15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:
Tuesday, February 14, 1911. I guess that a good many people know that the fourteenth of February is St. Valentine’s day. I expected at least one beautiful valentine, but like some fools I was disappointed, but I didn’t get any ugly ones either. I don’t think I would have felt very much honored to be the recipient of one, but I was not the receiver of any. I however, was the sender of four horrid ones. I also sent some pretty ones too.
St. Valentine’s day is here once more
To pierce some tender heart to the core
But if Dan Cupid with you can’t make a hit.
He’ll turn over and to some easier one flit.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
A hundred years ago Valentine cards weren’t like the cards that we have now. Ethel Spencer, in her memoir about growing up in Pittsburgh, described the valentines that were sent in the early part of the 20th century:
The valentines of our youth were far more interesting than the present-day variety. Most of them were pretty, and many of them did unexpected things when one opened them: a fan of bright-colored paper appeared; a cupid rose up to great us; a bunch of flowers popped out of a box. There were some ugly valentines too, notably paper broadsides with vulgar pictures and rhymes on them that though obtainable at Fatty Schwarz’s little store on Ellsworth Avenue, were forbidden to us.
Ethel Spencer in The Spencers of Amberson Avenue: A Turn of the Century Memoir