Orene (Hardman) Wetherall's valentine cards

Orene Hardman sent, received, and collected some very elaborate valentines. After marrying Bill Wetherall, she sent him at least two handmade valentines, one in 1939, before the start of the Second World War in Europe, and the other in 1942, right after the start of the Pacific War.

The valentines Orene saved from teens and early twenties, when she was Orene Hardman, are mostly manufactured cards that showcase the most elaborate contemporary designs, of complexities rearely seen today.

Valentines in my school days was a two-way affair. In principle, a boy would give a valentine to a girl he liked, or girls if he liked several, even to a female teacher. It was practically mandatory that a son give a valentine to his mother. Girls, too, were free to give valentines to boys they liked, and mothers would give valentines to their children.

To be continued.


Late 1920s - early 1930s

Orene Hardman's schoolday valentine cards



14 February 1939

Handmade booklet valentine card

Dating this handmade card is a problem. It was preserved in its original envelope, addressed to "William Wetherall / Room 409 -- Post Office Buldg. / San Francisco, Calif". It bears a single 3-cent purple Thomas Jefferson regular postage stamp first issued on 16 June 1938 in the presidential series.

The stamp bears a simple concentric oval cancellation mark with "SAN FRANCISCO / CA [ L. ]" in the space between the ovals, and a "J" in the center -- a hand cancellation with no date. However, the date is clarified in the poem, which states "T'was the year '39, in month number two".

1940 valentine 1940 valentine 1940 valentine

Corrugated cardboard covers, and 16 note-paper pages, of Orene Wetherall's valentine card to Bill Wetherall
Sent to Bill in 1938, 1940, or 1941 when he was clerking for a federal judge in downtown San Francisco
from a post office near their residence near the Haight-Ashbury District
Wetherall Family Collection


anyone who feels
strong enough to
bear the weight
of such a burden-
some bit of com-

(To be read
à la
Rudy Vallée)

A valentine once in a
girl's heart grew.
To whom it belonged
that valentine knew
Do you need a clew?
Or an idea new?
From the same puzzle
Did this poem ensue.

Could it be the butcher -- he's
nice you know
Or perhaps the baker -- the
guy with dough
What! Him for a beau!
An apology you owe.
That it could be either -- a
thousand times "No"!

Here's the whole tale. You no
doubt realize
It's a deep dark secret, and
highly prized.
Let me sympathize
If you're too surprised;
And above all, don't be

T'was the year '39, in month
number two
This valentine's life had ad-
ventures too few
Ho hum! What to do?
Just lend an ear to
You'll hear plenty -- I'm
tellin' you!

Day number fourteen dawned
with a crash
Valentine jumped from that
heart in a flash.
Such actions brash
Left the hear in a hash.
(Dear reader, how can you
stand such trash?)

He rushed out the door, down the
hill to Haight
To the Safeway corner. What
would be his fate?
Would he have to wait?
Would he be too late?
(Read the next verse, at
any rate.)

Where on the corner, all steamed
to full speed,
Stood old "17" his e'er faith-
ful steed.
In this time of need
Not a light did it heed.
(Don't stop now. You've much
more to read.)

Down Haight to Market, swift
as a deer.
The speed laws of 'Frisco were
broken, I fear.
It frightened all near.
Scared 'em pink, do you hear
The record is tops, with nary
a peer.

The car pulled a halt at street
number 7.
One-half block to go -- just that
far from heaven.
Might well have been 'leven.
Who cares about heaven!
(Can't think of words to rhyme
with seven!)

When we next meet with our
friend Valentine
He's in the Post Office at
Room 409.
No time to resign --
Too proud to whine --
The state of his nerves is
hard to define.

He opened the door, too
one tiny peek;
What he saw there made him
let out a squeak.
The prospect look bleak.
His heart felt so weak!
If he wanted attention, he'd
sure have to speak.

"Ahem!" he said, loud as he
Down came the feet from a
desk of hardwood.
(Just as I've understood --
that for livelihood
a law clerk sat much more
than he stood.)

"I hope you're not busy," said
this Valentine.
The law clerk in question was
not too benign.
Then his eyes they did shine
'Till he looked quite devine.
He finally smiled at this wee

So here I am now, minus
ruffle and frill,
But I captured the heart of
my very own Bill.
My voice was a trill!
My heart feels a thrill!
'Cause I love you now, and
I always will!


A the time Orene made this card, 8 months after she and Bill were married, they were still living in the first apartment they rented in the city, at 60 Central Avenue in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. It was a very short walk down the hill to Haight Street and what appears to have been the No. 17 bus or streetcar (unconfirmed), which made its way to Market, then down Market to 7th street, near the Post Office building, home of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where Bill was clerking for Judge William Healy.

In the story, "Valentine" -- a "he" -- is a stand-in for Orene. He (she) personally delivers the card to Bill at his office. and Bill, of course, sees him as her.


14 February 1942

Pacific War valentine card

Two months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war on Japan, Orene Wetherall, anticipating wartime austerities, cut some hearts from a contemporary newspaper, stitched them together, and wrote a funny verse to her husband of 4-1/2 years. Their son, this writer, was going on 11 months old.

1942 valentine 1942 valentine 1942 valentine
1942 valentine


In these times of deprivation
    Cupid's out ot help the nation,
Since silk and satin are taboo
    He's dreamed up something else for you.

Some stitches fine with scarlet thread
    On newsprint that is slightly read.
Together tied with scraps of twine
    "Oh! Won't you be my Valentine?"

War-related articles

The hearts were not happhazardly snipped from a newspaper. In the manner of a seamstress who is careful to cut fabric so that patterns align at seams, Orene clipped the hearts so that the columns were vertical, and balanced left and right -- and, moreover, they were about the war.

The articles featured on the front cover of the valentine are from the 6 February 1942 edition of The San Francisco Examiner, an evening paper.

The 1-column article on the left of the cover, a 6 February Associated Press report from Bern, Switzerland, begins "Germans are grumbling about reverses in Russia and because they are short of coal and potatoes, Hitler's own Propaganda Minister, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, admitted today in the Nazi Journal Das Reich.

The 2-column article in the center, by International News Service staff correspondent Kingsbury Smith, datelined Washington, Feb. 6, leads with "The United States today formally assured the Government of Erie that the presence of American expeditionary forces in northern Ireland does not constitute any menace to southern Ireland." Apparently some Irish nationalists feared that Britain, with the help of U.S. troops, would attempt to take the southern part of the partitioned isles.

The 1-column article to the right reports "Freighter Cynthia Olsen of S.F. Torpedoed Dec. 7; Crew of 35 Now Given Up as Lost". The fate of the San Francisco vessel had been confirmed "yesterday" (5 February).

The most conspicuous letter to the editor on the back cover, headlined "Let Soldiers Speak", is a plea to "Let those that are fighting in the first-line of democracy speak" -- referring to the movement to allow "our boys . . . on land, on sea, and in the air" to vote in the next election on a proposed liquor law that, if passed, would result in the country going "dry" again. What red-blooded American soldier, sailor, or flier would vote for a boozeless military?