Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Orlando Shivarees

by David Parmer

There is perhaps a no more colorful matrimonial custom from yesteryear than the “shivaree.” Wikipedia explains a shivaree as an “American term for a clamorous salutation made to a newly-wed couple by an assembled crowd of neighbors and friends.” A shivaree is also known by many old-timers as a “serenade.”
In plainer explanation, during the newlyweds’ first wedding night, after the lights go off in the house to which the newlyweds go to spend their first night of connubial bliss, a whole passel of friends and neighbors would surround the house and begin banging on pots and pans, ringing bells, blowing horns, singing out of tune songs, and demand that the bride and groom make an appearance before the gathering and participate in the good-natured fun.

With the advent of honeymoon trips, shivarees have become a thing of the past, remembered only by the older citizens who may have had the opportunity to participate in the raucous prank. Thanks to Uncle Zeke, an Orlando shivaree will be remembered, through the courtesy of his Buzzardtown news column of August 2, 1934.

Lillie Gay Keller and Clarence Ray Fox
On July 22, 1934, twenty year old Lillie Gay Keller, daughter of Emery Keller and Theodosia Keller, wed thirty two year old Clarence Ray Fox. Reverend Keller was a former long-time pastor of the Orlando U. B. Church and was highly popular with his parishioners. Preacher Keller had just been transferred to the Tanner Church but had many friends in the Orlando area who were glad to see at least one of the Keller children remain in Orlando. Ray Fox, the son of Samuel “Sama” and Mary Catherine (Skinner) Fox, was a thirty two year old trackman for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and was one of Preacher Keller’s faithful parishioners at the Orlando U. B. Church. Little did the newlyweds know what was in store for them on their wedding night.

Uncle Zeke seemed almost gleeful when he reported on the wedding night antics of the Orlando community to celebrate the marriage of Ray and Lillie Fox. He reported:

“On Monday night after the marriage of Ray Fox and Miss Lillie Keller about one hundred people assembled at their home with cow-bells, old washtubs, guns, firecrackers, and all manner of things that would make a noise and gave them a real old-fashioned serenading. Men, women, boys and girls joined in the sport. There was no let-up until Mr. Fox invited the whole crowd to go with him to Orlando where a treat consisting of cigars and candy was given to all present. Mr. Fox is an employee of the B & O R. R. Co., as a trackman and one of the best young men of our community. Mrs. Fox is the second oldest daughter of Reverend and Mrs. E. F. Keller of Tanner, Gilmer County and we can say she is a real fine girl and well liked by all who know her.” .
Ray and Lillie lived in Orlando their entire married life in their home on Oil Creek just west of Posey Run. Ray died in 1961 and Lillie passed away in 1981.

