Alternative Valentine's Day

[blockquote]This article was submitted over 4 years ago by Nancy Whyte, a volunteer and good friend of Go Foxburg! In this article, Nancy describes an alternative way of celebrating the holiday, traditionally geared toward couples, by those who have chosen to remain single. The insights here truly make St Valentine’s Day a holiday for everyone![/blockquote]

Another holiday will soon be upon us: Valentine’s Day. Practically since the day after Christmas, stores have had cupids dangling above our heads and shelves overloaded with brightly foiled or satin-laced hearts. Romantic cards fill the greeting slats (Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in greeting card sales), and racks of skimpy nightwear have been pushed to prominent locations. The electricity of love charges the air.

But not for everyone. There are some of us who were either left standing on the dock when the Love Boat sailed or who purposefully and successfully have dodged Cupid’s arrows. But we who don’t have a significant — or for that matter, an insignificant — other can still find a way to enjoy February 14th. Let me explain.

Regardless of the exact origins of Valentine’s Day — some say it commemorates several early Christian martyrs while others suggest it is a byproduct of an ancient fertility festival called Lupercalia — by general consensus the holiday is celebrated on February 14th. Well, other important events took place on that date. Those of us without a date (pun intended) can choose to acknowledge some of those other occurrences. Thus, we can party and celebrate and have a good time with the other people who are without partners.

Ignoring doilies, diamonds, flowers, and candy, we nonromatics have several choices about what to celebrate. Depending on our personality, we can select to honor the admission of two different states to the union, the creation of one of the most important medicines, or one of the most notorious massacres in American history.

Probably the least-controversial way to celebrate February 14th is by commemorating the admission of two states. Oregon, number 33, which became part of the union on Valentine’s Day in 1859, is geographically the 9th largest state and currently contains the 27th largest population. Also, Arizona, the third from last state to join the union, became part of our country on February 14th, 1912; Arizona is the 6th largest and is the 14th most populated state. Due to their shapes, both of these states’ admissions could easily be celebrated with a rectangular sheet cake; for Oregon, unevenly slice a little off the top and right side, and for Arizona slightly scallop the left side and cut a slight triangular wedge off the bottom.

Ironically, Valentine’s Day also marks the introduction of a medicine often used to treat maladies acquired while celebrating that holiday. It was on this date in 1929 that Scotsman Alexander Fleming brought out penicillin, his by-product of mold that can be used to treat bacteriological infections. I’d recommend that if you choose to celebrate the advent of penicillin you concentrate on the abbreviation “pen” and buy yourself a new writing utensil as opposed to chowing down something moldy.

But perhaps the most interesting — and probably least politically-correct way of observing February 14th — would be with a St. Valentines’ Day Massacre party.

Long before the Sharks and the Jets went after each other in New York City, gangs of organized-crime mobsters challenged each other for supremacy in Chicago. With the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol banned by the nineteenth amendment, ample opportunity existed for those trying to get rich through illegal activities. In particular competition for Chicago’s North Side were two rival gangs: one run by Johnny Torrio and the other by Bugs Moran.

As payback for an earlier gang killing committed by Torrio, in 1925 Bugs Moran shot Johnny Torrio shot four times and would have killed him had he not run out of ammunition. Torrio survived, but shortly afterward while serving time in prison for a police raid on one of his breweries, he contacted his long-time friend and associate, Al “Scarface” Capone. Torrio announced his retirement and then turned over his crime syndicate to Capone.

Al Capone sought justice for his mentor’s injuries. The opportunity for revenge arrived on February 14th, 1929 resulting in one of the most notious gang assassinations in history: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Although Capone was in Miami when the shootings took place, few doubt that he gave the order for the hit. One of Capone’s henchmen made the arrangements by contacting Moran and offering to sell him a truckload of whiskey at a very low price. Moran agreed, and the shipment was to arrive the next day at Moran’s warehouse. But Moran was running late on the 14th. As he approached the warehouse, he saw several policemen and detectives step out of a cop car and enter the building. Thinking he had narrowly avoided being arrested in a raid, Moran left — thus escaping certain death.

Meanwhile, inside, Moran’s men apparently decided to let their lawyers sort things out later, so they cooperated with the police. As instructed, they put down their weapons and lined up against the wall. However, instead of being frisked and arrested, bullets flew as the assassins savagely used shotguns and submachine guns to eliminate Moran’s crew. Six men died at the scene, and a seventh, who refused to provide any information, died less than an hour later at a Chicago hospital.

Instead of being legitimate law enforcement officers, the shooters were Capone’s hired assassins wearing stolen police uniforms and driving a stolen police car. A local optometrist who had been misidentified as Moran, mistakenly died in his place, and the real target of the massacre escaped injury.

Although Capone had an airtight alibi, the savagery of the Valentine’s Day killings shocked and angered Americans, and perhaps because police had been impersonated, authorities redoubled their efforts to bring Capone to justice. In May 1929 Al Capone was sent to prison for carrying a concealed weapon, and in October, 1931 Capone was found guilty of several counts of federal income tax evasion. He was fined $80,000 and sentenced to prison for 11 years. He spent most of his prison time at Alcatraz prison where he was released early after 6-1/2 years for good behavior. With Prohibition having been repealed and his crime empire dissolving in his absence, Capone retired to his estate in Florida where he died of complications from syphilis in 1947. His archrival, Bugs Moran died of lung cancer ten years later in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary while serving time for bank robbery.

Thus, for the adventurous, the notorious massacre of St. Valentine’s Day could be observed with a get-together. Attendees could arrive dressed like gangsters or Chicago police. I’d recommend water pistols instead of more realistic accessories, and punch instead of bootleg alcohol.

So, as February 14th approaches, those of us who are single need not despair; there are plenty of alternative ways to observe the day. We can party and celebrate any of a variety of events: new states, antibiotics or gangland murder. And Cupid definitely doesn’t have to be included on our guest list!