Back in the 1950s, my grade school classmates at Glenwood, Minnesota. would spend several days in February constructing memorable valentine boxes crafted from toss-away shoe boxes. On our flip top wooden desks, our little fingers would smear Elmer’s glue or that sticky white paste on the shoebox, creating our own special valentine box to receive love notes on Feb. 14.  We’d cut out white and purple hearts, attach a snippet of lace or rick-rack from mom’s sewing box, cut a 5-inch hole in the top and hope for a box filled to the top with valentines! 

Grade school was such an innocent time of life in the ‘50s, even the ‘60s.  On Valentine’s Day, we had no complications, like gifts of rings or necklaces, flowery notes or flowers.  Whoever you had a crush on in grade school was simply a secret you only wanted your very best friend to know.  Of course, secretly, it was exciting if that news got out to the “crush.”  My dreams would easily be fulfilled when a boy would pass a wadded-up penciled note down the row of desks to my desk.  No name was signed, but “I LOVE YOU!” was written in big letters.  How my heart would flutter when a valentine from my dream-maker would appear in my valentine shoe box.   We girls can be such romantics!

Who didn’t have a crush on that cute boy or girl sitting behind you in grade school?  So what if he pulled your pigtails or hollered “cooties” when you scratched your head…he noticed you.  Surely, this must be love.  Remember, back then “LIKE” was the pretty much the same as “LOVE.”

It didn’t matter to me if every kid in class got the same valentine.  If the boy with the greased ducktail or heinie haircut actually signed his name to the valentine, I knew it must be a special kind of love.  Naturally, girls signed their names.  We wanted romance early on…I was convinced that the punch out valentine with no name MUST have been from the one I had a crush on.  My imagination would know it was from a shy suitor:  It was obvious to me that this boy loved me.  It would hurt just a bit if I’d get a gorilla or monkey valentine.   I knew that must be from some squirrely boy: I probably stuck out my tongue at him.

At the Ben Franklin store downtown on the corner, every kids’ mom would purchase a sheet of 25 punch-out valentines.  An additional, larger valentine for the teacher would be in the package of cards to be punched out along the dotted edges. Kids hoped that valentine would be rewarded with a good grade on their report card, which was scrutinized by most moms and dads.  It would determine if I received my allowance that week.  Otherwise, I could be given additional duties around the house.  Bad grades could make a kid feel like Cinderella in their own home! 

At least one or two “brown-nosers” would smile sweetly at the teacher and correct other kids.  They were always girls.  Brown-nosers were never those mischievous Danter twins, Dean and Dale, boys who  pulled the best tricks on every teacher they got!  They would switch places in their assigned seats so the teacher wouldn’t know which twin she called on or who she was reprimanding.  I bet they even put frogs in their teachers’ desks like the Little Rascals did in the comics.  How I wished I could have the guts to be like those boys.  But on Valentine’s Day, their mom would make sure her twins came through with valentines for everybody.

I loved the homemade lacy valentines of my parents’ generation.  Mom always saved the beautiful boxes of Whitman chocolates she got from dad on Valentine’s Day.  The heart-shaped box was covered in pink or red satin with a big satin bow and a heart card declaring his undying devotion to her.   Dad was a man of few words so mom treasured those Hallmark greetings he sent, which had words he found difficult to utter.  But he always signed the card with a big signature “Hank.”  She knew better than to expect him to actually say those words.  

“Better let my heart be without words, than my words without heart.”  John Bunyan

Many of us hope our husbands and boyfriends will send either flowers, chocolates, at least a card of considerable size and loving content to their valentines.   If a girlfriend doesn’t receive some gift on Valentine’s Day, that romance is severely dampened, probably doomed.   What gal would put up with such insensitivity? That’s an error never to be repeated.

“It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.”  William Thackeray