Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Valentine Day Is February 9th

Between my mother and father, Valentine Day fell on the 9th of February–and March, and June, and July, and August, and every other month. Here they are a few years before they met in 1933.

Here’s a letter my father wrote to me in 1945.  He had a job that kept him “on the road” most of the time, and faithfully wrote letters home. Mother and I and my baby brother were living in Killbuck, Ohio at the home of my grandmother. I think of this letter explaining their unique Valentine Day as a love letter to my mother–disguised as a letter to their nearly six-year-old daughter.

 

East Liverpool Ohio

February 9 1945

Dearest Little Rabbit,

This is going to be a really truly fairy story that actually happened.  Once upon a time there used to be a club in Killbuck called the Dramatic Club.  That means a group of people who put on plays like the one you went to see Bobby in.  Your mother was in the club and so was your daddy.  One autumn we put on an operetta, that’s a play with lots of songs in it as well as speeches.  At that time your mother and daddy weren’t so well acquainted as they are now and if daddy had kissed mother hello or goodbye as he does now she would have slapped his face.

Well your mother was a teacher and her job in this operetta was to coach the actors so that they would know their speeches when they got up in front of all the people–just like she helped you learn your speeches to say at church.  Daddy was an actor (?) and played the part of a very dumb englishman and he had a mustach (now remember about the mustache.

Your daddy didn’t learn his lines as fast as he should have and so your mother had to give him lots of help In fact they used to go off in a corner of the basketball floor and go over the speeches and over and over.  Now one of the reasons your daddy was so slow learning to say his speeches was that he spent most of the time thinking what a pretty girl your mother was and how sharp and perky she was, and trying to get nerve enough up to ask her to go out with him and be his girl.

Now this club always went out somewhere and had a party after the play was over so finally your daddy got up nerve enough to ask your mother to go with him to the party.  And what do you know, she said she would.  And we all had a very nice party except that mother said she didn’t like daddy’s mustache (remember?) and she wouldn’t go to any more parties with him unless he shaved it off.  Well daddy shaved it off because mother always means what she says and as a result Mother and daddy got married.

Now all of this happened on the 9th day of the month so that the 9th day of the month is a sort of valentines day every month Just between your mother and I.  And thats why I’m telling you this story today because today is the 9th.

A Few Notes:

  • There are a couple more paragraphs about the snow, and telling me to be a good girl and play with my brother, and saying when he will be home.
  • Mother explained that the drama club was one of the ways the young people of Killbuck found to entertain themselves during the Great Depression when they could not afford to pay for entertainment.
  • “Bobby” is my cousin Robert J. Anderson, son of William J. Anderson whose letter from the Pacific we saw earlier. In one of my Grandmother Vera’s letters, she had mentioned Bobby putting on a show for the family, mimicking Hitler, so he was quite the performer.
  • “…like she helped you learn your speeches to say at church.”  I don’t recall speeches plural, although I know that kids had to memorize Bible verses and sometimes recite them in church. But the one I do remember is learning “Now I am Six” from A.A. Milne’s series of Pooh Bear books. Mother did a good job. Sixty-plus years after reciting that poem for the Lady’s Aid Society at the church, I can still recite it.
  • “…go off in a corner of the basketball floor”.  The school in Kilbuck had a small multi-purpose auditorium with only room for a basketball court.  For basketball games, seating was in a balcony on one side of the court.  On the other side of the court, there was a stage, raised about four feet above the main floor.  For basketball games, people would sit on bleachers on the stage.  When plays were performed on the stage, folding chairs were set up on the basketball floor (I can see basketball coaches everywhere shrinking back in horror!) as well as the seating in the balcony.  The school was built in the twenties, and when I went to high school there in the fifties, performing in class plays, the set up was still the same.
  • “get nerve enough”. Not only was she an authority figure–a teacher, and he was working at odd jobs, but she was two and a half years older than he was.
  • The mustache.  Not only did Daddy never sport a mustache again–I have found no photos of him with a mustache. Mother REALLY didn’t like mustaches!

The Ninth of the month continued to be a Valentine day they marked the rest of their lives. And we celebrated their 50th anniversary in June 1989.

52 Ancestors: Love Letters and The Course of True Love

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love. It is the proper week for love stories and love letters. But today, the 9th of the month, is the proper day for telling the love story of my mother and father. For Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson the ninth of the month–every month–was Valentine’s Day.

They say that the course of true love never runs smooth*–and they are the living proof of the adage.

Since Paul Kaser had lived in Killbuck Ohio, the home of the Anderson family, for a few years when he was young, he claims that he first fell in love with the big brown eyes of Harriette Anderson when he saw her crossing the bridge to bring the cow back in from pasture. And, indeed, who could resist those big brown eyes?

Harriette Anderson

Harriette, Herbert and Bill Anderson Circa 1909

However, since Harriette was older by three years they were eons apart as school children.  When Paul graduated from Millersburg, Ohio high school in 1926, she had already gone off to college and become a teacher.  Both of them had a busy social life and left us photo albums full of his girlfriends and her boyfriends.

But in the thirties, my father wound up back in Killbuck, living with his sisterIrene and her husband Truman Bucklew.  Harriette, a teacher at Killbuck High School, directed a community play, a cheap form of entertainment during the Great Depression. Paul tried out for the play and won a part. But winning a heart is what he had in mind.

