Senior Computer Tutor Don Edrington
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Sudden Las Vegas Wedding


It was November of 1956 and my best friend from junior high school days, Carl Von Papp, had been working at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert for several months. He was only able to see his girlfriend Sophia Calderón back in Hollywood on occasional weekends.

One Friday afternoon Carl phoned just as I got home from work.

"I want to take Sophia to Las Vegas so we can get married," he said. "Could you drive her up here tonight, and then take us to Vegas? You could be our best man, as well as our witness. You'd have plenty of time to get here—I don't get off work till 10 PM."

"Married? Really? You and Sophia? Well, I'm delighted to hear it—but tonight? This is kind of short notice."

"I know—but you can do it, can't you?"

"Well, I don't have anything special planned for the weekend. Thought I'd take in that Japanese movie at the Acacia—but that's all."

"Okay—so take Sophia to the movie—and then drive up here."

"Well, I guess I could do that. But what's the big hurry? Is Sophia...?"

"No, she's not!" Carl snapped. "I've just decided it's time. We've been going together for two years."

"Yes, I know. I remember rather vividly how you two met that night in my apartment." (But that's another story.)

"Okay," I said. "So how do I get to Edwards?"

Carl gave me directions and I promised we'd be there by 10 PM. Then I called Sophia. But her line was busy.

I dialed a second time and she answered.

"Carl?" Sophia said in a bewildered tone of voice.

"No, it's Don." I replied. "I just got off the phone with Carl."

"So did I," she said. "I can't believe this. He wants me to go to Las Vegas with him tonight so we can get married."

"Yeah, that's what he told me."

"But he didn't give me a chance to say yes or no!"

"Excuse me," I sputtered. "Whadda you mean?"

"He just said 'Let's go to Las Vegas tonight and get married. I'll ask Don if he can drive us.'

Then he hung up!"

"Wow!" was all I could say. "So, did you call him back?"

"No—I couldn't. I don't know his number out there. Do you know it?"

"No—actually, Soph, I don't. Sorry. So what are you going to do? In fact, what are we going to do?"

"Well," she said, "he called earlier in the week and proposed to me. I told him I had to think about it. He said he'd call me on Friday—and he did. But I wasn't expecting this!"

"Anyway," she continued, "I guess now is as good a time as any. But I thought we'd get married here—with our friends and all. Why do you suppose he wants to do it like this?"

"If you don't know, Soph, I'm sure I don't. But you know Carl—pretty unpredictable at times."

"Well," she said, "If we can't call him, I guess we have to go there so I can answer him one way or another."

"We don't seem to have any other option. I mean, we could call Information—but he says he works all over that Air Force base. I doubt that we could find him very easily."

"I'm so nervous I don't know what to do," Sophia said. "This is crazy!"

"Yes, it is," I agreed. "So, how long would it take you to get ready?"

"An hour or so, I guess. But 10:00 o'clock? He says it's a two-hour drive. What would we do in the meantime?"

I suggested the movie.

"A movie? Well, maybe it would take my mind off things and calm my nerves."

"Great. Get yourself ready, we'll put your things in my car, and leave for Edwards from the theater."

So we went to see The Seven Samurai.

But even with subtitles we didn't follow the plot too well, as neither of us could stop wondering about what the night was yet to bring.

Running Out of Gas in the Middle of the Desert

It was dark when we left the Acacia, and starting to get cold. But my '55 Chevy Belaire's heater was in good shape, and the drive to the high desert was comfortable and uneventful—until I realized I'd forgotten to look at my gas gauge. I thought of this as we approached a railroad crossing in the middle of nowhere. It had been miles since we saw a gas station, and who knows how far to the next one?

Worse yet, the gates of the crossing began to lower as the moonlight showed us an oncoming freight train that appeared to be 20 miles long.

At first I let my engine idle, but finally shut it off when it became clear we'd be there for quite a while. I just hoped there was enough gas to get us started again. Fortunately there was and we were eventually able to limp into an all-night gas station shortly after the "near empty" dash light came on.

It was getting close to 10:00 and we still had a long way to go. I'd never been to Edwards, and hadn't judged the time and distance too well. At 10:30 all we could see was sagebrush and cactus.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Sophia and me, Carl was being ribbed unmercifully by his coworkers.

Your Best Friend and Your Girlfriend?

"You're best friend took your girlfriend to the movies, Carl? What else did they do together?"

"You say they went to a foreign movie? Probably one of those sexy French or Italian movies that can give a guy ideas. How well do you know this 'friend?'"

Then they said they'd just gotten a call that someone was here for him at the guard shack—which was about 20 miles from the job site. Carl did not think it was funny when he arrived in a courier jeep and was told that no one was there and that it must have been a joke.

Having the same gag pulled about half an hour later was even less funny. It was getting close to 11:00 o'clock and Carl had no way of knowing if we were even coming. He was worried enough without being needled by the work crew.

So, when he was told a third time that he had visitors at the gate, he just shrugged and tried to ignore his tormentors.

"Really, Carl," they insisted. "We're not kidding this time!"

Yes, we had finally made it to Edwards.

"We're here to see Carl Von Papp," I told the guard.

"Oh— so you're the ones," he said. "I'll put in a call. You'll have to wait here. It'll be a while. He's about 20 miles away."

