When Francis and Ruth Boeser of rural Trenton celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Sunday, they will ride in the same 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air that chauffeured them to their wedding.
Back in 1955, the Chevy was new and the pride and joy of a friend, Norman Monken. He got a lot of use out of the car, even driving to Florida in it on his honeymoon in 1959. It was restored to its original glory in 1978-79.
Now the immaculate car belongs to John Cook of Carlyle, who purchased it in 2007 after Monken’s death.
Francis, 83, and Ruth, 80, are retired farmers who live west of St. Morgan, which is a wide spot in the road marked by a couple of signs on Illinois 160 between Trenton and Highland.
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Their house sits on a rise on Rose Road, surrounded by pecan trees. Their panoramic view of surrounding farmland goes for miles.
In his garage, Francis has a work station set up to crack and process pecans. A sign in the yard advertises them for sale. He said he used to have as many as 70 pecan trees but has scaled back.
Petunias grow from cracks in the driveway each year. He said they are volunteers produced from old-fashioned ones his mother used to grow.
A plaque outside the door advises people entering the house that, “A fisherman lives here with the best catch of his life.”
That would be Ruth, his wife and mother to their nine children.
All the children live in the area except Steve, who is coming home from Pennsylvania for the celebration and Ron, who lives in Mattoon, but also will make it.
The family will worship at St. Paul Catholic Church in Highland, and then Francis and Ruth will ride in the old car to the Knights of Columbus Hall for a private dinner with family. Then there will be music and dancing.
Francis and Ruth lived for three years in Beckemeyer, where Francis worked as a smelter, getting up at 3 a.m. to go to work. He also farmed during the day, so sleep was in short supply.
They bought their farm on Rose Road in the 1960s but had to tear down the decrepit farmhouse that stood there. They dug a basement, put a top on it and lived in it for seven years, Francis said.
The house didn’t get built until the early 1970s.
“Her father and brother built the house, but we planned the whole thing,” Francis said. “They kept showing us books with plans, but we decided what we wanted and told them.
“Are you sure you want a hall that runs all the way through the house they asked, but we were sure,” he said.
It was a bit different, but Francis said they never regretted their choices.
Ruth said their first three children were boys, with two of them born in the same year.
While Francis farmed, Ruth brought in extra money with what now is called a daycare.
“I used to babysit, 10-12-14 kids,” she said. “They still stop and say hello.”
“When we would go to local picnics, kids would hang all over her,” Francis said. “She would have to hide out.”
Francis said it was kind of natural to ask Norman Monken to share his new car at the time of the wedding.
“He and some of his brothers and me were hunting and fishing buddies from when we were kids on,” he said.
Francis served in the U.S. Army from 1953-55 but still managed to make it home most weekends from a base in Kansas. By the time he got out, he was more than ready to get married.
The brand new Chevy. along with another brand new Ford and another new Chevy, gave the wedding party classy rides.
Monken had bought a new 1954 Chevy, but it had problems with the paint job. He took it back to St. Louis to have it repaired and when he was driving it home, it was destroyed in an accident.
The price for the replacement, by now a ’55 model, was $3,291.85, notes a bill of sale from July 6, 1955. It lists an amazing amount of options that had to be paid extra for, including a heater and defroster for $84.50 and turn signals for $16.75. The color was listed as two-tone, ivory over gypsy red.
From 2:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday, the anniversary celebration will be open to the public with music and dancing. Nothing modern though, Francis said. Mostly polkas and waltzes like the couple prefer.