It was a play about gypsies with a leading character of a Duchess and that became Paul’s pet name for Harriette. Paul wanting to get closer to the cute director, found that he was having trouble learning his lines (Ahem!) and needed a lot of extra coaching.

During a coaching session, he asked her out. She said she’d go out with him if he’d shave his mustache–never believing that he actually would. But he did, and he never again sported any facial hair. (I don’t even have a picture of him with a mustache–she probably destroyed them!) On November 9, 1934, they went out to dinner at the Hotel Winesburg, in Winesburg, Ohio, which at one time had a fancy restaurant.


Note: Winesburg is a real town that became famous as the fictional setting for a very popular Sherwood Anderson story in 1919.

During 1935, the two of them worked together in politics— I will relate later their adventures as they worked around Holmes County from farm to farm converting Democrats to Republican voters. In the summer of 1935, he went to the larger town of Canton and took a part-time job while he hit the streets in search of work–to no avail. Meanwhile, she went to Ohio State University to summer school to complete her degree.

Although he liked to say he was never unemployed during the Great Depression, Paul had to work at whatever day labor came his way, and at several jobs that had no future.  His college education had been interrupted when his mother died and his father ordered him back to Millersburg after he had been at the Seventh Day Adventist Missionary School in Takoma Maryland for only a month.

Harriette had been hurt by an earlier marriage to a con man who was only interested in her salary, and she had no intentions of being the target again.  Although she was drawn to this handsome young man from play rehearsals, she insisted that he settle down and get a career with a future. And when he promised that he would look for serious employment, so he could make a proper home for her, she promised that she would marry him when that happened.

During the next few years, circumstances generally kept them living in two different towns and dating only on weekends. They wrote love letters to each other almost daily, starting in 1935.

But promises are promises, and Paul had not only Harriette to make happy, but her parents as well. In a satirical letter like a military report written from “field HQ in Canton”, he says:

I shall have to exercise the most stringent economy in order to make out. Think naught of it. Any sacrifice seems trivial in comparison to the end I seek.

In one letter he says that he talked to her mother (Vera Anderson) and although the weapons had been laid aside, the truce was still on.  Harriette’s parents were very uneasy about this marriage. And Harriette’s school teacher friends were wary as well. Only her friend Lois Duncan Fites sympathized.

In his love letters he frequently addressed Harriette as “Duchess” and she signed her letters as Duchess. President Harding (from Ohio) called his wife “Duchess” and so there were Ohio/political roots for the name. One more tie appeared after they were married….read on.

In October 1937 (3 years after that first date in Winesburg), Paul saw a notice for a federal government job in New Philadelphia, Ohio, and went to apply for it. He got the job. They started planning a wedding, still corresponding, because she was teaching in Clark once again and he was now living in New Philadelphia.

By November 1937, Mother would say:

“[If you transfer to California] I might even go in a short notice myself. I am funny that way, sure funny how I do, eh! One minute I could marry you now.  Tomorrow if necessary.  Then, not that I love you less, but I get so practical or unpractical I am not sure just which and think we hadn’t ought think of it until we can start as we would like to. I am sure it would be much nicer (if we had the nerve, to be married and start together).”

Because of her parents disapproval, the couple decided a church wedding in Killbuck was not right, so their friend Lois Duncan Fites volunteered to have the wedding at her home in Newark, Ohio. It was scheduled for June 9, 1938, soon after Harriette finished the school year and returned from a trip with other teachers and students. She was soon to turn 32 years old and he was 29.

Harriette Anderson

Harriette Anderson (or Kaser) at camp. undated

She had mentioned in one of her love letters that she looked forward to a trip, but instead, their honeymoon was spent at a 4-H camp where Paul had landed a weekend job.  Since Harriette loved road trips, and went on one almost yearly, I can’t swear that this is a honeymoon picture, but it is, as they would have said, a swell picture!

In her reminisces, Harriette told the story that people still wagged tongues about the the King of England abdicating to marry his beloved Wallis Simpson. They were married a year before Harriette and Paul and became the Duchess and Duke of Windsor. Naturally, that story was the one that Paul and Harriette acted out at the camp’s skit night. Another love affair that did not go smooth.

Always the romantic, Paul wrote in one of his love letters to Harriette in June 1935:

Remember Lois’ fireplace, Garfield farm, the Winesburg Hotel, mustaches, stocks, promises, and that I need you more than I need food.

If you’ve been paying attention to their story, you may recognize at least half of those references.

She resigned from her teaching job and moved to New Philadelphia where they were living when I was born (as Paul claimed, nine months, 2 hours and twenty minutes after they were married.)  They still did not have enough money for the kind of life they dreamed of, but were happy paling around with other young couples who also had to search through the sofa cushions to come up with enough pennies to buy a Sunday newspaper.

They continued to struggle and to spend more time than they wanted to apart for many years, but they had achieved the main goal. They were married. They had two more children in the next ten years, Paul William Kaser and Paula Kaser Price. And the marriage lasted until my father died, seven years after the fiftieth wedding anniversary pictured here.

Paul and Harriette Kaser

Paul William Kaser at the podium, with Paula Kaser Price on the far left, and me hiding in the blue dress. Paul and Harriette on the right. 1988, Scottsdale, AZ.

*Apologies to the grammar police but “they” don’t say ‘run smoothly.’ “They” say ‘run smooth.’

Sources

The information in this post comes from the stories told me by my mother and father or from their letters during the period of 1935 to 1939, or from my father’s extensive files of his employment. Family pictures are my own.