Mildred Morrison and Forrest McNemar
Another Orlando shivaree took place in April 1951 following the wedding of Mildred Morrison to Forrest McNemar at the United Brethren parsonage in Orlando. Forrest was in the United States Army and preparing to ship out to Korea when he persuaded Mildred to tie the knot. Mildred and Forrest were married in the United Brethren parsonage by Reverend Charles Parrish, the father of Mildred’s old boy friend, Eugene Parrish.
After their marriage, Mildred and Forrest caught the Baltimore and Ohio passenger train to Copen where they were spending their wedding night with Forrest’s parents, Harvey and Ruby McNemar. Forrest’s parents were aware that that their son and new daughter-in- law were in store for a serenade and had prepared cake and candy to feed the expected revelers. That night Forrest and Mildred were rousted out of the house by the bell ringers and pot bangers and were given a jubilant and fun filled evening. The noise making serenaders brought along a huge circular saw blade from a nearby sawmill and pounded on it with hammers, awakening the other Copen residents who had gone to bed early that night.
Mildred and Forrest are above, Eugene Parrish's high school photo is below.
center. .
Mildred has a vivid memory of the shivaree, which she referred to as a “serenade.” In fact Mildred believes she is one of the few brides to have two shivarees. After that first shivaree at Copen, Forrest and Mildred returned the next day to Orlando to the home of Mildred’s foster parents, Bill and Lottie Henline. Forrest was due to ship out for Korea in four days and the newly-weds planned to spend those four days at the Henline home. That evening, radio station WPDX of Clarksburg was broadcasting a live country music radio show from the Orlando school. Residents from around Orlando paid to get into the show. Mildred recalls that three girls did a lot of the singing and remembers that the last names of two of the female singers were Scarff and Shoulders. Mildred recalls that one of the singers wore a beautiful blue dress and that Eugene Parrish made a request that the singers dedicate a song to Mildred and suggested that they sing “Mule Train.” A large crowd was in attendance at the radio show and after the show was over, the crowd descended upon the home of Bill and Lottie Henline to serenade Mildred and Forrest. The serenaders demanded that Mildred and Forrest come out of the house. When the serenading bedlam first broke out, Mildred was so startled that she jerked the pull string out of a light fixture, according to Pat Reckart. Mildred recalls that she hid in a clothes closet from fear of being hauled from the house in her night clothes. Finally the newly weds made their appearance to appease the crowd. The crowd promptly put Forrest on a rail and gave him an uncomfortable ride into downtown Orlando and back. Mildred and Forrest enjoy fond memories of the serenades given by friends and family in both Copen and Orlando. Mildred thinks she may have been the victim of the last serenade which occurred in Orlando. Mildred and Forrest live today in Parkersburg.
When Mildred Morrison of Orlando wedded Forrest McNemar of Copen, the parents of Forrest McNemar knew a serenade of the newlyweds was in the offing. A guest register was signed by all of the serenaders who made the wedding night interesting for Mildred and Forrest. Those who signed the register included: Ray McNemar, Gary McNemar, Margie McNemar, Naomi Parrish, Leo Singleton, Gentalee Steele, Patty Prunty, William Blake, Leroy Wine, Maxine Straley, Harlen Beam, Lenora Steele, Donzel Wilson, Jerry Robert Kelley, Duane Kuhl, Sonney Steele, Shirley Straley, Betty Lindsay, Eugene Stump, Lynn Childers, Dennie Prunty, Vaughn Steele, Harold Cottrill, Harry Carter, Leonard Stout, Patty Hayes, Sandra Stalnaker, Nellie Pulliam, Kenny Pulliam, Carolyn Pulliam, W. T. Henline, Lottie Henline, Lula Casto.
Marguerite Sweeney and Mike Moran
Dale Barnett recalls a real whiz-bang serenade which occurred when he was about nine years of age. At that time, Dale and his parents, Bill and Marie (Parmer) Barnett, were living in the Mike Moran house on the bluff overlooking the town of Orlando. Mike had divided his large house and was renting half of it to the Barnett family, while he lived in the other half. As all the old-time residents of Orlando recall, Mike married late in life in 1931 to Marguerite Sweeney of Doddridge County. Mike was a highly respected and popular resident of the town and, of course, when he finally decided to marry, such an occasion was not going to pass without a grand shivaree. Dale recalls that Orlando residents turned out in large numbers. Shotgun blasts filled the air and dynamite provided the punctuation marks. The perpetrators of the shivaree had rounded up the poorest nag of a horse that they could find as well as the most ridiculous looking pony as the means of transporting Mike and Marguerite on their serenade trip to the Charlie Knight store where Mike treated the serenaders to candy and other treats. Dale recalls that one of the shotgun-bearing revelers discharged the gun a little too close to the residence and blew the gingerbread moulding off the corner of the house. Dale also recalls that one of the serenaders who was an enthusiastic musician brought an old wooden barrel to the shindig to which resin had been applied across the top lip. He drew an old board across the top of the barrel, producing a god-awful and unforgettable sound. Dale said everybody, which presumably included Mike and Marguerite, “had a ball.”

