Some 1970s nostalgia
A simple inquiry in recent months about how to get a 50th wedding anniversary announcement published in the newspaper generated today’s Valley Life feature.
The call came from former area resident Patricia “Patty” Dittmar of Westerville, Ohio, who happened to mention during the course of our conversation that she and her husband, Joseph Dittmar, were the Herald-Star’s featured bride and groom in a special 1970s supplement that was a newspaper tradition of many years.
Might that be worthy of mention?
The passing comment led not just to a standard anniversary acknowledgment — the couple’s notice appears in today’s Valley Life section on page 5B — but also to today’s story. While it’s a present-day glimpse of the couple, it offers more of a look back at what being the featured couple entailed, the businesses they visited as part of that advertising vehicle, what the overall experience was like and specifics about their wedding day five decades ago.
The “To Have and To Hold” section was published in the Herald-Star on Sept. 15, 1970, in anticipation of the couple’s wedding on Dec. 5, 1970, at St. Agnes Catholic Church where the Rev. Donald Mantica officiated, uniting in marriage the former Patty Schmitt and Lt. Joe Dittmar. Their reception was held at the CIO Hall on Third Street, Steubenville, accommodating more than 400 people.
The section at the time was the eighth-annual one and continued through the late 1990s.
“There is just nothing that compares to the excitement of a young couple making preparations to become partners in life’s adventure,” reads the cover of the supplement in part. “Pat and Joe are not exceptions to the rule when it comes to choosing accessories and necessities for their new life together. Enjoy the experiences of this delightful couple as they make their rounds.”
Being the featured couple involved visiting various local businesses for photographs that in this case were taken by the late James George of James George Studio in Wintersville.
The newspaper reporter was Dick Giblin.
The businesses visited included the Hub of Steubenville; Myer and Stone, 434 Market St.; the First National Bank and Trust Co., with branches in Steubenville, Wintersville, Smithfield, Brilliant, Toronto and Tiltonsville; Spies Jewelry, 115 N. Fourth St.; Cooper-Kline; Downtown Bakery, 151 S. Fourth St.; the Miners & Mechanics Savings and Trust Co., 124-136 N. Fourth St.; Branagan & Punke, 179 N. Fourth St.; the Steubenville Building and Loan Association, corner of Third and Market streets; Home Furniture Co., 143 N. Fourth St.; Slumber House, 125 S. Fourth St.; the Jewel Box, 123 N. Fourth St.; Frank and Jerry Furniture and Appliances, 159-161N. Fourth St.; the Pantry, corner of Washington and Heaslett, Weirton; Brody’s Fine Furniture, 140 S. Fourth St.; the Jefferson Building and Savings Co., 127 S. Fourth St.; Rodger’s Volkswagen Inc., 2218 Sunset Blvd.; Kroger, Seventh and North streets; Fort Steuben-Mayers Hardware Co., 135 S. Fifth St.; Spahn’s Sweet Home Dairy Co., 2716 Sunset Blvd.; Penney’s; M&M Hardware, 4148 Sunset Blvd.; Tri-State Electronics Inc., 3158 West St., Weirton; May & Leopold Co., 2700 Sunset Blvd.; Ohio Valley Savings & Loan, 424 Washington St.; Haimes Travel Agency, 111 N. Fifth St.; Top Value Furniture and Appliances, 152 S. Fourth St.; Calabrese Homes, 1528 Madison Ave., Toronto; One-Hour Martinizing Dry Cleaners, 421 Washington St.; James George Studio, 538 Main St., Wintersville; Bee Cee Mobile Homes, Route 151, Georges Run; Treasure Island, Seventh and Washington streets; and the Steubenville Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square.
So who are Joe and Patty?
Joe was born in Washington, D.C., and as a child moved to Mingo Junction in 1954. He is the son of the late William and Rosemarie (Emanuel) Dittmar. For a brief time his family moved to Wintersville before returning to Mingo Junction. He is a 1965 graduate of Catholic Central High School.
Patty was born in Steubenville and moved to Mingo Junction in 1956. She graduated from Mingo High School in 1967. Her parents were Emil and Mary Alice (McElwain) Schmitt, both deceased.
After high school, Joe earned a bachelor of science degree from Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University) and a master’s degree from Troy State University. Patty attended Weaver Airlines, Kansas City, Mo., and Northern Virginia Community College in Fairfax, Va.
The two attended St. Agnes School in Mingo Junction at about the same time. “We knew of each other but never talked or associated with the same group of friends,” Patty responded to one of many questions sent through e-mail for the story.
“Joe and I met officially on Dec. 26, 1969. It was a chance meeting — Joe was home on Christmas leave from Fort Reilly, Kan. I had just returned home from living in New York City. The Weirton Motor Lodge had a live band on Friday nights, and the two of us happened to be there and met.”
They dated about eight months before Joe proposed.
