HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (2/14/13) – Valentine’s Day is today, and of course, sending cards, letters and other tokens of affection has become the traditional method of expression for friends and lovers of all kinds on this day. There are numerous theories and mysteries surrounding the exact origin of St. Valentine, the man, and how and why the day itself came into celebration. One thing consistently certain is that it came to be in love and/or romance.
According to documents and recordings by The History Channel, in the 1840’s Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass produced Valentines in America. Howland made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as ‘scrap’. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card sending holiday of the year, with Christmas being the first. Women purchase approximately 85% of Valentine’s cards.
Judy Benson Carver, of Hanson, invited SurfKY News last week to the home she shares with her husband of nearly 50 years, Donald. Carver, a collector of artifacts of many different types and ages, has a collection of Valentine’s cards and greetings that number in the hundreds and date as far back as the 1940’s, and she was eager and generous enough to share the history and display with our area readers. To no surprise, she is a fitting member of the Hopkins County Historical Society; with her eclectic array of collections all telling stories of their own.
The Carver’s, both originally from Slaughters, Ky., have a long and well-documented history of family ties, collection, and memorabilia. The oldest Valentine that Carver has collected dates around 1940, she thinks. It is an elaborate paper carriage pop-up greeting with a heart shape made of red tissue with a cupid figure sitting atop, surrounded by white doves and roses. It was given to her husband’s great aunt Delia by a man Carver assumed to be her “beau,” as she referred to the mystery sender. Ironically, Aunt Delia never married anyone herself.
Carver also has the very first Valentine she ever received of her own, also dating in the 1940’s, from her father while he was in the armed services. He had sent one to her and one to her mother when Carver was barely one-year-old. The collection further includes cards and greetings from all sides of both hers and her husband’s families, the Benson-Carver side, and the Brown-Jones side, all of their children and grandchildren, and between each other, friends, and school-mates throughout all of the family members’ school days.
Carver sentimentally recalled receiving some of the different cards as she laid the display out, reading some of them aloud and explaining the history of each, she read. “I’ve got so many; I don’t even know where to start. These cards are so precious and cute, and the little sayings make so much sense.” Most of the cards quoted the quirky, but catchy phrases we’re all familiar with from school days when we would collect in the hand crafted shoe boxes covered in tissue or craft paper. Many of the cards were handmade themselves from the Carver’s children and grandchildren when they were younger.
Carver had all of the display of Valentine’s set up in the foyer of their beautiful home, that sits on top of a hill up a brick gated drive in Hanson. From the garages, full of drag and stock car race cars, pictures, and other memorabilia from the families racing history, into the yard where Carver has displays of antique “yard art,” in the form of a rustic ornamental antique tractor neatly placed to decorate the herb garden on the side of the house, and on into the home where the collections range from antique quilts and looms to pottery and furniture, there are stories of sentiment and value encompassing the whole property.
It would have taken a whole day or more to tour and admire it all, but the day was designated for the display and history of all of these “love notes” out for display in the side foyer of the home.
In the room, Carver had a Christmas tree that stood over 6 ft. tall, full of these Valentine’s that she had strategically hung to the tree. “I am running out of places to put them,” she exclaimed as she pulled each out of a stack to find an open spot for display. Many of the cards were in a basket that sat by the Christmas tree. Many more were placed all along the top and front of an old antique piano sitting in the foyer. She had more placed on a display case made of wood and glass, some on shelves, and more taped together displayed in the shape of trees. More than just the cards, also displayed in the room, celebrating this month of love, affection, and tradition, she also had an old velvet heart-shaped stuffed pillow lined with lace sewn around it and a heart-shaped picture locket tied to it that belonged to her grandmother. The picture inside the locket was of Carver’s uncle, who unfortunately passed away at a young age during wartime in military service many years ago.
The pride, enthusiasm, and sentiment that Carver has about her collections are a reminder that substantial value of life and family can be found in all the “little things.” At one point during the day, she remarked, “Everything has a story.” The history that the family has accumulated in all those “little things” has been passed on from generation to generation to generation, telling it’s’ story to each generation as it is passed.
While the actual monetary value of many of the collections is unknown, Carver agreed that overall the value of most of the collections is priceless.
Photos provided by Jessica Frodge
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