Freda Riffle and John Vankirk
All shivarees did not go as planned by the serenaders. In the late 1940’s, Pat Reckart recalls that when Freda Riffle married John Vankirk in 1947, the newly-weds were spending their first night of marriage at the home of her father, Layton Riffle, who lived just below the Orlando Cemetery. As the serenaders approached the Riffle house, they were met at the gate by Layton, the father of the bride who was his first born daughter, who told the pot-banging celebrants to be-gone. Not to be turned away, the serenaders persisted. Layton relented and John was ridden on a rail to Charley Knight’s store where he treated the revelers to snacks and a soft drink.

John remembers fondly the custom of shivarees. John recalled that when his sister Olive married Lester Mick on Riffle Run, Lester thought he would thwart the serenaders by escaping out the back door and taking to the hill. Little did Lester know that he could not escape the bloodhound determination of the serenaders who chased him up the hill and captured him near the top. Poor Lester was then put on a rail, with each arm being held at the side of the rail by serenaders, and was ridden off the hill. John said Lester was sore for a week.
John also recalls that if the groom did not put up much of a fuss about riding the rail, the rail was turned flat side up for a more comfortable ride, but if the groom resisted, the rail would be turned up the three sided way, which proved to be a little less comfortable to ride. John said the custom of shivarees is a great tradition which has mostly been lost and is a tradition he misses. He also is of the opinion that a newly-wed couple who were well-liked was the honored guests of serenaders and that the serenade actually was a sign of respect for the married couple.

Beatrice Bosely and Ford Brown
In the late 1940’s, Deck Brown and his son Ford, bought the former Bill Conrad store from Denver Pursley. After Ford married Bea Bosely in 1948 and came to the residence above Brown’s Store to spend their first night together, the serenaders came out in force, and created their usual commotion which ended in an opening of the store and the passing out of treats to the pot-bangers.

Pauline McCauley and Joe Ziegler
It isn’t often that a shivaree gets to celebrate the marriage of a preacher. In 1947, Joe Ziegler was filling in at the Orlando United Brethren Church for a pastor who was having health problems. A newcomer to Orlando, Reverend Ziegler not only served his pastorate but also met and fell in love with Pauline McCauley of McCauley Run who was working at Marple’s Store in Burnsville. Pauline (McCauley) Ziegler, who now lives in West Union, remembers with affection the serenade given her and her husband.
Pauline recalls that she and her new husband expected to be recipients of a shivaree so it was not unexpected. However, what Pauline and her husband did not expect was to receive a wedding shower along with the serenade. There was a nice turn-out of Orlando folks for the shivaree-shower. Pauline recalls receiving a bedspread, cookware, and dishes from the wonderful folks of Orlando. Pauline also recalls that generally a groom is expected to furnish cigars for all of the men in a shivaree, but since Reverend Ziegler did not believe in the use of tobacco, cakes and sweet snacks were pre-arranged for the serenade and were served to the gathering. Pauline also remembers that since the United Brethren parsonage was located beside the Orlando School , the school playground served as the location for the festivities and the children present, as well as the adults, had lots of fun. Pauline remembers the occasion as a “big night of fellowship” and something the modern generation has missed out on. When asked if her husband was given a ride on a rail, Pauline said that probably the fact that her husband was a minister saved him from that bumpy ride. Later that year, Reverend Ziegler and his bride were transferred to a church in Rock Castle in Jackson County, but always had fond memories of their Orlando shivaree.

Passing of a Custom
Every bride or groom who was asked about their own serenade mentioned what a memorable way it was to start a marriage, whether a rail was ridden or not. Receiving a serenade shows that people are interested and care about you, reflected John Vankirk who married Orlando ’s Freda Riffle. Pauline McCauley Ziegler reminisced about the traditions and customs of yesteryear and how important they were to life and how nice it would be if these customs and traditions would return.

