Valentine’s Day, 1936

The year 1936 is still known for its temperature extremes. It snowed nearly a foot in January, and the temperature plummeted to 28 degrees below zero. That began the most frigid three weeks in Des Moines’s history.           

After two weeks of arctic weather, more snow swept through the area, causing a coal shortage. Clabe Wilson and son Dale cut down an apple tree and hauled it home on a sled to tide the family over until they could find coal. The Dexter school closed for several days, and what coal they had was handed out to families who needed it. 

The Dallas County News, Feb. 12, 1936: “Second Blizzard Rages. Mercury drops 30 degrees in a few hours. Train unable to get through. The WPA men cleared the road to the gravel pit near Redfield, only to have it drift shut again.” The Perry Daily Chief reported bitter subzero weather, with the railroads trying desperately to restore service. Buses also stalled.

“Heck, no!”

Clabe helped clear the road to the cemetery for a funeral. The thermometer read minus 20 degrees on Valentine’s Day. Youngest son Junior prepared to take a Valentine for each boy in his room at school.

Leora joked, “My, haven’t you any girlfriends?” 

Dale, Danny, and Junior Wilson later that year with Spats

“Heck, no!” He brought home a big orange from his teacher and about ten Valentines. 

Danny, two years older than Junior, said his grade doesn’t do such little things anymore. But his teacher gave a candy bar to each student, chocolate and black walnut, made in Drew’s Candy Kitchen right there in Dexter. 


Helen Drew made her first chocolates in 1927, and Drew’s Chocolates is still in business, along the highway in Dexter.


From Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression


    • Ha ha! I was just thinking that I didn’t have a Valentine story, then I remembered Junior’s remark! Those two younger brothers must have been great fun!

      Dale was more serious, but he was the one who made all those bike trips to Adel with crow’s feet for bounty money, then bought his mother shoes without holes in the souls.

    • Thanks, Liz! It was one of the photos I liked for the cover of “Leora’s Dexter Stories,” but when I asked people to vote, they liked the Model T roadster one the best!

  1. Sweetness with a tinge of humor (“Heck No”); a perfect dish to serve this Valentine’s Day. Happy V-Day Ms. Joy!

  2. Great Valentine story!!! Such a cold winter…it makes me appreciate our mild Virginia winters! So sweet of the teacher to give all the kids chocolates…and such special ones!

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