80-year old Valentine's card symbolizes family ties
On Feb. 14, Austin and Rachel Thompson, who live in the Dutch Cove community, experienced a unique and historic day when Austin gave his wife an 80-year-old Valentine card. But this just wasn’t any card — it was a Valentine originally given by Rachel’s grandmother, Hazel Miller Frederick, to her childhood friend, Ki Davis Jr. — Austin’s grandfather.
The date on the card was Feb. 14, 1934.
“After Granddaddy died, I was pilfering through his stuff and I found a manila envelope full of valentines,” said Austin. “This one caught my eye, and I looked at the date and the writing and realized it was from Rachel’s grandmother.”
Hazel Frederick, Rachel’s grandmother, said she was 7-years old that year.
“I gave that card to Ki when we were in class at Morning Star Elementary School,” said Frederick, describing her childhood friend as “sweet and thoughtful” and that he adored Valentine’s cards throughout his life.
"Daddy sent every woman and child in the family a Valentine’s card each and every year, said Kila Davis Thompson, Davis’s daughter. “And I remember the last Valentine’s Day he was living, he wasn’t able to go out to get cards, so I made his Valentines on my computer and he sent all his girls a Valentine on Feb. 14, 2009.”
Although Frederick and Davis never dated each another, they were “best pals” growing up.
“Where one went, the other one went,” said Frederick, recalling good times like when Davis’ father, Hezekiah Davis, took them swimming in the Pigeon River and when they walked to and from Morning Star Elementary School and Morning Star Methodist Church.
“I remember someone at church told us about Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning, and Ki and me were discussing it on the way home from church,” said Frederick.
She had to approve Davis’ girlfriends, and she approved her friend, Wilma Nichols, who met him at a party when he was wearing a sharp-looking brown suit.
“I first noticed his black hair and he noticed my red dress,” said Wilma Nichols Davis.
Frederick traveled with the couple to Greenville, South Carolina. and served as a witness when they married Nov. 15, 1945, two days before Davis left for World War II.
C.E. and Hazel Frederick married three years later on Nov. 26, 1948, and the two couples became the best of friends.
For many years, they lived across the road from each other in the Dutch Cove community, went to Morning Star Methodist Church, and raised their children together. The Fredericks had three boys, Eric, Raoul and Max, while the Davis couple had four children – Terry, Randy, Alana and Kila.
“Hazel always had a big July 4th party,” said Wilma Davis. “I would bring potato salad and Ki brought his guitar and a bunch of them sang and danced and just had a lot of fun.”
The two women were both pregnant with their youngest children, Kila and Max, at the same time. The night of Sept. 26, 1957, the two women talked on the phone and neither of them felt like their labor would start that night.
“I remember Ki was working 3-11, and he came home and turned on the television and there was something real funny on and I laughed and laughed and then all of a sudden, I started having contractions and I knew it was time,” said Wilma, noting that her friend also went into labor that night.
The two friends delivered their youngest babies at the old Haywood County Hospital only 20 minutes apart Sept. 27, 1957.
“Dr. Kearse delivered Kila and Dr. Moore delivered Max,” said Wilma, adding that their two youngest children, Kila and Max, were the best of friends from day one.
The special historical ties from these childhood friends passed down to their grandchildren and spurred a conversation at C.E. and Hazel Frederick’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration.
“I had known Austin my whole life but we hadn’t seen each other in 15 years when I asked how he was doing, and then his family set us up,” said Rachel Thompson.
The Thompsons married Nov. 20, 2010, in between the wedding dates of their grandparents, and are happy that Davis was able to see them start dating before he died.
“Ki was very glad Austin and Rachel got together,” said Frederick.
The cozy one-bedroom Dutch Cove home they live in holds a nostalgic life of its own. The small home, which includes a cabin-like front porch complete with rocking chairs, was originally one of three rental homes, owned by Austin’s great-grandfather, Hezekiah, that Ki and Wilma Davis and their four children lived in.
“They didn’t have running water, so Wilma would go to my grandparents’ house and wash her hair,” said Rachel, adding that her grandfather, C.E. Frederick, also lived in the house at a different time and that her great-grandmother, Letha Bell Miller, lived in the home next door.
When they look outside to their small backyard barn they now use for a chicken coop, they see another historical gem because Austin’s great-grandfather, Hezekiah, actually built the barn for Rachel’s great-grandmother Letha Bell Miller’s milk cow.
“We take pride in the house and take care of it the best we can because we really appreciate where we came from,” said Austin.
When their son, Max Davis Thompson, was born Oct. 25, 2013, he represented the fifth generation of family ties between these two families. He is named after Austin’s grandfather, Max Thompson, a local World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and Rachel’s uncle, Max Frederick, and Austin’s grandfather, Ki Davis.
Lifelong friends Wilma Davis and Frederick couldn’t be happier that they have lived to both be great-grandmothers to baby Max, and while they don’t know what all stories might blossom in the fifth generation of family ties, they know one thing for sure.
In 20 years, Max Davis Thompson can hold a 100-year-old Valentine’s card in his hand written from his great-grandmother on his mother’s side to his great-grandfather on his father’s side.
That fact makes Austin and Rachel Thompson smile.