Comment 1
Two of our Burnsville neighbors also remember Serenades.
from Harry V. Wiant, Jr.
I can remember my parents talking about the shivery, also called the serenade. My mother and dad had one as I recall. My wife recalls going to one when she was a young lady (around 1948 or so) for Mr. and Mrs. Asa Singleton, Asa and Amie (Loyd) Singleton, on Burns Run. She recalls they took noise-makers, buckets and pans to pound on in those days, and desserts to share with then newlyweds. Also, they would ride couples on rails and put them in washtubs.
from Denzil Stilwell, a serenade for a Burnsville couple:
George Dencil "Bessie" Hardman & Jane Grey Gregory were married 9 September, 1950 in Burnsville. I remember that a few days after their wedding the town had a shivery for them. A large group of kids and young adults congregated outside West's place and with all the noise they could make drove, walked, rode a horse, etc over to the Hardman house. We all stood outside shouting, banging on pans, hooting car horns, and the like until the couple came out of the house.
Some of the girls took Jane (I don't know what they did) and the guys absconded with Bessie. In a convoy we took him up the road to Cogar stopping to take a few swigs on beers or a few nips from whiskey. Soon, however we all returned to Burnsville and met at Ray Jr's place where the couple was allowed to reunite. It must have been the custom for the groom to treat everybody to an ice cream. But since this was a huge crowd and the couple were not very well off one of the more well heeled townspeople footed the ice-cream bill. We all then paraded back across town, this was about 10 in the evening, making all the noise we could. We took the couple back to their house and then the crowd dispersed.
Comment 2
When Mildred Morrison of Orlando wedded Forrest McNemar of Copen, the parents of Forrest McNemar knew a serenade of the newlyweds was in the offing. A guest register was signed by all of the serenaders who made the wedding night interesting for Mildred and Forrest. Those who signed the register included: Ray McNemar, Gary McNemar, Margie McNemar, Naomi Parrish, Leo Singleton, Gentalee Steele, Patty Prunty, William Blake, Leroy Wine, Maxine Straley, Harlen Beam, Lenora Steele, Donzel Wilson, Jerry Robert Kelley, Duane Kuhl, Sonney Steele, Shirley Straley, Betty Lindsay, Eugene Stump, Lynn Childers, Dennie Prunty, Vaughn Steele, Harold Cottrill, Harry Carter, Leonard Stout, Patty Hayes, Sandra Stalnaker, Nellie Pulliam, Kenny Pulliam, Carolyn Pulliam, W. T. Henline, Lottie Henline, Lula Casto.
Comment 3
According to Virginia McCord in a story she wrote a few years ago, she and Luther Mitchell's 1944 wedding and serenade went like this:

Virgina McCord and Luther Mitchell
"On 10 April 1944, I married Luther Monroe Mitchell. I can remember walking to Orlando, where we were to meet a man who was going to give us a ride to Buckhannon so we could get married. The man did not show up. so we took the train to Weston and another to Buckhannon. We went to the home of my brother, the Reverend Ralph McCord, who was a Methodist minister in Buckhannon. Well, he tried to talk us out of getting married because I was eleven years older than Luther. He was born 28 September 1920. I was 35 and he was 24. It did not work. By the time he got around to marrying us, it was nearly ten o'clock! We spent our first night together at my brother's house. The day after we returned home my sister Thelma, and some friends, serenaded us with singing and banging on tin cans."


  1. Well as a person who received a shivaree last thursday night, you can not imagine when we heard shot guns going off and chainsaws... if we were supposed to duck or come out :D When people has asked us what they were to wear to our cottage wedding... we replied "anything you like, just not Hawaiian shirts". Well, everyone at the shivaree was wearing a Hawaiian shirt an a crazy hat. The guests had also brung a wheelbarrow full of champagne, wine and food. We thought we had had the best wedding ever... Well, not until we had the shivaree could I imagine one finer. What wonderful friends!!!

  2. Sounds like the best wedding ever to me, too! Mind sharing you name & location? You can send it to orlandowestvirginia@yahoo.com if you would prefer.