli's generous encouragement in my Twitter inbox was such an unexpected blessing. To have someone on the brink of their novel debut reach out to me as I waded through my first major re-write was inspiring.

Fast forward to the present: I have now had the pleasure of discovering that Keli has impeccable taste in bookstores (we have a favorite little shop in common), she can write a delightful love story (which I'm in the middle of right now), and- best of all? I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at her book launch last month! As you may suppose, she's every bit as encouraging, gracious, and lovely in person as she is online.

When I launched this series, Keli offered this story -- in her words-- "about my in-law's courtship and marriage during the days shortly before WWII. They had an honest-to-goodness shotgun wedding, one that led to a marriage of over 50 years in which the Lord was an integral part. Since I blog about my romantic husband, their son (aka "Gwynly"), I think it would be fun to share the story about his parents' courtship and marriage."

It's an honor and joy to host Keli today, and what a story she has to share! May it bless you.

A Shotgun Wedding
by Keli Gwyn
 A young man from Texas arrived in California in the late 1930s with five dollars in his pocket and a dream of working in the aircraft industry. He met a young woman at a church event and was smitten from the very beginning. They married and lived a good life, but their start was a bit rocky.
Mother and Dad's wedding picture
Dad, the youngest of five boys, grew up in West Texas. The son of a dirt farmer, he wanted to escape his humble beginnings and make his fortune. He used to boast that he arrived in California one morning and was employed by nightfall. While he was working in the aircraft industry, his position at that point was janitor.

Mother, an only child, was raised by her maternal grandparents in Illinois. Their daughter died due to complications following the delivery. Since a man couldn’t very well raise a child alone in the 1920s, they took on the job. Mother’s father, who lived in California, only managed to get back to see her once every year or two for an all-too-brief visit. He wrote her only a handful of letters during her entire childhood, and she treasured each one.

 When Mother graduated from high school as valedictorian, her absentee father decided he wanted her to move to California and attend U.C.L.A. Mother had received a full scholarship to a teaching college in Illinois, but she left the only life she’d known and moved to Los Angeles, taking her dream of being a math teacher with her. Although she wanted to believe the reason her father had sent for her was that he wanted her to be a part of his life at long last, she said the real reason was that he wanted to boast to his friends that he had a daughter at the prestigious school.

 Things didn’t go according to plan. Her father turned out to be an alcoholic and lived with a woman who didn’t care for Mother and didn’t try to hide the fact. She had to leave college after just one year and took a job as a bookkeeper in a major department store.

 Church was a bright spot in Mother’s life, and she enjoyed attending services and youth fellowship events. She met a tall young man at one of them. She wasn’t interested in him at that point, but he was very interested in her.

 Dad had a car, so he volunteered to drive many of the young people home after their fellowship times. He would arrange his route so Mother’s stop was one of the very last. Eventually he asked her out, and she said yes. Each week he would spend fifty cents on a gardenia blossom, which he gave her when he picked her up for their date, a tradition he kept up throughout their entire courtship.

 Although Dad was eager to marry her after just a few months, Mother kept him waiting two years. Things back home weren’t good. Her father couldn’t stand Dad and did everything he could to make things difficult for Mother.

Things finally got so bad in April of 1942 that Mother sent Dad a message, asking him if he could arrange a marriage within the week. He was glad to do so, but there was a major complication: her father had threatened to kill Dad if she married him. One of the arrangements Dad made was to have a sheriff outside the church with a shotgun.
Mother and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary

Despite the rather dramatic beginning, Mother and Dad had a happy marriage. Like many of the Greatest Generation, they weathered WWII. Since Dad worked in the aircraft industry, he had a defense waver. However, he decided to enlist after all. He went into the Navy, but a bad heart kept him from his dream of being a pilot. Instead he served in the heart of our country, training pilots in Norman, Oklahoma. Their oldest son was born during the war, and Gwynly was born five years later.

Mother and Dad were married almost 54 years, until cancer took her from him. He lived five more years, but he never got over the loss of his beloved wife. Their real-life love story inspires me. I’m blessed to have a husband, their son, who loves me as deeply as they loved one another.


       Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.
       When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.
       Connect with Keli on Twitter or Facebook.

**Note from Amanda: I am looking for more guest-bloggers for this series. If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature, visit this post for criteria and submission details**


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