Love in the Time of Ice Cream Sundaes, Part 1On July 29, 2020 by Elyse
Once upon a time, there was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He fell in love with a girl whose parents disapproved, and they ran away to be together. . . Sound familiar?
I guarantee you haven’t heard this story, which is “as unique a romance as ever a pair of young lovers engaged in.” For once, the 20th-century newspapers weren’t exaggerating.
It’s part “Romeo and Juliet,” with a hefty helping of “My Side of the Mountain” and a dash of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to bang your head against the nearest wall.
One fine day in 1910, 17-year-old Beatrice Sanders, who was “rarely pretty, with dark eyes and a complexion like snow and roses” wandered into R. M. Laird’s drug store in Newark, New Jersey. There, her life was forever changed when Cupid’s arrow struck her heart.
I leave it to you to decide if that arrow was aimed at ice cream sundaes or 17-year-old soda fountain employee La Vere Tallman:
. . . a good looking boy with broad shoulders and a ruddy complexion, and Beatrice found it very pleasant to cross the street from her home and partake of sodas and sundaes at his counter. He served her so generously and with such enthusiasm that he made a great hit. Beatrice came often and oftener, and before they knew it the young couple were head over ears in love.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but if Beatrice is any indication, it works the other way, too.
Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth.
It wouldn’t be a proper love story if Beatrice’s parents demurely acquiesced to their teenage daughter marrying the first boy to give her a free soda.
When Beatrice went to Bradley Beach for the summer La Vere wrote burning letters. Papa Sanders found one of these missives and informed his daughter that she better come down out of the clouds. She said her love was higher than the clouds and she couldn’t get down.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
Am I the only one who didn’t fight with my parents in metaphors when I was a teenager? At least Beatrice’s mother was a tad more prosaic.
Her mother stormed about the “foolish romance” and sent Beatrice in a hurry to the Hackettstown Seminary. But Beatrice determined to balk and wrote La Vere that her love for him would never die and couldn’t he rescue her from the torture of stuffy schoolrooms.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
What knight needs shining armor when he has ice cream?
La Vere had only $30 in the world and the slender wage that accrued from compounding sundaes. But $30 is a lot of money when you sugar it with a mountain of love, and after he had talked the situation over with a friend La Vere hit upon a plan. He and Beatrice would elope to the snuggest, coziest cave in the universe.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
If I’d had a high school boyfriend who’d suggested we run away together to live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, I would’ve dumped him faster than you can say “five-star resort or bust.” But hear the boy out on this one. He made a compelling case:
He would buy a rifle and a shotgun and fishhooks and snares and bird traps and a skittle and a spider and a bag of charcoal.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
That’s an exhaustive list of everything two teenagers could possibly need to survive alone in the wilderness—other than, y’know, winter clothing, bedding, medicine, candles, pots and pans. . . I digress. If you’re not convinced by his practicality, he’s a sweet talker, too:
They would be like gypsie lovers, faring forth in the woods in the daytime and sitting out under the stars in the crisp fall evenings. Nature would fill their souls with ecstasy and they would be happy beyond measure of happiness.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
I’ll pass. Fortunately for La Vere, his beloved felt differently.
Beatrice was more than charmed with the idea, and one beautiful day in September the lovers met and journeyed to their cave.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
If the part of this story that troubles you most is the impropriety of two unmarried people living together, rest assured, they had every intention of tying the knot.
Of course we intended to get married. . . but we put it off for fear that our people would come after us and tear us apart. We did not think we would get married without the marriage leaking out and that is why we hurried to the cave.– La Vere Tallman, quoted in the Evening World, December 1, 1910
They needn’t have worried.
When they eloped we just let them go their own sweet way. There wasn’t anything else to do and we didn’t want a lot of notoriety.– Mrs. Sanders, Beatrice’s mother, quoted in the Evening World, December 1, 1910
Incidentally, the Sanders won the Parents of the Year award in 1910.
It may not have been a luxury hotel, but Beatrice and La Vere weren’t slumming it, either:
It was just the finest cave imaginable, too. A great, big regular robbers’ cave. Why, Captain Kidd himself would have pounded upon it in glee as a bully hiding place from policemen, and might have hid a million dollars in bullion and diamonds in the big black hole that led off to—no one knows where—from the southeast corner.– The Spokane Press, December 12, 1910
They didn’t have diamonds, but the young lovers subsisted well enough on fish, rabbits, birds and provisions from nearby farmers. Beatrice, by La Vere’s account, “cooked great.”
Whatever they lacked in nutrition, they made up for with the healthiest ingredient of all: love.
For in the soft, romantic days of September and October they sat alone beneath the stars and gazed into each other’s eyes and loved each other and forgot the world. They were very, very happy—also, very, very young.– The Spokane Press, December 12, 1910
They also were very, very boring, if La Vere’s diary is any judge:
Beatrice’s own diary is more effusive:
Her infatuation, er, love didn’t fade. Later, when reminiscing about their time in the cave, Beatrice said:
Le Vere was so good to me. . . Never did I dream a man could be so spiritual, have such high mental qualities. He treated me as if I were his sister.– Beatrice Sanders, quoted in the Washington Herald, December 2, 1910
I know it was 1910, but “sister?” Really?
La Vere agreed wholeheartedly:
I don’t think we could have been happier in heaven.– La Vere Tallman, quoted in the Evening World, December 1, 1910
However, all good things must come to an end. Only six weeks into their happily ever after, a new obstacle arose, this one far more difficult to overcome than parental objections.
Yes, bliss was no name for their ecstatic existence until the heavy frost came. They discovered very suddenly that the cave was very airy and open. There were plenty of leaves for covering, but even with leaves and evergreen boughs and warm blankets the cruel frost cut its way in . . .
Even turtle doves are not impervious to climatic changes, and Beatrice and La Vere soon decided that they would come to a speedy and unhappy end if they remained in their cave.– The Evening World, December 1, 1910
What’s a pair of underage, penniless lovebirds to do? Return home and risk a cruel separation? Freeze to death in their love nest? Realize that some teenage dreams don’t last forever?
Tune in next time to discover the fate of our brave, foolish young protagonists!
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.