The Gemelliparous Quadragenarial and Consanguinous Convocation was held at the historic Pence Springs Hotel in Pence Springs, WV on August 14th, 1999. A celebration of the 40th birthday of Marlene "Teeny" and Robert "Bob" Fridley, it also marked the first big reunion of first and second cousins since 1959 (when Teeny and Bob were still wombmates). Now we are all older than our parents were at that time, and have children and grandchildren of our own!
Needless to say, a great time was had by all. (To quote Teeny's friend Michele, attending from San Francisco, it was "awesome"!) The location was perfect and apt: the Pence Springs Hotel, a National Register Country Inn now owned and operated by the amazing Ashby Berkely, served as the State Prison for Women from 1947 until 1985. My aunt Mary K. Van Sant served as Financial Secretary for 16 years. We all remember many Thanksgiving dinners in the house on the grounds! The original resort hotel, first opened in 1897, closed shortly after the Depression began but was revived as a girl's school in 1935. Adding to the memories of the place was our great-aunt Edith Tredway Collins, who vividly remembered attending the school as a teenager, and even recalled her room on the second floor (not to mention the staircase where "gentleman callers" would be announced.)
Much of the party that day took place on the brick portico of the hotel and the sweeping grounds, perfect for picnicking, croquet, and general chatter. After Aunt Edith got through clearing the grass for her croquet shots they're lucky they have any lawn left, but her efforts were unrewarded. Cousin Frank won the first match, much to the chagrin of wife Kim, and sister Mary dominated round two. Reigning family Scrabble champ brother Bob (world champion Aunt Kat had already retired for the afternoon) was dethroned by David's friend Kevin and cousin Dejie in an amicable tie. Surprise guests cousin Bud Johnson and wife Joyce brought some family memorabilia, including a photograph of great-great-grandfather James Beury Johnson and wife Eliza found at the Pence Springs flea market.
Dinner was held in the Riverside Room, attended by waitpersons dressed in 19th century garb. The food was great, but the ambience was what will remain a vivid memory. Starting with champagne shipped in from Sonoma Co., California by cousin Mary Lee, the dinner toasts set the tone--appreciation for family, friends, and the chance to be together despite time, distance, and lives gone in different directions. Beautiful flowers, thoughtfully provided by cousins Margie and Richard, added a special touch to each dinner table (and to the dessert table at the hotel's Sunday brunch!) For the birthday twins, the all-chocolate cake carried four candles (the fire code wouldn't allow the full number...)
Everyone's hidden talents (and some that probably should remain hidden!) came on display after dinner, when Steve Gregory, disc and karaoke jockey par excellent from Bluefield cranked up the volume and started taking karaoke requests. From 10-year-old cousin Amber to 82-year-old Aunt Edith, nearly everyone jumped at getting on stage to strut their stuff. Cousin Frank, who not everyone knew used to play drums in a rock band, belted out some rock favorites, sounding just like the original. Cousin Dejie Johnson was amazing--with a voice covering Streisand to Tina Turner, she captivated her audience. Of course, the 40s jitterbug, 50s twist, 60s bebop, 70s disco, 80s line dances, and 90s Latin rhythms (íviva La Vida Loca!) unleashed some fancy footwork (though I drew the line at the macarena!).
Everyone attending the party received a T-shirt for the occasion. Lest anyone forget, the West Virginia emblem was suitably altered so that all would remember the day when Teeny and Bob turned 40!