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I don't recall when I started my annual resurrection of these vintage declarations of love, but it was always a trip down memory lane.

I've been having my annual February reunion with old Valentines — the ones I received in my days of the one-room country schoolhouse. Thanks to my mother, who saved so many things from my childhood, these vintage Valentines dating from mid-1930s to early 1940s never fail to revive memories from that era of my life.

For many years this box of paper treasures was in a state of dormancy in the storage area of my parents' farmhouse, and after I'd married, it moved along to the houses of our family. Occasionally its contents would be happened upon during a seasonal cleaning, then packed away for another decade or two until the busyness of our lives diminished and coincided with my appreciation for things of bygone days.

At some point I took the time to look at each Valentine and the names of fellow students brought back visions of boys in farm overalls and girls in starched dresses along with their personalities and the friendships we shared.

These Iowa country schools were situated on a corner of land every two miles, assuring that students would not have to walk more than that to get their first eight (and for some their only) years of education. In my first year of 1936 there were 17 students in grades kindergarten through eighth. This number gradually diminished to only five in 1942 and the school was closed. The five of us were added to the enrollment of the nearest one-room, sending me to a new school for eighth grade.

The names of "Mrs. Woods" and "Miss Phares" written on some of the Valentines bring thoughts of the two teachers I was fortunate to have and the huge responsibilities each of them had in running these two schools singlehanded. Teaching eight different grade levels plus the physical labor of keeping the schoolhouse warm in the winter, making sure crockery water coolers were filled, snow shoveled from entrances and to outhouses, setting traps for rodents that sometimes found their way in, and dealing with physical bruises occurring during recesses made for long and challenging days for teachers. And yet they found time to make sure all students were included in the February Valentine exchange.

I don't recall when I started my annual resurrection of these vintage declarations of love, but it was always a trip down memory lane to sort through and display them in some way. They have been scattered on refreshment tables when hostessing February events, some have been gifted to those who I know will appreciate them, and for the past few years I have displayed many of them on the table in the hall of my retirement home apartment for other residents to enjoy.

Not all are from schoolmates, as Valentines were also exchanged with cousins, other family members and friends. Especially treasured are those from my parents and my godmother, Aunt Minnie. They range from the elaborate to the handmade, each being special in its own way.

Thanks, Mom, for saving these priceless February memories!

Jo Ann Parsons is a member of the Jottings Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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