This is probably a good time to get to know Catherine Nichepor a little better.
I’ve mentioned before that it has been tricky to find information about the owner of this box, Catherine Nichepor; that name doesn’t appear in the census, as far as I could tell. But there was a clue out there: a photo of a burlesque dancer scanned and uploaded by Vintage Burlesque Photos on Tumblr, signed “To Sonia, Hit Parade of 1936, Catherine Nichepor.” The photographer’s mark says “Chicago.”
By itself, not especially compelling evidence, but there was one more thing–the way she formed the letter “C” in her name.
Catherine’s signature from the burlesque photo.
Catherine’s signature from the hot slaw recipe card.
Notice the cross on the tail of the “C”? While it’s formed in two different ways, the odds of two different Catherine Nichepors adopting the same affectation seemed unlikely. So we knew she went from Kansas to Chicago and danced. From there and from other items I was able to pick up at auction, we’ve got a pretty complete picture of Catherine’s early years, and that tells us a lot about who she was and this valentine.
Her parents operated a general store; in one letter, a high school suitor wonders if her parents mind if he calls her on the store phone.
She graduated from Wyandotte High School in 1933, a year after her elder sister Sophie (later Sonia). Sonia and Catherine both grew up dancing, and danced together in festivals at their Russian Orthodox church.
After high school, Sonia stayed in Kansas; in the 1940 census, she listed her profession as a hairdresser. Here’s the rest of the family in the 1940 census:
Catherine (left) and Sonia dancing in a church festival.
Catherine at 17.
But Catherine started her dancing career. Here’s a copy of a contract from 1935.
Catherine danced under her own name and occasionally under the name Kay Nichols; she kept a scrapbook with newspaper clippings of some of the shows in which she performed, including the Hit Parade of 1936 in the autographed photo she sent home to her sister.
I haven’t scanned the whole scrapbook yet, but here are a few of the clippings. Notice how the picture of Catherine with her hand on her chin in the third scan appears in the ad for Hit Parade of 1936 in the second scan?
Catherine met her husband, Michael Carl Marian, in Detroit in 1936, when she was 21 and he was 32. Michael was Romanian by birth and owned a successful dairy business. From a clipping in her papers:
Local Dancer Will Be Married Sunday
Romance of Miss Catherine Nichepor and M.C. Marion Is Storybook Type
Mis Catherine Nichepor, nationally-known dancer, and Michael Carl Marian, president of the Michigan Farmers’ Creamery company, of Detroit, will be married Sunday morning at the Russian Orthodox church at Sixth street and Lowell avenue.
The romance of the young entertainer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Nichepor, 50 South Seventh street, and Mr. Marian, is like those found in books. It began when she appeared at the exclusive Penthouse club in Detroit. Mr. Marian met her and became a regular patron of the club.
The friendship deepend and will be culminated by the marriage Sunday. Miss Nichepor has danced in theaters and clubs all over the country since she completed her education at Wyandotte high school several years ago.
By 1940, she appears in the census in Detroit under her married name, no profession listed:
But if Catherine didn’t meet her husband until she was dancing in Detroit after high school, then who sent her this telegram in 1932, her Junior year? My guess is a high school beau, Gordon Thorpe. Gordon was a classmate of Sonia’s.
Catherine saved a bunch of his letters, including this one:
I haven’t had my picture taken yet, but I sure am going to have them taken. I’ll bet you want one. I told you why I wasn’t going to take no girl to the ninth grade party. So you really want me to come down by your home room? I have learned to like you very much is the reason I asked you that question. I don’t think I mistook you for another girl as you know I have your picture and know how you look. I bet you think more of Raymond Randall than you do me. Are you sure you never did care for him. I can’t think of much more to say than what does this mean: “From your [scribble] Catherine Nichepor.” What does that scribble say. I am waiting for the answer you promised me. Don’t forget to give it to me. Sophie said she was getting tired of being “Postman” but we don’t care.
(Pardon my writing as I wrote fast.)
From your admirer
Yes, I know–this letter doesn’t look like it came from a poet. But Gordon didn’t need to write a poem to send this telegram–he just called up Western Union and ordered the number six. Here’s a blurb from a story that mentions this style of valentine, from the February 10, 1927 edition of the Edwardsville (Illinois) Intelligencer:
A unique idea for Valentine’s Day greetings has now been arranged by the telephone companies. Today, the distinctive Valentine is a telegraphed billet-doux that speeds swiftly and true as Cupid’s dart. It has then delivered on a special blank, decorated in keeping with the occasion, in a special envelope, a new thrill from an old custom.
Several clever suggestions have been made as to the messages which may be sent. They include:–
“Dear Valentine the mail’s too slow. I choose this way to let you know I love you.
“I like you, I love you, I want you all the time, so please write me back that you’ll be my valentine.
“Valentine greetings, Mother, my first and dearest sweetheart. How I wish I could be with you today but will be with you in thought at least.
“Thinkin’ a little, wishin’ a little, far off and blue; hopin’ a little, sighin’ a little, lonesome for you.”
And the menu, in case you wanted to order something other than the number six:
Sorry, Gordon. I guess it wasn’t Raymond Randall you needed to worry about. And if you’re keeping score, Western Union’s track record in relationships is now 0 and 2, if The Five Americans are to be believed.
We’ll learn more about Catherine soon. Here’s a full-size scan of the valentine you can click to enlarge.
From the box of C.N. sold in De Soto, Kansas.
Valentine Greeting by Western Union
YA86 19 NL GTG=MH24=YA KANSASCITY KANS 13
1932 FEB 13 PM 9 30
48 SOUTH 7 ST KANSAS CITY KANS=
THINKING A LITTLE WISHING A LITTLE FAR OFF AND BLUE HOPIN A LITTLE SIGHIN A LITTLE LONESOME FOR YOU
ONE WHO CARES.
Absolutely fascinating – thank you for sharing.
This is a treasure trove! Can I have your permission to use this information and some of the photos on my blog? I will link back to you more than once and directly tell people to come here. I have a series of photos of Catherine and one of my readers deciphered her name (which was only on one of the photos) and sent me here. I wrote about her as though I knew her story, which I often do with my photos. Here is the link.
I knew nothing about her until I came here. Hoping to hear from you soon.
Sorry for the delay… but yeah, by all means, go ahead and use whatever you want. It’s not like I “own” it, really, I’m just kinda curating it. And your site is great! I’ll have to get her box from storage, there’s a ton in there…
The Nichepors grew up on Russian Hill, same as my dad and my grandparents. Of course, everybody belonged to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox church. The Nichepors owned a grocery down the street from the church. Eventually Alex took over the store. He was a round-headed kid. Henry died in 1951, Pearl shortly before that. Sonia died in 1972. My dad knows a guy who was a delivery boy for the store and coincidently was waiting for a phone call from him when I asked about the Nichepors. I ran track with the guy’s son. Small world. Anyway, he might know a little about Catherine, but like the rest of us, was probably a bit too young. NIK a por. Oh yeah, I just remembered – Holy Trinity sold their church and moved south. It is now owned by a group of – get this – burlesque dancers.