You don’t usually want your wedding to be on a Sunday. The logistics are a pain, especially because most people need to get back to work Monday morning. If you skip the expense and coordination of a wedding and get married at a courthouse, you don’t have to worry about others’ schedules, but you can hardly expect a courthouse to be open seven days a week. A Sunday wedding simply isn’t worth the hassle.

But on Sunday, August 27, 1961, Daryl Schreiner and Melinda Graham of Vancouver, Wash., were out of options. They had to get married that very day, and their determination sent them 400 miles from home until they found themselves in St. Maries, where they didn’t know a single person. They left as husband and wife.

The story starts in a bowling alley. Daryl was part of his school league in Vancouver, and during practice Thursday afternoons, he often saw a team of girls practicing on the far lanes. One blonde in particular caught his eye, but never had the nerve to go over and introduce himself.

He graduated high school in 1960 and got a job at the same bowling alley. It was a few blocks away from the Washington School for the Deaf (WSD), so Daryl picked up some rudimentary sign language to communicate with some of the deaf customers who came in. One night, talking with one of his deaf friends, Daryl learned that the girls’ team he had seen in high school was from WSD, one thing led to another, and soon he had a date with the blonde girl he’d had his eye on back in high school.

The first date was awkward and quiet, because Daryl still knew very little sign language. Melinda had been deaf her whole life, and so had most of her family. But Daryl kept practicing and saw Melinda as often as he could--every two weeks, when she had time away from school, but also sneaking in to visit her during the week. Once, he remembers, she went up to the roof of her dorm and they passed notes to each other by taping them to a football. They got engaged over Christmas break in 1960.

In the summer of 1961, Melinda was still just 18, which meant they couldn’t get married in Washington or Oregon (Daryl was 19). So they decided to get married in Idaho, and they left for Coeur d’Alene one Saturday in Daryl’s dad’s 1947 Chrysler with $38 to their name. They got in after 9:00 that night and stopped for a bite to eat at a diner. They met another couple there in the same situation, and arranged to meet up with them the next morning. To save money, they slept in the car that night: Daryl in the front seat and Melinda in the back.

After meeting up with the other couple Sunday morning, the four of them went to get their blood tested (a legal requirement for marriage at the time). They were in the parking lot of the lab when five or six police cars pulled up, sirens blazing.

Melinda, of course, couldn’t hear or understand what was going on. One of the state officers grabbed her and yelled “I got her over here!” to the others, Daryl remembers, and his “jaw hit the ground” in surprise.

After checking the couples’ IDs, the police released Melinda but took the other bride-to-be back in one of their cars. Her parents, apparently, had objected to their marriage and sent the police to stop the elopement.

Now on their own, Daryl and Melinda talked to the owner of the lab to figure out what they should do next. The owner said they needed to get a marriage license from Kootenai County, but they would have to wait until Monday for the government offices to open.

Well, that wasn’t going to work. The couple couldn’t afford to spend more money on their trip, and Daryl couldn’t afford not to be back at work in Vancouver Monday morning because he needed the work. They asked the lab owner what there options were.

The first thing he did was give them back their $5 fee for the bloodwork. Then he made a call.

Alice Weigand was the Benewah County Clerk at the time, and a good friend of the lab owner. Daryl explained their situation to her over the phone, and Weigand agreed to open up the courthouse and then gave them directions down to St. Maries.

After Daryl and Melinda got to St. Maries, filled out their license, and paid their $3 fee, Weigand asked if they had anyone in mind to marry them. They did not; they’d never heard of St. Maries before that morning and didn’t know anybody in town. Then it was Weigand’s turn to make a call.

She spoke briefly with Sam Irvine, a probate judge in Benewah County, and a moment later, Daryl and Melinda were driving to his house. Betty Irvine answered the door and invited them in, just after Sunday dinner. Irvine asked if the couple had any witnesses available for the ceremony, and when they didn’t, he volunteered his wife and son.

Daryl and Melinda Schreiner were married by Sam Irvine in his living room on a Sunday afternoon, witnessed by Betty and Larry Irvine. Daryl interpreted the ceremony into sign language for Melinda as best he could.

Tired, hungry, almost out of money, but newly and happily married, the Schreiners set out from St. Maries. The car was leaking brake fluid and Daryl filled it up with water just to get by. The first time they ran out of gas that night, a watermelon farmer gave them five gallons. The second time, Daryl’s brother gave them $3 for the last stretch from Washougal, Wash., to Vancouver.

Daryl made it to work in the morning. He and Melinda have been married for sixty years.

Earlier this year, the Schreiners visited St. Maries to celebrate their anniversary in the place where there marriage began, and they donated $500 to the Historical Society at the Hughes House to thank the community for all the help they got in 1961.

Jeanne Johnson, who received the donation for the Hughes House, said it was a “delightful surprise,” and though the historical society and the house hadn’t been directly involved in the wedding, it was an honor to accept the donation on behalf of the city. She said the money would be used for upkeep and repairs at the house.

The thing that stands out for the Schreiners is how considerate and accommodating everyone in town was. They say if they could go back and do it all over, they wouldn’t change a thing. Their life together started Sunday, August 27, and it started in St. Maries.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.