Another Practical Joke

As we sat waiting, I had an idea. "Sophia," I said, "why don't you crouch down on the floor and I'll tell Carl you decided not to come."

"Oh, no!" she cried. "You wouldn't!"

"Sure I would—it's just a harmless joke—and it would be over in a second when you jump up and say, 'Surprise!'"

Well, hiding was easy for Sophia, who is less than five feet tall. So down she went.

It seemed like eons as we waited for Carl. Finally, a jeep pulled up. Carl jumped out of the passenger seat and flashed his ID to the guard as he ran breathlessly toward us. He came up to the driver's window and turned white as he looked inside and saw only me.

Trying hard to keep a straight face, I said, "Sorry, Carl. I would have called but didn't have your number. So I had to come and tell you in person. Sophia just wouldn't come with me. She said to tell you she's very sorry."

Carl was speechless (which, for Carl, is a rarity indeed). I couldn't keep it in any longer and burst into laughter as Sophia sprang into view. Carl gulped and remained speechless. Then we all had a good laugh as he slid in next to Sophia and we hit the road for Vegas.

Why Tonight?

Naturally, Sophia and I had to ask the obvious—why all of a sudden tonight? And why didn't he wait for an answer from Sophia?

"Well," Carl said, turning to Sophia with a sheepish grin, "I was afraid you might say no. This way I was reasonably sure you would come out here and then go on to Vegas with me."

I kept my mouth shut and Sophia just looked at Carl like she'd never seen him before.

Anyway, it was close to 2:00 AM when the bright lights of Las Vegas appeared on the horizon. We found a motel with a Vacancy sign and went in to sign up—a room for Carl and Sophia and a room for me.

We were too wired to sleep, so we decided to stop at one of the hotels on the Strip. Sophia had never been to Las Vegas, so Carl and I were anxious to show her what goes on in a casino. We spent some time just walking around before we spotted a craps table with just a few players.

"Come on, Sophia," we said, "we'll show you how to shoot craps."

"Personally," I said, "I always bet on Don't Pass and Don't Come. That way your odds are almost even with the house."

"That's too complicated," Carl said. "If Sophia gets the dice, let her bet the way she wants."

"Okay," I replied, "Just trying to save you some money."

Virgin Crap Shooter

Well, Sophia did get the dice, and watching her roll them was a sight to behold. For one thing, she'd never been to a craps table before, and had no idea how the game was played.

Beyond that, she's so tiny, she could barely reach over the edge of the table. And it took several tries before she could get the dice all the way down to bounce off the backboard.

The table boss was becoming increasingly exasperated with each roll and was about to hand the dice to the next player.

When Sophia finally connected with the backboard, she had thrown a seven. Everyone cheered as the croupier pushed some chips toward her. I cheered, too, even though I had bet on Don't Pass. Sophia was looking bewildered as she asked, "What happened? Did I win?"

"Yes, you won!" yelled the other players. So Sophia smiled and picked up all her chips.

"No! Put them back and roll again!" everyone yelled.

Sophia looked at Carl, who said, "Just put down your original bet. Keep the rest of it." So she did and rolled again—and the dice fell short of the backboard again. However, everyone was cheering her on and the next roll got her an eight.

"What happened? Did I win again?"

"Not yet," everybody yelled, "You have to roll another eight!"

So she did.

Everybody Stopped to Come & Watch Sophia

As everyone cheered, people began to come over from other tables to see what all the excitement was about.

Sophia managed to throw several more winning combinations before she finally rolled snake eyes. Each time she would ask what had happened. And each time she would pick up her winnings while everyone yelled for her to leave them on the table.

But a disapproving look from Carl each time told her she should only pick up what she had won. The others kept asking Carl if he realized how much she would have won if she had let the winnings ride. If she had, of course, the snake eyes would have returned it all to the house anyway. But we had fun and everyone was dissapointed to see Sophia leave.

The sun was starting to come up by the time we got back to the motel, and we were ready for a rest.

The next morning we went looking for a wedding chapel. We didn't have to look far. We chose one where a happy couple was exiting as friends threw rice on them. The Justice of the Peace greeted us with a smile and showed us a list of options, including rice, a bouquet for the bride and a tape recording of the ceremony. The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

One Final Practical Joke

The Justice also slipped me a rolled up poster that said JUST MARRIED on it. I hid it from the lovebirds and taped it to the door that evening after they'd retired to their honeymoon suite.

The following morning I was in the patio when Carl came outside with a look of pride and self-satisfaction. He took in a deep breath of fresh Las Vegas air as we nodded good morning to each other.

However, he couldn't help but notice that passers-by were smiling and nodding at him with a knowing look. Puzzled, he looked at me for an explanation. I just shrugged with an innocent smile. Then he spotted the sign.

"Oh, you sneaky rat!" he barked, as I began to laugh. But did he rip the sign off the door and throw it in the trash? No—he untaped it very carefully and put it in a suitcase. Would you believe he still has that sign?

Anyway, four kids and I don't remember how many grandkids later, Carl and Sophia are living happily in Washington state where Carl became a computer applications instructor and technology consultant at Bellevue College and where they have all their offspring within a relatively short driving distance.

What more could a couple ask for?

(Click for larger size.)

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