A boomer’s Valentine’s Day mystery

Remember when Valentine’s Day was even richer than today’s Hallmark cards? Rich with meaning, rich with emotion, rich with love. Novelist Harry Hallman, who now lives in Atlanta, remembers what it meant when he was growing up in Philadelphia. He calls his memories, The Valentine’s Day Mystery.

When I was a child growing up in the early 1950s, Valentine’s Day was as important a holiday for kids as it was for adults. I think it was an excellent educational tool because it taught little boys about rejection and little girls about how important they would be when they became teenagers.

All kidding aside, I remember that a week before Valentine’s Day, our teachers would decorate the classroom with red crepe paper, hearts, and cupids. In between atomic bomb attack drills, and assemblies where we pledged alliance to our flag and said a silent prayer, our teachers showed us how to make Valentine’s Day cards for our families.

Left-to-right: Harry’s brother Bill, friend Billy Pullman, and Harry.

The teachers would suggest that we make cards for our fellow students too. And they told us that if we brought anything to eat on the big day, such as cookies with nuts, candy, or cupcakes, we should bring enough for everyone.

The thing was, giving a Valentine’s card to someone was a very important act for a 3rd grader. It meant you liked them. Boys would agonize over which girls to give a card to because this was an important ritual on the road to manhood. Girls freely gave cards to their girlfriends, and carefully selected which boys’ hearts they would break that day.

On the big day, most of the kids came armed with cards and candy. Little hearts were beating fast in anticipation of receiving one or hopefully more than one Valentine’s cards. It could have also been from all the sugary heart candies and cookies we ate. When the time came to give out our cards, the girls handed out their red envelopes to each other and then selected one or two boys who they conveyed their “like” for by handing them a card. Each girl in the room would have a stack of cards from other girls.

Back then, boys didn’t give other boys Valentine’s cards. It just wasn’t done. That meant some boys had no cards, and very few had more than one card. If you had multiple cards, you were considered to be one of the cool kids for the rest of the year.

I had made two cards. One for Lois, my crush, and one for Lorraine, who I just liked. I got up my courage and sauntered over to Lois first. Trying to maintain some level of cool, I handed the card to her and said, “Here.” Lois took the card and placed it on her stack and gave me a wry smile. Then I made my way through the crowd of boys who gathered around Lorraine’s desk and flipped my card on her pile and made my way back to my desk. Would I have a card waiting for me, maybe two?

I had just one on my desk and I hurriedly and with deep anticipation opened it. On the front was a big red heart with an arrow stuck in it. I opened it and read the inscription, “ Roses are Red, Violets are blue. You’re okay. Guess who?” It wasn’t signed. I wondered for the rest of the year who it was that thought I was okay.

Harry with his wife of 55 years, Duoc Hallman.

It all worked out in the end. I found the right one and got married at age 20 and we have been together for almost 55 years.

Happy early Valentine’s day.

Check out the Mercy Row Novel series by Harry Hallman.  Click here.


  1. Harry. grew up in the same era and neighborhood as I. He’s a consummate story teller and all around good guy. Actually, most Kensington people were creative and resilient.

  2. Thanks for sharing a sweet and memorable story. Congratulations for finding the right one and celebrating a long marriage.

  3. Harry, I love reading everything and anything you write. It always takes me right back to my childhood in good ole Kensington which was a wonderful time in my life. Thank you 😊

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