Seeking romance through the decades…

This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.
This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.

Earlier today I sat down at my HP computer and scrolled through my Facebook timeline. Up pops a post from a sixth-grade boy who lives in Grantsville, West Virginia. I have family who live there – my dad’s wife, my stepbrother and his four kids. This sixth-grader had just posted he was in a relationship with my eleven-year-old niece.

I’m not so old that I don’t recall life in the sixth grade. In my case, the year was 1964 when I attended two elementary schools in Southern California. Kids went steady back then. They held hands, he carried her books and they might share a kiss as he walked her to her house. We didn’t call it dating… we were too young to drive. But you could go steady. We sure didn’t call our hand-holding and fumbling kisses “being in a relationship.”

To be honest, I wasn’t one of the kids who ventured into the going-steady world; when I was 11, I had a best friend, Laura Wagner. I never thought about going steady with her. I wanted to play catch with her, maybe ride our bikes together after school. I sure didn’t want to hold her hand or kiss her.

In photo A1, a couple from the 1900 era enjoy a risqué moment.
In photo A1, a couple from the 1900 era enjoy a risqué moment.

The few sixth-grade girls who went steady with boys in the mid-60s were usually the most mature physically. Their hormones were kicking in, which explains their desire to go steady with the 12-year-old boys who were the best athletes, physically maturing faster than other boys in the sixth grade. With hormones firing like skyrockets on the Fourth of July, those kids on the cusp of teen-hood found themselves irresistibly drawn to a new game – flirting.

In the mid-60s, mom thought the nation was fast becoming a land of sexual immorality. Still, when I look back at my high school years, a typical senior class back then might have had one or two girls who got pregnant. Nowadays, even in small towns, the numbers of girls in high school having babies are higher than in the mid-60s.

The sixth-graders in the mid-1960s were the children of the World War II generation. In turn, the men and women of the World War II generation grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s and were raised by parents who came of age during the Victorian/Edwardian Ages. While dating practices became less strict as the decades passed, parents in the ‘60s were still heavily monitoring the dating habits of their children, even as the Sexual Revolution – and miniskirts, Woodstock, communes, Charlie Manson – dominated the later years of the decade. Few mothers would allow 11-year-old daughters to go steady or be in a relationship.

The couple of photo A2 have enjoyed their time together so much they don't want to stop holding hands.
The couple of photo A2 have enjoyed their time together so much they don’t want to stop holding hands.

Which reminds me of my Writing Wranglers & Warriors blog from earlier this month. A semi-true short story of the romance of my Aunt Ethel and Uncle Raymond Snyder in the early years of the 2st Century’s second decade. Their lifetime love affair got off to a rocky start. Nineteen-year-old Raymond walked 14-year-old Ethel home from church on a cold January day. Her mom Icie Bell wouldn’t permit him to warm up inside the parlor, instead informing Ethel, “You tell him to get!” In some ways, the dating habits of the mid-60s were closer to 1912 than 2015.

Since January 11, I’ve been at my sister’s, first to visit our dad in the hospital and then to bury him. Between his death and burial ceremony, I spent some time on Pinterest investigating romantic postcards and paintings from the Victorian era. My Uncle Raymond would share his romantic longings with his Ethel via postcards, which had superseded calling cards by the early 20th century. No doubt he also sent her Valentine’s Day cards.

Nowadays, in these less strict times, teenagers are liable to send nude photos to each other via e-mail. Parents are sometimes shocked when they see the online sexual talk of their teens. The selfies girls email to their significant others are a far cry from the sweet paintings girls looked at back in the early 1900s.

The sweethearts in photo A3 share a private kiss in what looks to be a theatre.
The sweethearts in photo A3 share a private kiss in what looks to be a theatre.

I’m including six romantic paintings as part of this post that teenager Ethel might have kept in a keepsake box. The first one (A1) is a bit risqué for 1900, and its sensuality is what attracted me to it. They’re doing far more than hand-holding, yet the painting remains tasteful, even charming. The girl in her gray walking dress leans forward to smell a flower that has bloomed on a tree barely beyond a sapling, young like her. Her attention has been stolen by her beau, who leans his body against hers, his hands on her hips. His mouth moves close, his lips touching her hair, his goal a kiss on her earlobe.