“Upon meeting, we developed an immediate friendship and that friendship became a romantic one,” Patty wrote. “Very early in our long-distance relationship via two-hour phone calls, we realized we shared many core values, believed the family unit was important and our lifelong goals aligned. So when the day came to ask me to marry him, there really was no ‘blockbuster moment.’ It was just a natural transition.”
What were the circumstances of being part of the wedding supplement?
“Near the end of July 1970, I was employed by the Hub and worked as one of their two bridal consultants,” Patty responded. “The Herald-Star was initiating a search for the bride and groom of 1970. At that time, Steubenville had two bridal salon choices: The Hub and Cooper-Kline. The Herald-Star toggled between each business in selecting the bride for the supplement. In 1970, it was The Hub’s opportunity to select a bride. I had just announced that I was engaged and getting married on Dec. 5. Libby Lycett, manager of women’s wear/bridal, saw this as a great advertisement for her department so she asked me if I was interested. I was both thrilled and honored! I saw the advantages immediately for The Hub and knew it could help boost sales, too. I also saw another opportunity. Dick Giblin was representing The Herald-Star and when I discussed the project with him, I asked if they could have Joe wear his Army military uniform. He certainly agreed. It was a win-win for all.”
What was their experience in being photographed at all the local businesses?
“The first challenge was determining when the photo shoot would be scheduled,” Patty wrote. “The Herald-Star needed four days, and Joe had to take leave and travel in from Fort Knox in Louisville, Ky. Was it fun? Sure it was! Just by looking at the pictures you can see the smiles on both of our faces. Working with Dick Giblin and James George was great! They made it easy and fun even though we were all running from one business to another. September was still very warm so you can imagine how it felt being all dressed up and racing around.”
She continued, “Doing this supplement only reinforced for both of us that we were perfect for each other. Looking back at it now it was a perfect example of team work and how the rest of our lives would be. We knew how to be a team and from the beginning we looked out for each other’s best interest, and we always put each other first.
“It was not strange being the center of attention for either one of us,” she added. “I had done modeling for The Hub, and Joe had been on the stage at Catholic Central in plays his last three years there.”
When the supplement came out, did everyone consider them celebrities? What was their experience?
“I remember my mother and grandmother buying up extra newspaper copies and aunts doing the same and 40 plus years later all of them mailed their copies to me,” Patty responded. “I don’t remember any celebration of the event. We really didn’t become celebrities in the Tri-State Area. The Herald-Star supplement was an advertisement for stores and the products they sold. I think that the objective was met. The bride and groom were just props to communicate that Steubenville businesses have just what their customer needs. We were surprised to see that this was true. When you are young/single, you have no need to visit all those different stores. It was a shock to realize Steubenville really did have a lot to offer at that time — everything that we could possibly need!”
Do the couple ever have occasion to look at the supplement and reminisce?
“We still have several copies of this supplement as well as the original black and white pictures,” Patty explained. “Over the years we shared them with our children and grandchildren and, yes, even we have taken them out and looked at them and reminisced. I have even shared some on Facebook with my family and friends.”
She continued, “When we look at these pictures it was like yesterday. When we really look at some of these pictures we realize the home that Calabrese Homes built in the supplement is now more than 50 years old, that Jerry Barilla in the Frank & Jerry Furniture and Appliances store is now 50 years older and, yes, we are 50 years older. We also realize some of the stores, even some of the owners and their associates, are no longer here to talk with about the old days, but they are remembered.”
What was their wedding like?
“It was a large formal military wedding with groom and six groomsmen (all commissioned Army officers) wearing their dress blue uniforms, including white gloves and sabers. As we processed out of church the groomsmen performed ‘Arch the Sabers,’ a symbolic gesture that ensures the newlywed couple has safe passage into their new life together. It was a memorable moment for both of us,” Patty wrote.
Patty wore a gown of white satin brocade. “A three-row string of seed pearls fashioned my gown’s Victorian neckline, long fitted sleeves and a band of brocade forming an empire look. The A-line skirt was designed with an attached chapel train. A Camelot cap of matching brocade trimmed with seed pearls and enhanced by a Dior bow held my flowing cathedral-length silk illusion veil,” she explained.
Her bridesmaids included her sister, Theresa Schmitt as maid of honor and Candace DeStefano as matron of honor and bridesmaids Shirley Ciafardone, her cousin Mary Catherine Wallace, Deborah Trbovich and Patricia Smith. Flower girls were Tammy Hyde and Patti Macre.
Joe’s best man was his brother, Lt. David “Nick” Dittmar, with groomsmen all friends who were Army commissioned officers: Lt. Michael Dewan, Lt. Mark Kresho, Lt. Richard Mariani, Lt. William Owens and Lt. Marion Dentzler. The ring bearer was Francis Schmitt, brother of the bride, and the Bible carrier was Gregory Gogul, cousin of the bride.
For their honeymoon, the couple visited Toronto, Canada, with a stop at Niagara Falls.
Where did the couple live and work after getting married?
