Valentine’s Day Herstory : | 14

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Do you have fond memories as a school child bringing a shoe box to school in mid February, covering it in red or pink paper, then gluing on heart shaped paper doilies, or cut out paper hearts, then having your teacher or parents cutting a rectangular slit on top of the box for your school mates to insert their mini Valentine envelope treasures? I do.

And, if I was lucky, a conversation candy heart would be tucked inside, saying, “Be mine”, or “You’re far out.” Is it obvious I grew up during the 1960’s and 70’s?

That was a few decades ago. My own kids did the same thing in the 1980’s, 90’s and on, and their kids probably ask their parents for an empty shoe box to take to school at the beginning of February.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Valentine’s Day, February 14th, when lovers show their affection with greeting cards and gifts is very popular in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and in many other countries where English is not the official language.

Speaking of chocolate candy, listen to this story of my husband’s parents,

Tom and Mary met the first day they attended Los Angeles City College. They sat next to each other in their English class where they were filling out papers.

Mary glanced over to see what the name of this good-looking, dark-haired man was . . . and saw it was Irwin Thomas Murset. She said to him, “What name do you go by?” He said, “Irwin.” Mary answered, “I will call you Tom!” He said that he never did like the name Irwin, but he never thought of changing it. After that, everyone called him Tom.

  • After seven years of courting, they were at a family gathering at Mary’s parent’s home on Valentine’s Day. Tom, after having informed everyone but Mary of his intentions, placed an engagement ring inside a box of chocolate candy and passed it around the room. She was the last person in the circle to choose her chocolate, but…. chose the diamond ring instead. They married August 22nd 1942 in her parent’s home in North Hollywood, California.

Tom was a soft spoken, quiet man, which could explain why he courted Mary for seven years before popping the question. (Tongue Tied)

This next Valentine’s Day story is from my side of the family: Ida Dayton and Sylvan Chatwin, my paternal grandparents, were born in Utah, United States, in 1905.

Sylvan was born in the town of Santaquin, where his Mormon Pioneer grandfather William Chatwin had settled in 1875 and had become a school teacher. In 1851 he’d emigrated from Lancashire, England to the United States and crossed the plains with other pioneer companies.

By 1920, Sylvan was 14 years old and living with his parents and brothers and sister in Provo, Utah. He was the youngest of five children, four who lived to adulthood. His brother, Wallace Wayne lived to the age of 17 and died in November of 1918, during the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and as World War 1 was ending.

Sylvan was attending Provo High School, during the early 1920’s when lovely young Ida Dayton convinced her parents to allow her to leave their home in Vernal, Utah to go and live in Provo with her Aunt Kate, her mother’s sister. I imagine Ida was a great help to her Aunt who lost one child at birth in 1923, and another in 1924.

Ida was the sixth of eleven children. Only five of them lived beyond the age of three!

It was at high school where Sylvan and Ida met and fell in love, courted a few years, and a couple of years after graduation married on Valentine’s Day.

This choice of a wedding date doesn’t surprise me. Grandma was a romantic. Most of the inside of her home was painted her favorite color, a bright pink. All of the sheet music tucked inside her piano bench was romantic music of the 1930’s and 1940’s. I tried playing one of those pieces for her before she passed away in 1986. I don’t sight read music well, and after playing a sorry rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, she pathetically said, “Carolyn, that didn’t sound anything like the first time I heard it!”

Grandpa died at the young age of 59 from emphysema, because he worked as a boiler tender at the Columbia Steel Mill. Boilers, which are used to generate steam, are wrapped in asbestos. The body cannot break the fibers down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissues, and this results in permanent lung damage.

My last memories of him as a child visiting him and Grandma in Utah with my parents and siblings was of him in the second bedroom, connected to an oxygen tank, because he couldn’t breathe on his own. This was in stark contrast to my earlier memories of him helping my Dad, Wally, with his various house remodeling projects. Yes, my Dad was named after his Uncle Wallace.

Grandma was widowed, also at the age of 59, and never remarried. She often said, “I’ll never love another man man as much as I loved my Sylvan.” Listen to episode 11, Winter Brown Noel, to learn more about the remarkable romantic, Ida Dayton Chatwin.

You’re probably listening to this episode after the holiday. Keep the love going. Do you have any family Valentine’s Day stories? How did you celebrate the holiday as a child? As a teen?

Come back next time and listen to my remarkable and talented friend, Lauretta tell he unforgettable story. She’s currently so busy stage managing a popular local theatrical production that she hasn’t been able to pull herself away from it and her other worthwhile activity.

Subscribe to this podcast at iTunes or at other venues, including my website, mycarolynmurset.com, where you’ll find writing prompts in bold lettering in the podcast notes.

Thanks for writing, Thanks for listening. This is your host, Carolyn Murset.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart instrumental was performed by Acoustic Guitar Songs, Relaxing Instrumental Music and Chillout Lounge.

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