Sending a Valentine’s card to a kinder, lost era

Commuters walk past piles of snow in front of Au Chocolat, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in downtown Boston. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

“My romance doesn’t need a castle rising in Spain,

Nor a dance to a constantly surprising refrain.

Wide awake, I can make my most fantastic dreams come true.

My romance doesn’t need a thing but you.”

— Lyrics by Lorenz Hart for the 1935 Broadway musical “Jumbo”

The origin of Valentine’s Day is lost in the dusty pages of a forgotten past. There are many colorful saints and sinners named Valentinius or Valentino in Roman and Medieval Italian history, men whose exploits (some of them sexual) are legendary. There are pagan rites some consider precursors to the less scandalous and more innocent ones observed in the America many of us grew up in — the exchange of cards, boxes of candy, roses, etc.

These rites all had one thing in common, though: They celebrate romantic love, especially, but not exclusively, in the young.

Why Valentine’s Day in America was and is observed in the dead of winter, rather than in spring, is puzzling. Certainly, our currently snow-bound neighbors in New England must find it so.

But then, who knows what goes on behind closed doors? When the weather outside is frightful, the fire is so delightful ...

Here, in usually sunny Charleston, we are less afflicted by what an overwhelming majority of climatologists, only yesterday it seems, called “global warming.” Freakish weather now is said to result from “climate change” which, theoretically, is scientifically more verifiable.

If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. That’s my advice. Above all, do not a denier be, lest the more enlightened take you for an idiot.

Whatever, we’ve had a cold and rainy winter here in Charleston. February, though, is the month when spring in the Carolina Lowcountry traditionally wakes up, yawns, stretches, shrugs its shoulders, and goes about its business. Tulip trees, daffodils, Johnny jump-ups and purple iris are showing color and beginning to bloom.

Can our glorious azaleas be far behind?

Take heart, New Englanders. Your time will come. It always does. It’s lurking now, and the love bug will get you if you don’t watch out.

Those of us of a certain age remember well when the curtain first rose on the Comedy of Reproduction that subsequently shaped our lives.

Spring likely had little to do with it, though it did provide an excuse. Friday and Saturday night sock hops on high school basketball courts, cheek-to-cheek dancing to slow, romantic music, music recorded on 78-rpm vinyl, these did the trick if any trick indeed were needed.

“Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time ...” (Kitty Kallen)

“You sigh the song begins, you speak and I hear violins, it’s magic ...” (Doris Day)

“When I go to sleep I never count sheep, I count all the charms about Linda” ... (Buddy Clark)

“Jitter-bugging,” a dance that required minimal touching, was just coming into vogue. I didn’t much like it.

These were the days when penny loafers, saddle shoes laced with colored shoestrings (both boys and girls wore them) were essential high school attire. Gym shoes were for gym. Nobody wore them to class or to a dance.

Sweaters, tight pullovers for girls who were shaping up, and cardigans for boys, especially jocks who “lettered” in varsity sports, were what eighth and ninth graders wore to dances. Bow ties, clip-ons and ones you painstakingly tied yourself, were common.

Girls wore their hair curled and shoulder length. Long hair for boys had not yet caught on. That came later, much later. I blame the Beatles for that.

“Frankie” Sinatra made the zoot suit popular, but at our school it was considered bizarre. When the young Sinatra sang, girls screamed and swooned, much as they do now when loudly miked-up and relatively talentless jerks twerk their way on stage and scream lyrics you can’t make out and would be shocked if you did.

When Frankie grew up and become Frank, he learned how to tear your heart out with a song.

It was an age of innocence for my generation, an age that ended with World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Only the memories remain. Only the memories.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, and so are you.”

R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.