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By Linda Emley
Fifty-nine years ago, Richmond was getting ready for Valentine’s Day. The Richmond News, Feb. 8, 1954, “Valentine Dance. Tender hearts will swing and sway in a Valentine’s Day dance here Feb. 11 at the Women’s Club. Leslie Lucas and her Seranaders from Kansas City will play from 9 to 12. Ticket may be obtained from the Kansas Jewelry Store and Mrs. Ralph Ogg.”
Kansas Hunt was a wise man. While you were picking up tickets at his jewelry store, you might also find a gold necklace that would look nice on your sweetheart. I wondered why the big dance was held on a Thursday night instead of Saturday night? The only thing I could come up with was that the Seranaders might’ve had a bigger gig on Saturday night in Kansas City. But it was really cool that they had a live group instead of using a disc jockey and 45s. If tender hearts were swinging on Thursday night, did anyone make it to school on Friday morning? If you took your girl to the dance on Thursday night, what could you do to top that on Saturday night? And my final question is, if your favorite girl had a midnight curfew and Valentine’s Day didn’t officially start until midnight on Saturday, did you risk getting her home late so you could have a midnight kiss somewhere other than the front porch?
If you were too young for the dance at the Women’s Club, you could go to the Girl Scouts’ party. “Girl Scouts in Troop #7 entertained with a Valentine Party Sunday night at the home of Miss Judy Woodruff. The group enjoyed games and dancing after which refreshments were served. Those present were, Jimmy Wollard, Louis Blair, Richard Bates, John R. Rosewarren, Clay Calvert, Buddy Simpson, and Joe Thompson: and Misses Gretchen Manley, Jenice Renfro, Ann Hadley, Joline Leader, Judy Carter, Vicky Thomas and Judy Woodruff.”
The Richmond News ad read, “Want a Valentine? Try the NEWS classified Ads.” Since this was in the Feb. 8 newspaper, I checked the next few papers to see if anyone ran an ad searching for a Valentine, but it looks like no one was that desperate in 1954. There were 15,932 people living in Ray County and the average age was 36.5 years old, so there were enough people around to find a sweetheart without placing an ad in the newspaper.
If you wanted to get your sweetheart a nice box of candy, there were several places around town to buy candy but only two stores ran ads in The Richmond News. “Her favorite Valentine,” a one-pound box of Red Foil Russell Stover’s candy would cost $1.75 at Central Drug. Other heart-shaped boxes were available for 75 cents to $7.50. Economy Cut Rate Drug sold Norris Exquisite Candies. They were good enough for your Valentine because they were made by the exclusive “NORRIS-IZED” process – a secret process involving homogenization. No price was given on the Norris box of candy so I assume that was because they were so wonderful that you didn’t care how much they cost.
For that special guy in your life, you could swing by the Buick showroom. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough money for a new car, because Jim Wollard would sell you the shirt off his back. “Big 2nd Hand Sale. Friday 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. BUICK SHOWROOM. 200 Beautiful ties, 15 suits, 8 hats, sweaters, top coats, slacks, jackets, shoes, luggage and jewelry. Most of the clothes are Dad’s, some are Jerry’s and mine. Jim Wollard.”
Jim and Jerry’s dad was Vaughn Wollard and he always dressed nicely. I’m sure there were some nice clothes for sale in that showroom. I wonder if Vaughn knew the boys were selling his clothes? Who knows, someone might have found a car with their name on it while shopping for a new tie at this sale.
You can still take your sweetheart to the Farris Theater on Valentine’s Day, but it would be hard to find a better movie than the one playing Sunday, Feb. 14, 1952. You would have seen Jane Russell and George Brent in “Montana Belle, Restless, Reckless, Exciting Woman! She was born to make trouble between men.” I think Jane Russell in “Trucolor” was more woman than most movies had in the 1950s. The ad picture was a little wild, even by today’s standards. There was also a cartoon and a newsreel showing before the movie, but I think this movie was enough to pack the house on Sunday afternoon for the 2:30 matinee.
After the movie you could treat your sweet because Richmond had ice cream. The Richmond News, “Opening! The Dari – Queen, Saturday, Feb. 13, East Main St. Richmond.”
Since Valentine’s day is about love, I have to share a real story of love that I found in the 1954 Richmond News. “ Mr. and Mrs. James Henry, south of Polo, will observe their 50th wedding anniversary with an open house on Sunday Feb. 14, from 2 to 5 p.m. Their friends are invited to call.” What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than with your sweetheart of 50 plus years?
My mother, Betty Lou Martin, taught in one-room schools in the 1950s. In her seven years of teaching from one end of the county to the other end, it was always the same on Valentine’s Day – they had a big party. She would bring angel food cake and ice cream and the children exchanged Valentine cards.
One of my favorite childhood memories was transforming an old shoebox into a wonderful mailbox to store the Valentine cards from my classmates.
If you wanted to “reach out and touch someone” in 1954, you could “visit friends in Chicago for only 85 cents, three minutes, station-to-station, call between 6 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. any weekday night or all day Sunday, plus tax, Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.”
We are lucky today because we can reach out and touch anyone anytime. It’s too bad that we don’t have time to talk any more and all we get are text messages. Let’s all do something really old-fashioned this year and call someone and say “Hello.” After you hang up, then you can send a text message and continue on in our modern-day world.
Have a Valentine’s story for Linda? You can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.