It’s Feb. 1 already, and I’m remembering back to when I was a kid, growing up on the ranch. It was about this time of the year that we started thinking about Valentine’s Day. It was an exciting time for us because there would be a Valentine’s Day party at school, and some years our family would host a potluck supper around Valentine’s Day.
Money was tight during those years so we didn’t have much candy. We daydreamed about chocolate candies in heart-shaped boxes, red gumdrop hearts, and the little pastel-colored hearts with words printed on them. Valentine’s Day also meant that we’d have cupcakes decorated with white, pink and red icing and heart-shaped sugar cookies. And then there were the Valentine cards. We enjoyed giving them as much as receiving them.
So we got out our construction paper, paper doilies (if we had them), crayons and glue and got to work. At school, when we were finished with the bookwork, we used extra time to make decorations to hang in the classroom. We made cards for our parents and siblings, too. Perhaps we also made cards for our classmates, but this was done on the sly.
All of the students helped make the Valentine box. After finding a suitable box and making a slit in the top, we covered the box with red or pink construction paper and then decorated it with smaller hearts and other cutouts suitable for Valentine’s Day. The day of our party, everyone would put Valentines for classmates and the teacher in the box.
Sometimes we bought Valentines for everyone, but this depended on the weather. If the roads were decent, we went on a shopping trip to Craig before Valentine’s Day. We visited the variety stores where we tried to decide which assortment of little Valentines and envelopes we wanted. I can also remember buying books of Valentines that had to be punched out or cut from the pages (similar to paper doll books). Sometimes we decided to make our Valentines anyway and bought suckers to be taped across decorated hearts.
Just visiting the Craig stores was a treat for me, whether we bought anything or not. I can remember the drug stores mostly because they “smelled” so good. I guess the heavenly fragrance probably came from the test bottles of perfume and cologne; whatever it was, stepping into the stores seemed like Valentine heaven. There were displays of perfumes, colognes and heart-shaped soaps, some wrapped in cellophane or tulle and tied with pink and red bows. One could only guess what kinds of chocolates could be found in heart-shaped boxes of various sizes. Some of these red and pink boxes were wrapped in cellophane and topped with flowers and ribbons. I could have spent entire days in those drug stores.
We kids spent lots of time choosing (or making) just the right Valentine for our classmates and teacher. The day of the Valentine party we had a hard time keeping our minds on the class work. The Valentine box was filled with cards, and after lunch our mothers arrived with decorated cookies, cookies, candy treats and punch. I don’t remember if we played games or not. What stood out most from that day was receiving the Valentines.
One student was designated to open the box and pass out the Valentines. I don’t remember whether we opened all of them just then or not, but I do recall taking them home and looking at them over and over. The teacher usually made up little packages of candy for us, too.
Then we also had the Valentine’s Day potluck to look forward to — at least some years. There were at least three February birthdays in the neighborhood, too, so the potluck was a combination birthday and Valentine’s Day celebration. Mom always enjoyed making favors for various occasions so she put her creative talents to work and came up with little treats that guests could take home with them. An example was a large red gumdrop heart with a toothpick stuck in it. Glued to the toothpick was a heart. We kids thought the favors were wonderful.
The cake was usually layered and iced with white or pink frosting. Coconut and candies decorated the icing. To celebrate the birthdays, candles were arranged around the top.
We received cards and little gifts from our parents on Valentine’s Day, too. I remember that Dad usually bought Mom a big heart box of candy from which we got to pick one candy each day. The emptied box was saved and used to store something.
Oh, what memories!