Valentine traditions fading

By Bob Huber: Local columnist

Speaking of February, I’m reminded of that old Valentine that says, “Never fall in love with a girl from behind,” which doesn’t say much for clever love messages or the absolute truth that a girl in hand is worth two in the bush. But it does say something about how we celebrate February holidays these days. For instance:

Folks used to close stores and schools for the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, but nowadays it’s business and hot lunches as usual. Then they bound together those two favorite political leaders with a bunch of losers whose names we can’t even recall, like Arnold Polk and Lester Nixon, under the Presidents Day umbrella. Today we can’t even remember what day that celebration takes place, just that it’s in February.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day. It used to be much more important than it is today. When I was a kid, everyone took love notes to school and received the same number back. Even Scrud Blocker who water-proofed his boots with skunk oil got valentines.

Mothers gave their children valentines too. I always got new underwear, the significance of which escapes me at the moment. I suppose by mid-February I was getting a little rank and needed new long johns.

Mom always carried a valentine in her purse, and she whipped it out and read it aloud when I was falsely accused of some minor misdemeanor. The card said, “Boys are no damned good!” It was an example of her Nebraska farm humor.

But back to real valentines. On that special day, boys pinned love notes from their favorite girls on the flaps of their overall pockets. It was a positive way of announcing to the world that they and Shirley Bushelsnap were enamored of each other — like Roy and Trigger — and they planned a June wedding right after the fourth grade.

Caustic, unsigned valentines also were slipped through vents in lockers in those days — lessons in sarcasm. I received one once that said: “Roses are red, violets are blue. Your feet stink, and your sister’s do too.” Talk about your emotional message.

After school on Valentine’s Day I always spread my new love notes across the kitchen table and separated them into categories — the good, the bad, the ugly — and I read into them all kinds of secret meanings. Then I carefully stored them in a cigar box along with other memorabilia, which I kept under my bed until the box got so full I had to start a second box by putting the bads and uglys in with the dried horny toads.

I wonder whatever happened to those boxes. Some of the contents were exquisite works of art. A few of the valentines weren’t bad either.

I still remember some of the girls’ names I pinned to my pocket flap, such as Martha Hogstepper, whose father sold hard cider during the Depression, and thereby sailed a little tipsy through those hard times. And Dorothy Overfoot who was always muttering, “Udnn, udnn,” and later became a truck driver. And Myrna Glower, whom we called “High Pockets,” because she could dunk the basketball from a flat-footed stance.

But that’s all changed, because overalls don‘t have flaps on pockets anymore. Anyway, distributing valentines petered out about the same time as I got married. Odd coincidence.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.