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The Human Touch

August 19, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

So many letters have been received requesting that the following column, originally run on July 12, be reprinted that this opportunity is taken of publishing it again while Harry Salpeter is on vacation

Young people nowadays—wait a minute while I pause to stroke my long white beard—young people nowadays seem to take the holy bonds of matrimony so casually, oh so casually! It quite saddens me. Now when I was a young man we took such things with seriousness and decorum, but perhaps we had better not go so far back.

I am acquainted with a young man and a young woman. Some of my best friends are young men and young women, and they don’t always have to go together. But this young man and this young woman do go together; in fact, they’re hitched, married I mean. Even I can’t help falling into loose locutions, what with the debasing of language that goes on all around me, among people who have not the benefit of the New Oxford Dictionary.

Now this young man who is partly the subject of this story is the nephew of a man of eminence in Jewish affairs. The young man and the eminent uncle bear the same name. The young woman is Jewish, too, so don’t suppose I’m going to tell you the story of another intermarriage. This couple had been casually keeping company for five, six, seven, eight or ten years. No chains were heard clanking where they appeared, but there was a tacit understanding among their friends that this man belonged to this woman and there was to be no intrusion or interference by any person of any sex. You know how it is. In fact, whenever this young man and this young woman had a spat it was hard to believe that they hadn’t already pawned her marriage ring.


Several months ago the young man obtained a marriage license He kept it in his pocket against the time they would have to show it to a Justice of the Peace, a clergyman or whoever else is qualified to perform such ceremonies. There was no particular hurry. After all, they had been going about for a couple of years, another couple of months wouldn’t matter. I might add, for general information’s sake, that the young man doesn’t read romantic poetry much.

Two Saturday afternoons ago the young man and the young woman were riding in his car, northward, out of the city, feeling rather gay, when the young man said: “What do you say, kid, let’s get married.” And she, being utterly overwhelmed at this sudden proposal, said “O. K.,” or something less breathless.

At Yonkers she got out of the car to buy a wedding ring at Woolworth’s, or some other emporium no less exclusive, and at Bronxville they parked the car outside the police station while the young man went in to inquire about the town’s marrying facilities.

When the officer at the desk heard the young man ask where he could find a magistrate to marry him, he bellowed at him: “You blank, blank, blankety fool! What do you want to get married for? Don’tcha know when you’re well off?” All of this, mind you, with sincerity and eloquence and even a certain amount of bravura. The young man said nevertheless he’d like to get married. So the officer at the desk gave him the names and phone numbers of the town’s magistrates and the young man called up, but not a single magistrate was, at home; in all likelihood they were playing golf or were out of town.


Did our marrying couple despair? They did not. They rode northward to Scarsdale and stopped at the town’s firehouse, not because of the attitude of Westchester County police, as exemplified by Bronxville, but because they could not find Scarsdale’s police station. To its glory, be it reported, Scarsdale’s fire department was much more helpful than the Bronxville police department had been. The fire-eaters gave our young man the names and numbers of all the town’s civil marrying authorities, every one of whom was inconveniently out of town. Should they move northward to White Plains and hope for better luck, or retrace their steps southward? Then the fire captain said to the young man:

“How about a reverend?”

And to a reverend they went, not knowing his denomination, and they asked him to marry them.

They found him in the bosom of his family, with his wife and two young children and a couple of visiting relatives who were useful as witnesses. Also, they found him in his shirt-sleeves and unshaven. He wanted to shave in preparation for his part in the ceremony, whereupon the young man said: “If you shave, we’ll walk out on you.” However, they let him don his coat and with the admonition from the young man to make the ceremony as little religious as possible, all took their places.

To round out the story we must go back a little distance, to Bronxville where the young woman, while waiting in the car outside the police station was practicing her “I do, I do, I do” and so on. She had to practice this phase with particular concentration because she had been accustomed to say things like “I won’t” and “the hell you say” and “you’re telling me” and similar phrases denoting feminist independence. And all the way north from Bronxville she was practicing “I do, I do, I do” and she said “I do” when the ceremonial requirement was “I will.” But “the reverend” knew what she meant.


In the middle of the ceremony the two-year-old infant of “the reverend” began bawling and the bride-in-process hushed her with a promise she would give her the ring after the ceremony. And after the ceremony the young man received a document with swans and curleycues attesting to the fact that such a man and such a woman were now man and wife. And the bride took off her Woolworth ring and gave it to the child, whereupon “the reverend,” unshaved as he was, his wife and the volunteer witnesses almost died of shock at the sacrilege. And as the newly married pair went down the steps to their car, the elder child made the rafters ring with her bawling; she wanted a ring, too, but the newlyweds had only one.

Some day, the young husband assures me, he’s going to return to Scarsdale to find out the denomination of the clergyman who married him. He knows he wasn’t a rabbi. Marvelous to relate, he remembers his name, and the approximate location of the house in which he was married.

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