Valentine’s Day evokes special memories for this farm boy

Jerry Apps
Not only was Valentine's Daya welcome break in mid-winter, it was fun to open cards from classmates...and maybe that special someone.

Valentine’s Day at the country school that I attended was special.  We were generally in the middle of a long, cold and snowy winter.  And we all needed a break.  The country school Valentine’s party was the break we needed. 

It began around 2:00 p.m. on February 14 as I recall.  The mother’s were invited. They had to walk, of course, some of them more than a mile. We all walked to school in those days.

 A big box, decorated with red and white hearts stood on the teacher’s desk. Each student had a valentine for every student.  And every student had a card for the teacher.  We couldn’t wait to see the valentines that we knew were in that box.

The mothers brought cakes and cookies. Our teacher made Kool-Aid. We enjoyed the treats as we waited for the distribution of the valentines.  Usually an eight-grader had the honor of passing out the cards. The cards we received were similar to ones pictured here. What we looked for is for some special hand-written notes on our cards, especially when we were in the upper grades and boys and girls began noticing each other. 

It was a special day. It helped to shorten winter.  Once Valentine’s Day arrived, we knew that spring must be waiting just around the corner. 

Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine and began being celebrated as a “day of romance” in about the 14th century. Another story says that a fellow named Valentine was in jail, and had fallen in love with the jailer’s daughter. He wrote a “Valentine” to her before he died. Supposedly, Pope Gelasius declared the day of his death as St. Valentine’s Day.  This was in the 5th century.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Valentine’s Day—a day to take a break from winter. Remember your Valentine.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to