Google tells us that eCards are among the most searched gifts this Valentine’s Day, right behind flowers and ahead of teddy bears.
Imagine, though, taking a time machine a century into the future. Would anything be left of today’s heartfelt digital messages?
It’s something to think about as handwriting gives way to current communication methods — whether sentiments are delivered by keyboard, voice mail or text. Technology advances so quickly that devices used just a decade ago are in junk drawers.
Marysville’s Phil Jubie has a personal message his great uncle received 114 years ago. Handwritten by someone named Lulu — in all likelihood a sweetheart — it’s preserved in a poetry book.
“My Uncle Ed, he passed away in 1969,” said Jubie, adding that the book was given to Edwin Ritchie not by his wife, Olga Ritchie, “but somebody else.”
“I thought it was a Valentine’s Day gift. But I did some research on my uncle, and his birthday was February 13,” said 70-year-old Jubie, who’s not sure if it was a birthday or Valentine’s gift.
The book of poems by John Greenleaf Whittier has a handwritten message inside, dated Feb. 13, 1906.
“To Edwin from Lulu.” And on a separate card is this: “Wishing you many happy returns of the day, Lulu.”
Simply titled “Whittier,” the vintage book has other surprises inside. Pressed between its pages are several dried but well preserved four-leaf clovers. Imagining a romantic, pastoral scene, “I can see him sitting on a blanket,” Jubie said. “I kind of thought the clovers were marking poems he was reading with her.”
Born Feb. 13, 1888, he would have been 18 in 1906.
“I don’t think he was in Everett at the time,” Jubie said of his great-uncle.
Edwin Ritchie came here from Michigan, but Jubie isn’t sure when. Ritchie married Olga Larson Martin, the sister of Jubie’s maternal grandmother, in Snohomish on July 3, 1941. Olga and Edwin Ritchie lived in the Lowell area and later in north Everett, just off Broadway.
Jubie’s great uncle died Sept. 1, 1969.
“He was a painter — he painted signs on business doors with gold leaf,” Jubie said. Also a watercolorist, Ritchie took painting classes from Bernie Webber, an icon of the local art scene who died in 2006.
“This is pretty special to me,” Jubie said. “He was a pretty interesting old character, a neat old guy when we got to see him.”
After Ritchie died, his lawyer-style bookcase “ended up in my mom’s house,” Jubie said. “It sat there many years.”
When his mother, Helen Jubie, eventually gave him the case, Jubie added his own books to it but didn’t really look at the old ones. “A couple years ago, I was thumbing through these, four or five poetry books. They’re kind of neat,” he said.
“I’m surprised at how well the book has held up,” said Jubie, one of 12 siblings who was raised in Lake Stevens and has retired from his electrical and construction businesses.
In that old book, where one clover marks a narrative poem called “The Bridal of Pennacook,” he found Lulu’s tidy penmanship. It doesn’t tell much about a day-before-Valentine’s gift, or the relationship behind it. It does show what lasts, longer than any text or email.
“I’d love to know who Lulu was,” Jubie said, “but we know she’s not around.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.