Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Hand Made Valentine/Her Papa Got There First
By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 18 February 1962
The sweet-smelling buds of the cotton wood trees and the silken tassels of the pussywillows marked the approach of spring in the Tri-City Region in the early days. Then as now, the thoughts of youth to love and fancy turned; only there were no ready-made valentines available to express these feelings and thoughts.
A friend of mine, Frank Potter, had remembered seeing a lacy and ornate valentine displayed in a window of a shop at Walla Walla when he had been visiting there. With its recollection in his mind, he tried to reproduce something that would resemble it. His available material was meager. He found an addressed envelope from Montgomery Ward Company. He steamed the envelope apart, turned it wrong side out and pasted it together again with the white of an egg. This gave him a clean envelope on which to display his art and express his feelings. He secured a bottle of red ink and a bottle of blue ink at home. Also a couple of pen holders and pen points. With this equipment he proceeded to produce his masterpiece.
He drew a lacey border about an inch wide around the outer edges of the envelope in blue ink. In the center of this frame he had carefully printed in his best alphabet, "To the One I love" in red ink. He had pasted a paper flap over this inscription that could be lifted by the bottom and raised so that the secret could be revealed. On this flap he had drawn two clasped hands. Surrounding the clasped hands was a wreath of forget-me-nots drawn with the blue ink. In each corner of the frame he had drawn a red rose.
I was just shoving down the morning hay into the horses mangers when Frank crawled up the ladder to the hay mow. He showed me, in the early morning light his work of art and told me he had selected me as the Cupid or the Mercury to deliver his valentine to his lady fair. I was to surreptitiously shove the valentine under her front door. I hurried to perform my duties.
As I stooped down to shove the valentine under the door, her father opened it to come out and do his morning chores. He caught me red handed. I was not acquainted with him, but I heard my Pithian father say he was a member of that order. He assumed a very surley mein and frightened the wits out of me. I could feel my face and neck turning red from my throat to the roots of my hair. I took all the blame on myself and did not implicate my buddy in any manner. Her father took the valentine and handed it into the house to his wife saying, "Here is something for Mary." He said to me, "You can go now." I wasted no time in leaving.
I hurriedly found Frank and reported the misfortune I had in the deliver of his valentine. Frank said: "It is too bad that you did not get there five minutes sooner and you would not have been caught." This seeming lack of appreciation on Frank's part in regard to all I had done for him riled my temper and I said, "Well buddy, if you had arrived at the hay mow five minutes sooner I would have reached her front door five minutes earlier. It is not my fault, it is yours. I am playing the parts of John Alden, Damond, Cupid and Mercury. The next time you want a message delivered to your "Sweety Pie" take it yourself." The eruption between us soon cooled off and we were as friendly as every.
In after years when we were all grown and married and visited each other, Mary would always bring out her first valentine for us to view. The husbands and wives would all laugh. But Frank and I always looked a little bit sheepish.
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