75 years of dub dub love.
It was early February 1944 at Northwestern, and there was a rumor on campus: the third-year students in the V-12 program, which funded college degrees for Navy recruits, would be drafted into the war.
Alfred Wolter, a third-year engineering student at the time, first learned of his upcoming commission at the evening muster when he and other NROTC recruits assembled on the sidewalk between Tech and Patten Gym for announcements. Alfred was about 800th in line, but he still heard the announcement. “That was a rather startling bit of news,” Alfred says.
Three months later, Alfred would board a train to Miami to become a minesweeper in the Caribbean. But before any of that could happen, he had to make a call.
After muster was dismissed, he walked to the nearest payphone at Hinman House on Lincoln Street. “There were five telephone banks, and they were pretty well occupied for a number of hours.” After slipping a nickel into the booth, he dialed Joyce Neslow’s number to tell her he would soon be drafted. “Will you marry me?” he asked.
Joyce and Alfred met while attending Carl Schurz High School in Irving Park on the Northwest Side of Chicago and dated throughout their time at Northwestern. Between classes, the pair would squeeze in 45-minute lunches in the basement of Scott Hall — the only place, according to Alfred, where men and women on campus typically mixed. There, they listened to lunchtime jukebox, played ping-pong and swing danced to Glenn Miller. “We didn’t [go on dates] a lot because there wasn’t time,” Joyce says. “We had so much to do.” Even in the 1940s, it was hard to find time to date as a Wildcat.
Joyce originally enrolled in Ripon College in Wisconsin but, attracted by the academic opportunities at Northwestern, transferred after her first year. “And maybe Alfred was a little part of it too,” she laughs. It was $200 more a year for her to attend Northwestern, about $5,000 today. When asked if NU or Alfred were worth the extra money, Joyce answered, “Both.”
Joyce and Alfred married at the First Lutheran Church in Chicago, four weeks after learning of Alfred’s commission. They both say the war sped things up. “You don’t have time to be sad or grieve or anything, to think, ‘Gee, he’s going to be gone,’” Joyce says. “You just do it.”
“Nobody was making anything like wedding gowns during the war, so there was very little material to find,” Joyce says. She went to a Chicago fabric store to find suitable material. The man working there said, “There’s a little left on this roll.”
There was just enough for a dress: three yards of satin and a few yards of lace. For eggs and flour for the cake, Joyce and Alfred’s neighbors donated their ration cards and helped cook enough food to feed the attendees. Alfred and Joyce were married on March 4, 1944 and honeymooned at the Drake Hotel.
Alfred served in the Navy for 18 months. During his time overseas, Joyce and Alfred wrote letters to each other, which Joyce says she would read to her colleagues at her office job back in Chicago. “All [she] could say was ‘I love you’, and ‘how ya’ doin?’... ‘It was nice weather down here today,’” Alfred says.
After V-J Day, Alfred and Joyce returned to Northwestern and finished their courses. Alfred graduated in winter quarter of 1947 and Joyce in the spring of 1948. Today, Joyce and Alfred live in Arlington Heights. They say they spend much of their leisure time reading to one another. Right now, it’s “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush.”
But their marriage, like anyone’s, is not without challenges. According to Joyce’s grandchild Kaitlin Sublet, her “Nonnie” likes say, “You marry someone for a lifetime, not for lunch every day.”
Alfred and Joyce celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in March at the Everest Hotel downtown. Alfred says, though it’s been three-quarters of a century, “75 years is too short a period.”