Saturday, August 8

The Drama of Vintage Valentine's Days

Here are the Valentine's Day cards I'd mentioned previously, salvaged from my in-laws' basement in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

What's wonderful about these is the unpretentious font, as seen in the "wood/duck" valentine. I find this especially adorable: was it professionally render, an early wabi-sabi masterwork, or was the lettering where they skimped on the budget? Whichever, it's a strong marker of the times--that's the impression I come away with after studying hundreds of photos of the era, being exposed to however many movies and cartoons that also utilized this especially hand-rendered effect.

Pictured is a sweet little blonde girl, rocking away in this little toy wooden duck structure. Was it a common enough piece of furniture at the time, that any card company could hearken to it and connect with the card-purchasing audience? (In fact, the back of the card behind the girl's head was supposed to fold down and the entire card could rock like the illustrated toy.) The author certainly feels justifying in implementing the material of the structure as part of the pun in this greeting. The term "ducky" was certainly in coinage (though if we know anything about adults, it was probably on its way out at the time of this printing). But what is the function of omitting the d at the end of "and"? Is this girl from a rural region? Is she necessarily undereducated? Or is that merely representative of her youth? She can't be four years old in this picture.

On the right, the hole in the center of this guy's chest is a little metal brad, acting as an axis upon which his arm spins. It's a simple mechanism that stabs toward animation: you move the arm like he's dropping a letter in the mailbox. He's with his little girlfriend, they're holding hands, and he's dropping a letter (presumably to her) in the mailbox. Her task is to guess who's sending her this valentine.

Tick tock, little girl, tick tock. What's your guess?

Or maybe they're mailing together to a sick aunt. I don't want to suppose anything more prurient than this, again, given their youth. I am curious what the big V on his chest means: varsity? Visitor? Vadultry? Of course not: Valentine! This is the sweater-vest he gets to wear once a year. His mom has to make him a new one each year, he's growing so fast. She packs them away in a hope chest for the grandchildren these kids will yield in two short decades.

There's a story behind every card!


Vanessa said...

What a treasure. Even more than seeing these, I enjoyed hearing your stories around them. Old things are often wrapped in years of quiet stories just waiting to be told again.

Christian said...

Thank you! These cards are a treasure, and I'm glad I had the chance to record and preserve them in this form. Getting silly with re-envisioning them is a whole new level of fun, for free.