In the next photo (A2), the gentleman with the top hat has reached through the iron-gate to clasp his sweetheart’s fingers. I find his gesture as powerful as a kiss. The two are saying farewell after a fine evening together – perhaps at a concert or at the playhouse – but they don’t want to leave each other’s side. Her free hand plays with her neck choker, a flirtatious gesture. Her head tilts toward his. Will they share a kiss before she heads to the house? And a final thought… why isn’t he walking her to the house? Do her parents disapprove of him, consider him a dandy with impious thoughts?

The woman in the third photo (A3) has a white flower pinned in her hair, perhaps a white rose. She has gone

A parasol provides some privacy for lovers eager to let lips meet lips.
A parasol provides some privacy for lovers eager to let lips meet lips in photo A4.

full tilt for a special night, donning an attractive green gown, its decolletage just a bit on the naughty side. She leans toward the couch’s cushions, her head angled upward so her eager lips can meet her suitor’s. The words above the couple reveal what’s on their mind. They think they’re alone… perfect opportunity for a kiss. Notice the curtain to their right? Looks like they might be inside an ornate theater, not yet ready to watch the next act of George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer. I wonder… if his kisses make her hot, will she open the fan in her hand and fan herself?

In the next photo (A4), the parasol provides privacy as the pair shares a kiss. She holds a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps he picked them for her and she think his gesture deserves a thank-you kiss. From the way Mr. Derby Hat holds her, I wager he has no intention of ending the kiss after a quick peck. Are they with the people up ahead? I’ve my doubts. He doesn’t want to share her with others on this spring day in the park. I like the extra details in the painting; notice the cat behind the little girl?

In photo A5, the gentleman knows this moment is a time when his hat should be removed.
In photo A5, the gentleman knows this moment is a time when his hat should be removed.

The boyfriend on a flowery spring day has taken off his white hat (photo A5), not wanting it to interfere with the coming kiss. It’s an excellent move on his part. His beloved has perched her bottom on the spot where the two wooden beams intersect and has leaned forward to give him a sweet kiss. The flower pinned to her bosom is the same color – purple – as the vines of flowers clinging to the trellis. I’d say he picked the flower and pinned it as a prelude to the kiss. With all the flowers about them, the fragrances must be making them passion drunk.

When I saw this painting (A6), I knew I needed to include it. The oldsters are sitting on a park bench, a cane propped at the gentleman’s legs, an umbrella between them. When you’ve been alive as long as this couple, you learn that even a sunny day can cloud up quickly and produce a downpour. A fallen leaf rests on the ground near the umbrella, even though flowers are blooming and nearby trees and plants are clothed in leafy finery. The leaf on the ground can be seen as a sign of change; we watch change happen every autumn. Leaves turn colors and fall from trees and provide nourishment for the earth. It’s a reminder that all in life is temporary and we are part of a cycle of life and death – in nature and in our own mortal lives. Notice the dog beside the old woman? The little guy looks over to where he’s heard a noise. He

An elderly couple enjoys companionship in a shady spot while a beam of sunlight shines down on a young family.
An elderly couple enjoys companionship (photo A6) in a shady spot while a beam of sunlight shines down on a young family.

has sensed the approach of the young couple and their little girl. They gleam in sunbeams while the elderly couple rest in the shade.

If I were a time traveler and I had the choice of traveling to the second decade of the 21st century or the second decade of the 20th century, I’d choose the 20th century. I’d elect courtship and kisses in the park, not nude selfies and dirty-talk chats and text messages.


20 thoughts on “Seeking romance through the decades…

  1. Fabulous images, Mike and of a bygone age. But your last sentence clinches it. I feel many silly teens who think they’re being mature in their interaction may feel diffferently when they reach their twenties, thirties and beyond. The internet, I find, is great but it’s also a big intrusive world that can’t be escaped from – unlike ripping up a photograph, or destroying a painting might have been sufficient in the past. Excellent post. I hope the sadness of your last weeks isn’t so acute now.


