Over the years, I have ticked off Atascadero founder Edward Gardner Lewis’ many talents, such as being an urban planner, developer, inventor, salesman, publisher, champion of women’s rights, taxidermist and more.
But today, I want to expose Lewis as being a true romantic.
For the past year, I’ve been reading more of the short “opinion pieces” Lewis published in a single volume in 1911, two years before he and his wife, Mabel Gertrude Lewis, moved from University City, Mo., to the Central Coast of California to begin a new life in a new community.
In “Fraud Order No. 10,” Lewis wrote of this special day. “It is a pretty old custom, and who of us that have grown older but remember when we used to strain our purses to send a little sweetheart a pretty valentine. The sweetheart has become husband and wife, but should none the less be a sweetheart still.”
He suggested to his readers, “Let’s brace up for once and this year send our real sweethearts — our wife or husband — a dainty, loving valentine.”
Being more specific, Lewis wrote, “I don’t believe any true woman ever gets over the point where a loving little remembrance on a day like this would not be worth more to her than a diamond necklace. If there were more valentines there would be fewer divorces.”
Lewis believed very much in the influence women have in the world. This he wrote several years before American women had the right to vote: “There has been a great deal said about women having the right to vote. If the women of America were kept reasonably well informed of the great national questions of the days, the power of their still small voice in the quiet of the night, whispered into the ear of the lord and master of the house, would have more to do with the election returns than all the ‘yellow journals’ in America.”
After defending himself against fraudulent charges pressed on him by the post office for almost seven years (he was eventually exonerated), Lewis was tired and broke. Mrs. Lewis, who suffered from ill health much of her life, went away for awhile.
In her absence, Lewis wrote: “ I don’t know whether you and your husband have pulled together shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, for 10 or 12 years, and then been separated for a little while. That happens to be my fix right now. The strain has been too much for her this past year. Now she is away. You can have the mile square of real estate, the bank, the house, automobiles, horses, cats and even the publishing company, if you will just give me back my everyday sweetheart.”
Lewis’ sweetheart passed away in Atascadero in 1935. He died at the age of 81 in 1950.