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.
“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.” .
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.
Freda Riffle and John Vankirk
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
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.