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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cecil and Ruth Jorgensen and George and Esther Auld, photographed in Manito's Duncan Gardens Aug. 26, will celebrate 50 years of marriage on Thursday. The Jorgensens live in Loon Lake, Wash., and the Aulds live in Spokane. 
 (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
Cecil and Ruth Jorgensen and George and Esther Auld, photographed in Manito's Duncan Gardens Aug. 26, will celebrate 50 years of marriage on Thursday. The Jorgensens live in Loon Lake, Wash., and the Aulds live in Spokane. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
Maryanne Gaddy Correspondent

To an outsider, hearing Ruth (Auld) Jorgensen describe her wedding ceremony makes it sound like there was an echo in the room.

She recalls the reverend saying, “Do you take so and so to be…?” and then “Do you take so and so…?” And a few minutes later, upon the pronouncement of man and wife, the reverend said, “You may now kiss your brides.”

Brides? As in more than one? Yes, but don’t worry, this is still a family newspaper.

Fifty years ago this Thursday, Ruth and her brother, George Auld, married their childhood sweethearts, Cecil Jorgensen and Esther Olsen, respectively, in a double ceremony.

Something of a novelty back in their day, the joint ceremony means the two couples will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries together this week – making them even more of a rarity today.

While dropping off a friend back in 1954 or so, George Auld spotted a lovely young woman hanging laundry in the backyard. He pulled in and introduced himself, and “We’ve been hanging laundry together ever since,” he says.

George knew right away that Esther Olsen was the girl for him. “From our first dance, I knew she was the one. There was no doubt about it.”

He took her to a stock car race for their first date.

“I went to as few of those as I possibly could,” Esther says. They continued dating and were soon going steady. Unfortunately for George, Esther wasn’t quite ready to “go steady” with anyone, and she broke up with him. They kept dating, though, and she told one of her friends that George was the man she was going to marry even before they started going steady again.

In the meantime, a long-simmering romance between Cecil and Ruth was really heating up.

The two of them went to different elementary schools, but Cecil came to Ruth’s for physical education class. She spotted him and developed an adolescent crush.

“When high school came around, lo and behold, there he was,” Ruth says. “It was wonderful to find out he was at the same school as me.”

Their relationship progressed steadily throughout their early high school years. They started dating and going to school dances and to sock hops at the Masonic Temple.

“Then we decided in our senior year, ‘What the heck, let’s get married,’ ” Ruth says.

Cecil was heading off to Navy boot camp within a few months of their engagement, and Ruth’s older brother, George, and his fiancee, Esther, were already planning their wedding.

“Ruth and I started talking over our ideas for our respective ceremonies and a light bulb just hit: ‘Why don’t we do a double wedding?’ ” Esther says.

Within a few months, they pulled together all the details, and the happy couples headed to the altar together.

The brides walked up the aisle in identical dresses, but with different bouquets and veils. Each couple had their own witnesses with the maid of honor and best man for one couple standing to the right of the altar and the other set to the left.

The four young people, ranging in age from 17 to 21, took turns pronouncing their vows in Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in the Spokane Valley.

It only took a few short minutes to create something that now has lasted for 50 years.

Back then, the couples celebrated their unions with a reception in the church parlor. Identical cakes – the Jorgensens’ topper with a blond groom and a dark-haired bride, and vice versa for the Aulds, to reflect the looks of the couples – were cut.

Shortly thereafter, the couples headed away on their honeymoons. Cecil and Ruth drove across the state to Seattle; Esther and George set out for Banff and Lake Louise.

“We didn’t get that far. We were on the budget honeymoon,” Esther says. “But we were together, and that’s what mattered.”

Cecil left for boot camp a few weeks later while Ruth stayed behind to finish her senior year of high school before joining him in San Diego. The two traveled about the world for the next 20 years and had three children before settling back near Spokane.

Esther and George stayed in the region and also had three children.

Both couples say they are as happy as ever.

“We’ve always been best friends. We can talk about anything. We’re like two peas in a pod,” Ruth says of the man she spotted in her elementary school gym. “Even at that very young age we knew what we wanted. I think we knew we were going to get married way back when we first started going steady. Sometimes you just know these things.”

As it’s lasted 50 years, it’s probably safe to assume it was meant to be.

“Cecil and I met at Lewis and Clark High School. We dated a few times our freshmen and sophomore years, and in our junior year we went steady,” Ruth wrote in her wedding planner before the big day.

“In our senior year we were married, and we lived happily ever after.”

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