Patty worked at The Hub for a little more than two years’ total.
“The Hub was truly the center of Steubenville,” she wrote. “Everyone shopped and even worked at The Hub sometime in their life. I had a few aunts work there when they were young. One of my aunts worked there when I did. After graduating from college some friends returned home and went to work at The Hub. It was like one big happy family even though it was starting to see a decline in business in the late 1960s. What I remember most is the generosity of the Anathans and this included L.S. Good, upon the merger. If you had a good work ethic, it was noticed. My favorite position was when I worked in the bridal department. Emotions ran high, but the rewards crashed the ceiling. I loved going to work every day when I was in the bridal department,” she reminisced.
“Other fond memories include modeling clothes both formally and informally. Multiple times a year The Hub hosted fashion shows in the store and at other locations. Some may remember having lunch on the mezzanine and seeing associates walk through the area with beautiful full-length mink coats. Those were the fun days at The Hub, and I was fortunate to be a part of it all.”
Patty recalled that The Hub offered just about everything. “You could find material and a pattern to make an outfit or buy readymade. You could get your hair cut/fashioned and go shopping all in one store — even buy your favorite record,” she wrote. “The best time of year was Christmas. You could almost say The Hub windows rivaled Macy’s in New York City. Only at The Hub, thanks to Betsy Ritchie, did they have the most beautiful window treatments with moving animatronics by the Creegan Co.”
She continued, “The elevators were sort of a treat also. How many of us remember the elevator operator ‘Cookie’? She even wore a uniform. The elevators were not automatic so a trained person manned them. Eventually, everyone became a friend of Cookie’s.”
When the couple were married, Joe was a first lieutenant in the Army stationed at Fort Knox, Ky. “Upon our marriage, I resigned from The Hub and joined him there,” she explained. On Jan. 5, 1971, one month to the day after their wedding ceremony, Joe received orders for Viet Nam.
Patty offered a timeline:
From June 1971 to May 1972: “Joe departs for Viet Nam, and I returned to Steubenville, and The Hub immediately rehired me while I waited for Joe to return stateside.
“May 1972 to August 1975: Joe returned from Viet Nam and was assigned to St. Louis, Mo. I resigned from The Hub and joined him there.
“August 1975 to August 1978: Joe was assigned to Zweibrcken, Germany, for three years as a computer operations manager. It was an accompanied tour, so I followed Joe there along with our two children.
“August 1978 to January 1982: Joe was assigned to Fort Bragg (82nd Airborne Division) and I joined him in Fayetteville, N.C., along with our three children. I worked as a bridal consultant/assistant manager at a bridal salon in Fayetteville, N.C., 1980-1982.
“January 1982 to June 1989: Joe was assigned to the U.S. Army Military Personnel Center in Alexandria, Va., and worked as a data center manager until retirement in June 1989. I worked at Erol’s Video/Blockbuster Video from 1984-1989.
“June 1989 to November 1998: Still in the Washington, D.C., area, Joe, upon retirement, worked as a project manager for a consulting firm. I worked as an executive assistant to the head of human resources at the Scheduled Airline Travel Offices (SatoTravel) in Arlington, Va., from 1989-1999.
“November 1998 to September 2020: Joe and I moved to Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus. Joe accepted a data center manager position with IBM (1998 to retirement) on the Chase Bank contract, and I worked as an executive assistant to the head of internal audit at Limited Brands (1999 to retirement).”
In September, the couple decided to downsize and now live in a condominium in Westerville, 6 miles north of their previous home.
They have three children — Leslie Dittmar Heilman and Joseph Dittmar Jr, both of Galena, Ohio, and Philip Dittmar of Columbia, Md. They have eight grandchildren.
In comparing weddings of the past to the present, Patty used the couple’s three children as examples. They were married between 1999 to 2010. “Our first son got married in Cleveland. The reception took place outside a family friend’s home with a crystal clear tent, a display of aerial fireworks and a wedding cake flown in on a private jet from Las Vegas along with the chef, Mary Bergin of Spago’s,” she wrote.
“Our other son and his bride had a destination wedding in Hilton Head, SC., while our daughter and her groom enjoyed a formal wedding more in our tradition in Columbus, Ohio, sans the military dress code. Today, it seems that weddings take place at unique venues but have smaller wedding parties, fewer attendees and cost much more.”
She continued, “The major differences we have noticed over the years are that they use DJ’s instead of real bands and the music has changed considerably — no more polkas. You don’t see the wedding cake walk/conga line very much anymore either. They still do the chicken dance, though. Due to the expense of weddings the guest lists seem to be limited much more than in the 1970s. We had 400 people at our reception,” she wrote.
The Dittmars enjoy retirement, spending time with their grandchildren, gardening and traveling.
“It was great growing up in Mingo in the 1950s and ’60s,” Patty noted. “It was a different time when kids played outside and people didn’t lock their doors.
“Life was so much simpler then.”
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)