Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 10, 2013

Ed Hungness: Valentine's Day celebrations haven't changed much


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---- — Thursday is Valentine's Day! Only four more days to buy cards, chocolates and flowers for your special Valentine! It's a fun day; an opportunity to show your love for others. The greeting card companies, florists and confectioners also eagerly look forward to this annual observance and its bottom-line contributions.

St. Valentine's Day began as a celebration of an early Christian saint, by the same name, who was martyred for marrying soldiers (who were forbidden to wed) and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their affection with gifts of flowers, sweets and greeting cards appropriately called valentines.

Fast forward to the 20th century and you would find Eddie and his 3rd grade classmates making personalized Valentine's Day mailboxes, usually fashioned out of red construction paper in the shape of a heart. They were creatively decorated with cut-out arrows, cupids and paper hearts in contrasting colors and pasted to the front of the handcrafted receptacle. Part fun, part art project, it was an activity that the class enjoyed doing. Once completed, each student proudly hung their masterpiece from the blackboard chalk rail, which wrapped around two sides of the classroom. Front and center was the prime location for one's mailbox.

That evening I sat at the kitchen table with a package of small store-bought valentines and matching envelopes. Pencil in hand, I busied myself addressing envelopes and signing cards. I covered all the bases as far as the female classmates, but was a little more selective regarding the boys. How could I give a valentine to a fellow classmate who punched me in the nose the previous week? For the most part, everyone received a valentine. Even at that young age, I looked forward to getting valentines from the girls more than the guys and hoped for a special message from my favorite.

On Valentine's Day, with my bag of valentines in tow, I ran to school in eager anticipation of the day. Hopefully, the teacher wouldn't waste a lot of time on frivolous study lessons. We had more important issues to deal with. After all, it was Valentine's Day!

After we stood next to our desks and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, we were allowed to deliver our valentines to our classmates' mailboxes. I tried to keep an eye on my box to see who was leaving a valentine for me. We all hoped that our box would be overflowing with mail. With valentines delivered, we reluctantly endured the math and spelling lesson, anxious to get on with the party.

After lunch and science, we could hear activity in the hallway. The volunteer moms had arrived with treats for the party. Our teacher announced that studies for the day were over and we were allowed to retrieve our mailboxes and open valentines. Each student scurried to fetch their mail. I sorted though the contents of my heart-shaped box, separating the boys' valentines from the girls'. I had far more interest in the ones from the girls.

The balance of the afternoon was spent consuming home-baked cookies in a variety of shapes, decorated cupcakes and drinking red Kool-Aid. Moms passed out small boxes of colored candy hearts with "Be Mine," "Love" or "Valentine" printed on each piece. The bolder boys ventured by their favorite girl's desk and casually left a candy heart for her to discover and wonder who had left it.

My recent exhaustive research (asking the grandkids) indicates that most schools continue to observe Valentine's Day in much the same way as we did in 1952. Thankfully, some things remain the same.

Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at edhungness@yahoo.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633