The Sweetest Valentine

When we think about Valentine’s Day we may remember the little cards we put in paper sacks for our entire 4th grade class. Or as we got older, perhaps a box of chocolates, flowers or a dinner out.

I’m going to guess most of us have never gotten a telegram for Valentine’s Day. Well, that’s exactly what my grandfather gave my grandmother.

Owen Elmer McKamey and Pauline Chalmers Donahoo McKamey, my mom’s parents, were the kindest, most loving people.  Mama and G-da, as we affectionately called them, lived in Knoxville, Tennessee most of their lives, but their love story started in Jefferson City, Tennessee in the next county over.

G-da attended Carson-Newman College (now University) to become a teacher.  Mama worked in a five and dime store nearby.  Can you guess the rest? Yep, G-da walked into that store one day and his heart was never the same. Now, this all happened in the 1920’s. They may have been in love, but they were poor and didn’t have the money to marry until November 1930. It should come as no surprise that the 1931 song “I Found A Million Dollar Baby (at a 5 and 10 cent store)” became “their song”.

I don’t have a date for the telegram, but learning a little about them makes me think it’s sometime in the 1930’s.  A blogpost from The Postal Museum ( says that greetings like this were used starting in the mid thirties because telegrams had fallen out of favor with the use of the telephone and the post office. At this point in time, my grandfather was working for the post office, so he probably would have known about these (he didn’t get a chance to complete his college because of family obligations).

The wording of the telegram is so my grandfather, a Christian man who held every post in the Presbyterian Church except minister. He loved his “Polly”, but had deep respect for her too. I know she felt exactly the same way about him.

After Valentine’s Day is over, the chocolates are eaten, the flowers have withered and the dinner is a nice memory. But cards and telegrams like this one last forever, or at least long enough for a granddaughter to write her first blogpost.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Genealogy Tip: I didn’t know any of this before talking with my mom. Chat with the older generation and get their stories.  Write them down or even better, record them.  And don’t forget to write down or record your story for future generations.

3 thoughts on “The Sweetest Valentine

  1. What a nice, beautiful story. I hadn’t known any of this either. Little tidbits to file away about the only set of grandparents we ever knew a lot about. I, being the eldest, knew Pop-Pop better than either you or Marcy. I love learning more about my family. You’ve done such a great job with this.

  2. Congratulations on your first blog post. I can’t think of a better story to begin with. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.

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