A Bottle of Pop, a Candy Bar, a Chiavari, and a Pretty Blond

snickers“Dad and I got married in December of 1935.”

I’d heard the story so many times that I could probably repeat it back to Grandma although I would never dream of actually doing it. “Dad” without fail always referred to my Grandpa Neill when uttered by Grandma. If she did refer to him by his given name, it was never when speaking directly to me. He was always Dad, even when mentioning him to my father or my uncle or just about every other family member. Even if it involved him rolling over in his grave, he was still “Dad.”

I have no memory of my Grandpa Neill; he died when I was six months old. He was always Grandpa Neill. Never “Grandfather”or any truncated diminutive. He was certainly never “Granddad” as that term was reserved for maternal grandfather. Different terms reduced confusion.

I was never confused by my Grandmother referring to my Grandpa as Dad. That made perfect sense.

When Dad and I got married, we were dirt poor. We went to Keithsburg and got married and after we got married we split a bottle of pop and a Snickers bar. That was all we could afford and that was our celebration.


1935 State of Illinois Highway Map obtained on 5 April 2016 at http://www.idaillinois.org/

Keithsburg was Keithsburg, Illinois, a fair drive in December of 1935. Grandma never said why they went as far as Keithsburg, approximately eighty-five miles from their homes to get married. Living in different counties, I thought maybe they wanted to avoid having the marriage license published in the local newspaper. But there were other county seats closer than Keithsburg. There were even other states closer than Keithsburg. And Keithsburg was not even the county seat of Mercer County.

Grandma, why did you go to Keithsburg to get married?

The response:

Your Grandpa took a notion and that’s where we went.

I knew better than to argue, but from what I did know of my Grandpa, he didn’t do things on a “notion.” I still don’t know why they went to Keithsburg.

There was always a Snickers bar in the story. Always. The beverage was always an unbranded bottle of pop, never soda. Always pop.

That night we went to Roseville where Uncle Ralph lived and were chiavaried.

I never asked Grandma how to spell “chiavaried.”

That was the end of Grandma’s story about her marriage to Grandpa. My notion that they wanted to keep their marriage a secret was shattered when I located an item in the Mendon Dispatch in December of 1935. The Trautvetter-Neill nuptials were announced for all of northern Adams County, Illinois, to see.


Putting your wedding announcement in the local newspaper with details about the ceremony certainly does not qualify as “keeping it quiet.” The chiavari at Uncle Ralph’s was written up as a “wedding dinner.” Given how the newspaper spelled other words, it’s possible that they simply did not know how to spell it.

We both went home to live until we could set up housekeeping in the spring.

Grandma never told me they rented a farm near Stillwell when they were first married. That was never in her version of the story. She only mentioned living on a rental farm near Plymouth owned by one of Grandpa’s relatives.  Considering how well the newspaper spelled Trautvetter, Keithsburg, and Neill, it’s possible they got the location mixed up.

The part about Grandma being a pretty blond?

I’m betting they got that right.




8 thoughts on “A Bottle of Pop, a Candy Bar, a Chiavari, and a Pretty Blond

  1. Carmelita D'Amato says:

    Never mind spelling, how about the meaning. Looked it up and found that it meant noise made by pans for the disapproval of a wedding????

    • In some areas it might have meant disapproval. In the area and era in which my Grandparents were married it had nothing to do with disapproval.

  2. I have great memories of participating in chiavaris given to friends and family. I wonder now how the tradition started and if it is tied to a certain ethnic group. In our community version, in Shelby County, Missouri, it involved a lot of loud noise late at night outside the home of the newlywed couple. Once we were invited in there were pranks played on the couple and their belongings and a general party atmosphere with eating and drinking.

  3. Loved your story, your grandma sounds like a hoot! Splitting a Snickers bar with a bottle of pop – so funny. Especially can understand their love for Snickers, it’s my favorite too. I never heard anyone called soda by the word of pop until I worked as a waitress and some young boys asked for pop – I told them we had none! In Georgia we called everything Coke! I bet you have more grandma stories.

  4. Doris Friedl says:

    A lot of people in Wisconsin went to Illinois to get married because there was no waiting period. Waukegan was a favorite place for those in southeastern Wisconsin

  5. I participated in a couple chiavaris long before I had ever seen the word written. Lots of fun – lots of fun and then some “practical joke” type of activity. I remember a bunch of chicken being put under an over-turned wash tub on the kitchen floor.
    In south central Nebraska, a lot of couples in the early 1940’s went to Kansas to get married. Several years ago I asked my aunt why she and my uncle had gone there (about 100 miles away) for their marriage, and she said she had no idea. I suspect there was not waiting period. But often these couples had planned their marriages well in advance. I have never discovered the logic of it all.

  6. My parents were given a Chiavari, and my mother told me about it (as much as I heard, anyway). While my mother would deny it strongly, I was always amazed that she had the sense of humor to think it was fun. But, I finally decided, perhaps being the center of attention was enough to make it so. (She was one of 8 children and from a family with quite limited financial backing…so she may have appreciated a party of any sort.)

    A few years later, her younger brother was serving in Missouri, and preparing for ‘the war’. His ‘girl’ Shirley and he made plans to marry there and she went off to join him for the occasion. She told me about some of the things they didn’t know! One big one was that you could not just walk into to the court house and get married without a bit of a waiting period.
    They had not figured on that at all…and did not have any extra money with them. So they took their money and spent the very little extra beyond the cost of the license on “a pop and a candy bar” to share between them. They sat up all night since they had no money for any place to stay, shared their “food”, and then got married the next day. She headed for home then (northern Illinois) and he went back to the base.

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