Pastime: Those ‘Singing’ Valentines

Somewhere around my junior year at Warren High School, the Singing Valentine’s craze took off.

The exact year escapes me. I have tried to glance back at the Goggle of calendar pages past, but that didn’t help my recollection.

By Maylon T. Rice

It was a fundraising mechanism of a couple of the school clubs, not sure if it was the BETA Club, Science Club, FTA (Future Teachers of America), or the Journalism & Yearbook Class, that held the event – looking back it may have been a consortium of all these.

But it was a fun day – the day Valentines telegrams and even singing telegrams – were sent to classrooms in the two-story blonde brick building on Pine Street.

In order to pull off the event, a cadre of teachers and skills were needed.

For example, they emulated the typewritten Western Union telegrams – all were completed on thin-almost onion skin yellow printed forms. Just like the Western Union, there were needed transcribers: so, the Commercial Education classes, Mrs. Avis Harrelson, in charge of all the typewriting, Gregg Shorthand and accounting classes, would round up some of her more-sure fingered typists for the secretarial pool.

Mrs. Eloise McFarland, the journalism teacher and a couple of others in the English arts, could help out with the applications, and message writing skills.

Also, to staff the delivery runners and so could some of the Science Club overseen by Mr. LeRoy Baker and Coach John Morris McGregor, who was a biology teacher in addition to Lumberjack Head Football Coach.

And then some of the musical talents of Mary Lou and Curry Martin, were used, but there were some others outside the Martin’s musical purview who participated some almost comically.

A prospective beau would check into the Telegram Office – right in front of the double doors of the WHS Main Auditorium in front of the building where an old floor-to-ceiling display of older WHS Athletic and Scholarship Trophies – many from the 1940s and 1950s, were aging silently behind large sheets of glass. Remember all the composite photos from all times we hanging on wire down the lower main hallways.

The 1932 Warren High School which occupied its location on Pine Street until the early 2000s.

A cafeteria table was set up with a money box (usually manned by Mrs. McFarland or Mrs. Mary Jane Murphy) as the cash office. Then a stack of these little white pads, where some aspiring telegram sales gals and sales guys, helped you write up the intimate and sweet message to your intended lover.

Counting the words, and assessing the proscribed fee, 25 cents and upwards to a full $1 (for the singing edition), was paid in cash and the message was passed down the table to the awaiting secretarial pool to type the note.

At the secretarial pool, the message was typed with the “ooey, gooey ” sweet words for your intended lover was placed on the page.

There were always, if signed with your name, lots of X’s and O’s for that coded dramatic message to your sweetheart.

You could add a “Song” for another $1:

Meaning some assigned trio or quartet of young voices, most likely three or four of your giggling friends would appear the classroom door, announce they have a singing telegram for you (by name) and delivery a line or two of some Lawrence Welk type love song, and musically perform and then deliver that little yellow, folded and stapled message from your suitor or sweetie as a memento.

The messages, always, went both ways.

Boys sending the girls telegrams, or girls sending boys, telegrams and an occasional singing telegram.

Now here is where it gets a little fuzzy for me.  I know many of the cheerleaders of the day, Dorothy Richard, Marsha Riley, Donna Dees and Nena Fort, Pam Davis, Susan Lee, were among those singing and delivering the spirited messages.

And then came the singing majorettes, Terri Lasiter, Gayle Green, Stephanie Woodard, Lucinda Miles, Jayne Davis, Sharon Trussell and Karen Johnson, all participated. Not always in the same singing group, but sometimes a real quartet (four) or a trio (3) would croon out the message.

Others whom I recall works in this process from include Kim Johnson, Jud O’Neal, June Ford, Jana Durmon, Chrystal Norton, Ginger Lovett, Regina White, Lynn Leslie, Lisa Davis, Paulette Chandler, Alice Trantham, Sandra Clifton, Mary Ann Rauls, Cynthia Outlaw and Kathy Lockeby.

Sometimes Terri Bradford, Karen Burton, Reeca Willems, Angie Joyner, and others made up another pool of girl singers.

The boys pool was not so deep, but a few of us tried to deliver the old Barbershop Rendition of “I Love You Truly.”

What was intended as cute, usually broke the intended female down into a crying jag of sobs of embarrassment from the targeted sweetheart. She often bolted with a few friends in tow from the classroom to the girl’s bathroom before we guys got to the chorus.

I will be found guilty of singing, even though there was some doubt about my “tune being carried in a bucket,” was possible.

Others in the group of singers included: Ricky Green, Johnny McBee, Blake Marsh, Bruce Tarleton, James Tate, Rick Warner, Neil Wisener, Larry Stewart and of course, Johnny Burch.

Now not all of these guys sang, but we loved to deliver these telegrams.

Many of the guys delivering the telegrams were simply “runners” and did little other than hand off the typed messages to such fine adult readers like Kenneth Wolfe, LeRoy Baker, or John Morris McGregor.

These teachers might just read the entire telegraphed message – out loud – to the class, often before uttering the lucky girl or guy’s name.

The frantic pace of the telegram delivery service, I think, was done in like two or three class periods at most during one day.

Principals Dale Haisty and Thomas Brunson, ran a tight ship – just a little fooling around in or on Valentine’s Day was allowed.

But that activity has spawned a Pastime – that will last long beyond an embarrassment of a typewritten love note from your sweetheart hand delivered by your classmates or a stanza or two of old Lawrence Welk’s love songs.

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