Saturday, February 15, 2014

City Boy Sweeps Farm Girl Off Her Feet

My parents were not what you would call even a little bit demonstrative, so it was with some delight that I discovered their romantic past. I hope that they would forgive me for sharing some of their story here.

It starts with another little photo "souvenir book" belonging to my mother. (I shared another one here). I don't believe I ever saw any of these photos until after my mother's death, when I came across several of these little books. This one is labeled "Souvenir of Ellsworth, Maine," and seems to be the record of a summer in the 1930s that my mother, then in her twenties, spent working as a maid in a resort hotel. Although she worked as a schoolteacher during the school year, I'm sure the extra summer money came in quite handy. 

Cover detail

Inside the book I found the earliest photo I've seen of my parents together. That's Danny, as he was called then, my father; and Elva, my mother. She was from a big farm family in New Brunswick, Canada; he was an only child from Worcester, Massachusetts. He was also a man with a past--a divorced man whose little girl, my half-sister, Joan, lived down in Massachusetts. 

I am so touched by this photo of Danny tucking Elva into his jacket to keep her warm. They were conservative people, and never made a show of their affection, at least by the time I knew them several years later. 

And this photo shows some big-time romance, at least for my family. Danny combs Elva's hair on a day out at a swimming pond. You will see that he always has a lit Camel cigarette, which seems a little shocking these days. 

The souvenir book also contains some lovely and touching photos of Elva, sleeping on the beach. They seemed far too personal to share here, but were obviously taken by someone who loved her very much. 

After they married in 1940, the romance continued with this sweet Valentine's Day card. I have it framed and hanging where I can be reminded that my parents were once so young and so in love.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Vintage Valentines, and an Early Roadtrip

I was four months old when my first Valentine's Day arrived. My parents had just traveled across the entire country in a little car with me in a bassinet on the seat between them. That must seem very dangerous to those of you who have never known cars without seat belts and air bags!

It was a huge adventure for a young couple--leaving behind everything and everyone they knew in Maine, New Brunswick, and Massachusetts and traveling with an infant (and our dog, Pete) to California. Mind you, they were driving on what we would call "back roads," in those days before there was any kind of a highway system. Getting from one point to another was a matter of careful planning and following big paper maps, as there wouldn't have been the kind of signage that we are used to now. I'm sure they had plenty of flat tires, because that's how cars behaved in those days. And it goes without saying that there were no cell phones or emergency numbers. I doubt that they would have been able to afford a membership to the American Automobile Association, so emergency repairs would have been up to my dad, while my mother looked after me and walked the dog.

When they arrived in San Francisco, one of their suitcases was stolen out of the car. I can just imagine how terrible that would have been for them. There they were, alone in a strange place full of strangers, these young people who were so used to being surrounded by family! They didn't have much money to replace necessities, of course. I don't suppose many people had much money in the 1940s. 

I sometimes wonder what might have been in that suitcase. After all, with limited space, they probably brought along family pictures to remind them of those who had been left behind. Who knows what they lost?

When Valentine's Day arrived, I'm sure I had other things on my mind. But how their hearts must have warmed when these Valentine cards arrived, sent by my mother's loving sisters from "back East." My mom carefully pasted my first Valentines into my baby book.  

I love that I still have these little cards to remind me of my family in those early days. We have always made the most of holidays, moving them around at will so that we could celebrate whenever we could get together. In that tradition, in the next post I will be sharing some special romantic memories from my mother and father even though Valentine's Day will have passed by the time the post is published.

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!