Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 2-4-13

When my Grandmother-in-Law Eva Mader thinks about Valentine’s Day, she has great memories of school parties, finger lickin’ good paste, a big snowstorm and a bobcat hunt.

Eva grew up in Wyoming in the 1930s. She went to an old fashioned little one room schoolhouse in the country (complete with an outhouse and a wood burning stove). All the kids in the school looked forward to Valentine’s Day and started preparing for it a month in advance.

“The school supplied us with red and white construction paper and finger lickin’ good paste,” she said. “Sometimes the teacher would give us some paper doilies to make some extra frilly trim. For basic valentines we cut a big double-layer red heart that opened in the middle. Then we pasted a smaller white heart inside and wrote a verse on it. Back then valentine verses always rhymed.”

Some of Eva’s favorite verses were:

“It was rare indeed if my husband remembered Christmas, my birthday or our anniversary But never once did he forget to get me a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day!”

Here I stand beside you,

I hope you won’t decline

For I’m about to ask you,

To be my valentine.


Valentine’s is here again,

The day that’s set apart

For sweethearts everywhere to tell,

What’s nearest to their heart.

I’ve said I love you many times,

The message isn’t new

But I’ll say it many times again,

And always ‘dear’ to you.

When Eva was in elementary school, none of the children’s mothers had cars, so the school always held the valentine’s parties in the afternoon. That way mothers could attend and then have time to make the walk back home before evening chores.

By the time Eva was in eighth grade though, all the families in the area had a vehicle, so the school held their valentine’s parties in the evening.

“We usually got together with a nearby school and had a big party and program for the whole family,” Eva said. “Moms made popcorn balls and brought candy to pass out. We handed out homemade valentines — it was rare to get a store bought one — and made sure we gave our prettiest ones to our choice friends.”

In 1948 and 1949 Eva taught in a rural school. During the Christmas of 1948 she ordered valentines and party supplies from a catalog for her class.

“That year winter came on New Year’s night,” she said. “There was deep snow and high winds. We had to live on what we had in stock for over a month, so there were no treats on February 14th. Finally, in the middle of March the mail carrier — driving a horse team pulling a small sled — came through with my catalog order. So that’s when we had our valentine’s party.”

Valentine’s Day was an important day in Eva’s marriage too. “It was rare indeed if my husband remembered Christmas, my birthday or our anniversary,” Eva said. “But never once did he forget to get me a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. And somehow he always managed to keep the box hidden until the 14th too.”

One of Eva’s favorite Valentine’s memories was from the year that they had a fresh snow fall on February 13th.

“On Valentine’s Day my husband got his gun and his horse and he went bob cat hunting back in the hills all day,” Eva said. “The next morning he came out grinning real sheepishly with a box of candy. He remembered remarkably well. We lived 55 miles from town and only shopped about once every six weeks.”

Though Eva’s husband has been gone for over 20 years now and she’s retired from teaching and being a rural school bus driver, Eva still celebrates Valentine’s Day by sending cards and letters to her great grandchildren. ❖