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  • Writer's pictureMelody Lager

Be My Valentine

The days leading up to Valentine’s Day were quite busy in grade schools. How many readers remember taking a shoe box, and decorating it so your schoolmates could deposit valentines to you? How many remember making valentines by hand? Perhaps

you even remember homemade paste – flour and water! (use one part water to one part flour and stir….) Red paper hearts, lace and paper doilies all made for interesting valentines.

In the years when social activities were highly desirable, valentine parties were hosted by social clubs and community members. One such party in 1898 was hosted by Miss Birdsall and Miss Von Stauffer. These young ladies draped the electric chandeliers in pink and hung mistletoe. Their guests played numerous games, including caroms, hearts, and pango. Another party in 1910 had the ladies writing poetic versus about the others attending the party. One had valentines being auctioned off and yet another featured “sweetheart baskets” of goodies to be auctioned. One 1944 high school party included voting for “Pin-Up Girl”. It seems every woman’s club had a valentine’s meeting, with red and pink decorations, and red and pink and white treats.

Of course, gifts were often exchanged. In the mid-1950’s several Clarion stores noted

they had gifts ready to sell. Weiman’s Flowers advertised bouquets as did Gordons, and

Koethe’s advertised Valentine handkerchief’s for 49 cents. H.E. Cavanaugh drugs and

jewelry had quite a large selection of gifts, including Hallmark cards. Even Deur’s

Grocery had specials, such as Swansdown cake mixes 3 for $1.00.

Perhaps what stands out for many is the valentine cards themselves. First mass

produced in the US around 1847, cards have been traded in schools, clubs and between

friends and family. While flowery prose and pretty pictures were used in the late 1800’s,

cards soon became “sweet and innocent” with sayings such as “What’s cooking good

looking” to “It will be SEW nice if you would be mine.” Pictures of children or animals

were common.

Another staple is conversation hearts. Stamped candy stared in 1866, but the heart

shape valentine’s came in 1901. These soon became popular to exchange, often a box

was taped to the card.

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