    1. Thank you for the kind words, Nancy. In the past, people probably tried to recall how the voices of departed loved ones sounded. Nowadays we have video with voices and messages left on cellphones. My dad left one on my cellphone on my birthday Nov. 20; he sang happy birthday.


  2. I love all the images, Mike. Lots of inspiration for romantic stories. Like Nancy, I hope your grief is less painful and you are finding pleasure in the search for inspirational images and story prompts.


  3. Mike, you are such a romantic, I think you were born in the wrong era. Beautiful blog. I love these romantic blogs. You might think about a couple of short stories for my latest book coming out. Similar to Boys Will Be Boys, but it is “It’s All About the Girls, All about the girls-No Boys. But of course, where there are girls, there are boys. LOL Enjoyed the photos and your thoughts behind them. Cher’ley


    1. Your memories summon some memories of my own. When a kid, probably second or third grade, a girl — Betty — who lived across the street loved to play “house” with me, I was the husband and she the wife. Ah, the innocence of the young.


  4. I commented on my blog to you as the first time I read your blog, I couldn’t access the comments, but I mentioned how much I liked it and I agree with you about which century to live in. And also I wondered if the use of sexuality used, not as a precious gift like it is intended to be, but as a casual act without much emotional involvement will change in future generations. Will they realize what they are losing? And how much of themselves do people lose lessening the impact of this intimate way of communicating? I love the pictures, sensual and provacative, yet proper and touching. Not offensive but getting the point across.


    1. It’s hard to tell how the future will unfold. Ancient Roman leadership was quite depraved during empire times. Then it appears to have become more conservative once Christianity became ascendant at the end times of Rome and during the Dark Ages. In Renaissance Italy, again the rulers were free-wheelers, even popes have mistresses. Wide open 18th Century, then Victorian 19th century, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the second half of the 21st Century become more conservative in regard to sexual mores. Just my meandering thoughts.


  5. I love this post: the pictures, your observations and inferences, your reflections on the mid-60s. My mother thought the same thing yours did. I would have gladly gone steady when I was eleven, but the only member of the opposite sex I was interested in was Cary Grant. That in itself is probably the best indicator of my attitude toward romance.


  6. Such a great post, Mike. My dad wouldn’t let me date until I was fifteen, and that was a group skating party at our church. When I was a junior in school, a girl got kicked out for being pregnant, and then a girl in my own class got kicked out for the same reason our senior year. Another got kicked out for wearing slacks to school. Romance was all around, especially at the lockers at break time. But no hand-holding or anything else was allowed. I loved the movies of the time. They may have alluded to sex and violence, but it wasn’t shown. Today is a totally different matter. When I was dating and going steady at 16, I can remember two things. 1. Every girl wound mohair yarn around their boyfriend’s class ring so it would fit. 2. If my boyfriend and I sat in our driveway at home (after a date) and were talking, my dad would flick the porch light on and off several times. It was my cue to get inside the house – NOW!


    1. The class ring thing… I remember that as well. I like your memory of your dad flicking the porch light… dads are very protective of their daughters. Thinking back to high school days, I too recall hand holding in the hallways. Kissing at the lockers… that was a no-no. A slow dance at a Friday night dance after a football game… guys looked forward to that.


  7. Mike, this is positively grand! The images, your words, thoughts and reflections pierce the heart. Thank you for this amazingly beautiful and poetic post — your Valentine’s gift to us all. And, I’m with you: I’d rather have been in the previous century and I think youth today are missing out on true romance and love. Again, my sympathies in the loss of your father.


  8. I agree with Cherley you really are a romantic. Love the images and your perspective on them. Like you I have noticed drastic differences between dating when I was younger and dating today. I wouldn’t want to be a teenager today. But then again I am sure my parents thought the same thing.


    1. Yep, perspective on the times. Parents thought ’50s rock-and-roll and Elvis were corrupting influences for teenagers of the time. Yet age does give us a chance to look back and make judgments. We just need to make sure those old, old memories are accurate. Lol.


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