Hunker Down: Miss Ethel was the real Valentine

Valentine’s Day came and went.

I didn’t get nothing.


The Hallmark Card folks have excommunicated me!

I think that small, chubby guy with the wings and a bow and arrow is mad at me for my Valentine actions years ago in elementary school. And that wasn’t my fault. Miss Carolyn wouldn’t let us cut out the first president’s head until we had “hand delivered” to every person in class a Valentine card.

Ye gads! I’m six years old. There were people in that room that I didn’t want them to “Be Mine” forever! I didn’t like girls and it was embarrassing to lay a card on Bob Edwards’ desk that declared “Love You Always.”

For both of us!

Plus, a package of fifty cards cost twenty-five cents at the Ben Franklin Store. Do you have any idea what an enterprising young boy could do with a whole quarter back in those days? That was a Coca-Cola WITH peanuts, two packs of baseball cards and twin Hostess Cupcakes, with the chocolate icing and white swivel across the top.

Talk about throwing money down the drain.

And we had to do it all over again the next year!

It undoubtedly was in the teacher’s union playbook. Miss Booth gave us a whole hour after the Blue Bird reading class to exchange cards. I can still feel the embarrassment to this day…

Yogi, of course, finally figured it out. By the third grade he was making his own cards. He cut out a bunch of small hearts from some of the red construction paper we had on hand for the presidents, wrote some enduring terms like “Eat Dirt,” “Party Pooper,” “Your Train Has Derailed,” etc. and passed them out like he was Cupid on steroids. 

That cost us a week of recess.

My older brother, Leon, didn’t see this thing like I did. He gave a card, or two, to every girl in the whole school. He called it “covering all the bases.” It made no sense to me. Valentine’s and baseball didn’t have nothing in common. 

Fortunately, mandatory Valentine card-giving went the way of reading classes, laying our heads down after lunch and clay modeling as our grammar school days wound down. It so silently drifted out of the curriculum that I didn’t think to wish it good riddance!

Besides, by now I was looking forward to junior high. We could go out for football. We were going to have real lockers and change classes. I was begging Mom to get the word to Dad that I was growing too old for that GI haircut he insisted on…

I was perusing an article in the Weekly Reader about the building of the Aswan Dam in Mrs. Paschall’s history class (you could write this story yourself) when Ruth Ann Wiley strolled by. I’d known her all my life. We went to church together. Her father was our Sunday School teacher.

My position immediately shifted a bit on this Valentine deal. You know, Leon was a lot smarter than he looked. I shoulda, mighta, could have laid some serious groundwork over the years. But I had no idea that Ruth Ann was going to change!

I couldn’t think of anything to say to her; nothing that seemed half-way intelligent anyway. As February 14 approached I thought a nice Valentine card might be the ticket. I now desperately wanted to give her one… but my embarrassment worked in the opposite direction. What if she laughed? Or wouldn’t take it? What if she gave me a Yogi-type card in return?

I’m telling you, that chubby guy with the arrows has an impeccable memory.

And junior high is not for the faint of heart.

The girl from Huntingdon was altogether different. She told me in no uncertain terms to “get her a good card.” We’d only been dating for a month or so. I was lost in the card section at John Motheral’s Drug Store, realizing Valentine cards had come a long way since “Be Mine” and “Love You.”

“Kes, do you need some help?” It was Mrs. Ethel Mitchum, one of my all-time favorite ladies from church. She picked out and paid for my first real card. Billie Jean hugged me so I finally got one over on bow and arrow boy.

I quit giving Valentine cards to Cathy when the price topped two dollars. I’d didn’t have any red presidential construction paper so I just told her I loved her.

I did sign six cards for six grandchildren last week. Cathy took Mrs. Mitchum’s place.

And I took note that the average cost of a card these days is $5.99. That might buy half a Coke and one Hostess CupCake.

Sometimes grownup life is not for the faint of heart…



This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: Miss Ethel was the real Valentine

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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