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Valentine’s Day Cards – Then and Now

Every February, I open the large brown envelope that a friend gave me for a few years ago.  Inside are four cards, all fragile and yellowed with age.

            A flat cardboard card opens to a red faded tissue paper accordion greeting.  Only the words ‘Valentine Thoughts’ convey the message of the bright-eyed smiling children shown.  This 10 x 8-inch card was probably made in the early 1900s when honeycomb paper and fold-out valentines were popular.  I wonder if the person who first received this card appreciated its simplicity, its beauty as I do.

            A postcard-sized rectangle folds out to stand. Tiny colorful flowers and an outdoor fountain provide the backdrop for a little boy dressed in short pants looking toward a little girl wearing a dress, short enough to show her white bloomers. The only words are To My Valentine.  Nothing more is needed.

            Two other cards are much more wordy.  One shows a man dressed in pants and jacket fitting for his top hat and bow tie.  The verse title is ‘Don’t Say I’m No Bargain.’

            I know that you love bargains

            Confess Now! Ain’t it true?

            Ain’t I a bargain, Honey?

            Please take me home with you!

            Be My Valentine!

            The man wears a placard that reads, “Take me home for Nothing.”  A shopper might like his offer.

            Red hearts decorate the corners of another vintage card.  A man and a woman look toward each other.  She’s wearing a green dress that falls at mid-calf and is seated, her fingers on a manual typewriter.  He’s dressed in a white shirt, a red tie, a black jacket, and green pants, and stands, leaning toward her.   

            The verse is titled ‘Take This Down!’

            You’re just my type, and do we click?      

            I’ll say we do – but gee!

            Now get this straight, and get it quick,

            You can’t dictate to ME!

            When I first saw this card, my heart softened.  Ah, an old-fashioned sweetheart card.  Then I read the message and was brought up short.  Well, it is old-fashioned, for sure.

            The couple’s clothing and the typewriter are clues to when it was printed.  The best clue is the artist, Dudley T. Fisher, Jr.  If Wikipedia is correct, Fisher lived from 1890 – 1951 and was a syndicated newspaper cartoonist beginning in 1937.  So, maybe someone gave this card to his sweetheart in the 1940s. 

            Today Valentine cards are printed for everyone, not just sweethearts.  There are cards for parents, children, teachers, friends, grandchildren.  To avoid doing what my friend did, read the verses.  He thought he’d chosen the perfect card for his wife.  The front had flowers and hearts and a simple Happy Valentine’s Day greeting.  But he overlooked the inside of the card:  To my favorite teacher. 

            His wife is a teacher who has a sense of humor so she laughed. Maybe I should loan him my honey-comb fold out card.  He couldn’t go wrong with Valentine Thoughts. 

            And we can’t go wrong with a simple Valentine greeting to tell someone we care. 


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