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Nose-to-the-Grindstone, that’s my dad. But I have proof in pictures that he once took a fling to Florida with his Lancaster County Mennonite buddies. Judging from the photos that remain and Mother’s comments, I can pretty much guarantee that there were no stops at a roadhouse, nights spent bar-hopping, or brothel visits.

According to their Swiss-German work ethnic and the spirit of the times, these five men, Parke Garber, Dick Sauder, Bud (Wilbur) Martin, Howard Longenecker and Daddy were destined to be dutiful farmers or businessmen, faithful husbands and fathers. But until they hit the groove for the rest of their lives, they would see the world, traveling over 800 miles from Pennsylvania to Florida.

My Dad

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They traveled in a car of this vintage with a road-map, certainly no GPS!

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To Cypress Gardens, Florida 1939

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The craziest thing recorded is a snapshot of the men playing church under the skinny wooden banner Jesus Never Fails. I say they were playing church because that was what Mother told me and I never heard anything to the contrary. The “preacher” was a farmer turned car salesman and my sanctimonious-looking dad (at right), a farm implement dealer, holds a hymnbook or Bible.

Richard Sauder in pulpit, to the right Parke Garber, extreme right Ray Longenecker, my father  (Unidentified man at left)

Richard Sauder in pulpit, to the right Parke Garber, far right Ray Longenecker, my father (Unidentified man on left)

All these pictures were stored in a heap inside our family’s piano bench for decades. Only recently have they seen the light of day.

Based on the date here, my dad was 24. He was married in 1940 when he was 25, a year younger than my age at marriage. Men of this era did not usually marry until they could support a wife. The first question Daddy queried Cliff when he asked for my hand in marriage was “Do you think you can support her?” Looking back, the question seems a little strange as I was already a teacher of four years with a salary.

What I’d like to know:

  • Who’s idea was this trip?
  • Where did they eat? (These men were used to home-cooked meals.)
  • What did they talk about?
  • Did they ever wear casual clothing? (All I see here is white shirts, suspenders, ties and long trousers.)
  • Did they send postcards to their girlfriends?
  • Did they laugh and carry on?

Wouldn’t Dad have been astonished back then if he had known two of his daughters would be raising their families in Florida, so far away from their Lancaster County, PA childhood roots?

Do you have photos in your family albums that pose questions without answers?

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