Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's Day Proposal

Newlyweds - Eva and Gene

On a crisp Valentine's evening in 1940, two lovers walked hand in hand down an unpaved road towards the Vernal Mill, just outside Vernal, Utah. Near the mill ran a branch off of Ashley Creek, over which a small bridge stood.  This was a favorite spot for the sweethearts. The night was cold and beautiful, and a full moon was rising through the great, leafless branches in Split Mountain Gorge.

This is blurry, but it's cute - the last exposure on their film roll, they took this fun snapshot

Gene and Eva had met seven months earlier, in July of 1939, while walking down the streets of Vernal.  Each walked with two other friends, and as the groups met there were introductions, flirting, and a promise to meet at the dance later that evening.  Vernal had as many as four dances a week at The Imperial Hall, which had the only spring floor west of the Mississippi. Gene's full name was Eugene Victor Rhinehart.  As he walked away, Eva remarked to her friends that if she ever married him and had a little girl, she'd name her Victoria Jeen.

Gene at age 19 (driver's license photo)

Gene was from Cambridge, Ohio, son of Ernest Rhinehart and Goldie Agatha Myers.  He had come to Vernal as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Roosevelt's program to teach young men an occupation, and keep them occupied, during the Great Depression.  Gene was learning how to run heavy construction machinery, which became his lifelong career.  In 1940, Gene was a Clark Gable-esque, well-liked 19-year-old with black, wavy hair and twinkling green eyes. 

Eva, about 1940

Eva was born in Vernal and had lived there all her life.  She was the daughter of James Edwin and Lena May Collier.  At 19, she was beautiful, with brown, curly hair, green eyes, and a slim figure. She was a smart, popular girl, active in dance and sports.

The beautiful couple on their wedding day

As the couple settled on the railing of the bridge that Valentine's night, Gene pulled something out of his pocket - a gold locket with a tiny diamond chip in it.  He carefully clasped it around Eva's neck and asked her to be his bride. They were married four months later on June 14, 1940.  Eva still has that locket today.

Victoria Jeen

Seven years later, Gene and Eva welcomed a baby girl, their second child, into their family.  They named her Victoria Jeen.  That little girl is my mother.


  1. By the way, that cowgranny is the sweet baby in this post, all grown up into a lovely lady, my mama!