By: Frances A. Posner
Years ago I found them stashed in the attic in a flat gift box - valentines from my Swift School classmates, from cousins and neighbor children.
Many stand up alone. Most are quite beautiful. Some are definitely 1920: white paper lace, doves, hearts, movable rolling eyes, sweet and jolly verses. In the 1990s we do “sentiment” differently.
All are precious. I made a scrapbook of them and bring it out each year to enjoy. Perhaps you’d like to see some… I’ll just pick out a few.
Here is one sent to me 75 years ago when I was only two years old. It’s a postcard with a one-cent stamp posted from the Jackson Park Postal Station. A colonial couple is pictured - he in a blue jacket, frilled shirt and yellow silk breeches; she, hands clasped at her heart, in a flowing red skirt and lacy petticoat, tiny feet barely showing. It says: “Bought a ring for forty shillin, Which thou mayest wear if thou art willin… With Love and Devotion.”
Someone from Swift Room 307 sent me this one signed “From ?” It’s a stand-up of two girls in a garden. The message reads:
Guess who sends this gift to you?
Guess whose heart is ever true?
Guess who wants forever to-
Be your valentine!
Half the fun was trying to guess who!
That one surrounded by red and white hearts was also given to me three quarters of a century ago, by a dear friend who is now long dead. Ruth Grossman was much older than me, but she was as beautiful to look at and play with as her valentine. The valentine was printed in Germany and is actually a little book entitled “A Valentine Message.”
The cover depicts a baby-bonneted little girl blowing a golden trumpet and holding in her hand a long red ribbon tied to one of the red hearts growing on the vine along the cover’s border. The first page has “Valentine Thoughts” printed in gold letters. On the next page are two gold-engraved hearts hanging by ribbons from an apple blossom branch. Opposite appears this verse in gold:
Duty’s a slave that keeps the keys,
But Love, the master, goes in and out
Of his goodly chambers,
with song and shout,
Just as he please - just as he please.
Turn the page and you’ll find a singing, wing-flapping, happy bird perched on a flowering branch. On the last page a boy and girl sit on a swing against a big red heart. The boy is trying to kiss the girl.
This large “granny” valentine was given to me by my big sister, Helen. Granny, in mop cap and apron, her Dutch wooden shoes resting on a warmed footstool, is knitting a green woolen stocking. She says: “For My Little Valentine.” Her bright blue eyes move, twinkling, back and forth.
I think Joan gave me that white paper lace valentine. (For girls, this type was really special.) Stamps of a singing bird in a golden cage and a decorated heart imprinted with “To My Valentine” surround a red-haired little girl. The girl is an early box-radio operator, with earphones over her curls and two cords attached to the box (a crystal set?). Open the valentine - go ahead - and there sit a boy and girl, with an earphone each, on a moon against a white cloud heart. The phrase reads:
I breathed a message into the air.
It fell to the earth, I know not where.
If you “listened in” then you’d know
That you are my valentine. I love you so.
The valentine was made by Whitney in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Frances Fornell (signed under the stand-up tag) from Swift School sent this different kind of free-stander, printed in Germany. The little girl, her bobbed hair caught back from her forehead by a large red bow, is manicuring her nails at a small table decorated with a red heart and “Valentine Greetings” in red. Her right arm and head swing up and down as she buffs and polishes the nails on her left hand. No nail paint in those days. The verse reads:
When you polish your nails, Please think of me,
For like them I like to shine;
I’ll be “on hand” most joyfully,
If you’ll be MY VALENTINE.
Well, I’ll stop there for now - I said only a few. They are charming, aren’t they?! You’re welcome to stop over sometime, if you like, to see the rest… and have a happy Valentine’s Day!