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At Valentine's Day, love is on the run

Digital Scrapbook

At Valentine's Day, love is on the run

Robert Slocum, surrounded by fellow students from Union College, prepares to lift off for his long run to Saratoga Springs on Valentine's Day 1968. (Daily Gazette file photo)
Robert Slocum, surrounded by fellow students from Union College, prepares to lift off for his long run to Saratoga Springs on Valentine's Day 1968. (Daily Gazette file photo)

Hearts and flowers will carry the day Wednesday — Valentine's Day.

Digital Scrapbook is celebrating the day a little early. Here are some of our favorite Valentine's Day photos from the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

We've got mothers, daughters and fathers and cool kids acting cool.

Union senior Robert Slocum puts in some leg work during his arduous adventure for ardor on Feb. 14, 1968 — Valentine's Day. Slocum ran 22 miles to Skidmore College in 4 hours, 10 minutes.

And we've got pictures from our all-time favorite Valentine's Day story. It's time to re-tell the tale about Robert Slocum for the first time since 2005.

Slocum was a senior at Union College during the late winter of 1968. 

The Schaghticoke resident, a pre-med major at Union, decided to impress his girlfriend, Pamela Bailey, by giving her a bouquet of daffodils.

The Valentine's Day delivery would take a while. Bailey was a student at Skidmore College, and Slocum — part of those crazy, cosmic 1960s — planned to run 22 miles from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs for his Valentine.

"A long-distance run is very mind-expanding," Slocum told Schenectady Gazette reporter Gordon Boyd the day before the excursion. "Anyone who can run 5 miles can run 20 miles, depending on his psychic energy."

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Mrs. J.R. Young and her daughter, Kimberly, are all smiles during a Valentine’s mother-daughter banquet at First Reformed Church in February 1962.

So Slocum's big run was kind of like a journey to the center of the mind; maybe even a magic carpet ride, a soul experience and a high-energy version of truckin'.

Slocum figured his "psychic energy" would kick in after five miles. The young athlete never worried about long and winding roads, as he was well acquainted with distance training. He had competed on the Union skiing and cross-country teams.

A good run, he told Boyd, "was really a happening."

Union students must have heard about Slocum's plans; a crowd cheered when the runner took his first steps from the Theta Delta Chi fraternity house on Lenox Road at 12:30 p.m. on Valentine's Day. A fraternity brother following in a car kept the flowers safe and cool.

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Tommy Lutz, 17, a student at Bishop Gibbons High School, posed as Cupid in the window of Danny’s Confectionery on Elmer Avenue on Valentine’s Day 1962.

Slocum, dressed in a gray sweat suit with a giant red heart stitched to the front, ran up Lenox and soon hit Van Vranken Avenue and Route 146. Much of his day was spent on Route 50.

Slocum might have been thinking about the sunshine of Pam's love, but that was the only warmth he received during the near marathon. The high temperature was a sub-freezing 29 degrees. Strong winds and blisters on his feet were other drags.

Traffic also fouled Slocum's psychedelic mood. He said he was too busy dodging cars to really get into a psycho-therapeutic groove.

"Tighten up" were two words he became familiar with. He suffered severe leg cramps and, south of Ballston Spa, didn't think he could keep going.

"Probably inspired by thoughts of Skidmore, he found that if he kept flexing his legs, the knotty muscles would loosen and stretch out," Boyd wrote.

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Fathers and daughters gathered in 1978 for a Valentine's Day banquet at the Southern Saratoga County Family YMCA. From left are Tina DeLucca, Bob DeLucca, YMCA director Cindy Swadba, John Zalucki and Amy Zalucki.

The runner received help as he traveled the expressway to Pam's heart. Friends handed him orange juice and candy bars along the way, which he wolfed down without stopping. He reached Skidmore in mid-afternoon, and completed his mission.

"It's not often that a boy would run 20 miles to give you a Valentine," said Bailey, impressed by the feat. And the feet.

There would be no midnight confessions for Slocum. It was an early night. The runner quaffed a few beers at a Saratoga tavern, returned to Union by car, and hoped for a long night's sleep.

In 2005, Dr. Robert Slocum of Ashfield, Mass. reflected upon his long, strange trip of 1968 — now 50 years ago.

He said the idea for the trans-county run popped up during a fraternity rap session. A few short workouts during the winter prepared him for the Valentine's Day exercise. The feat itself was far from smooth running — serious running shoes were not yet on the market. So Slocum logged 22 miles in black canvas sneakers.

"That run was too much, too soon," Slocum said of the grand slam plan to impress Pam. "It was a bit over the top. It gathered quite a bit of publicity, and she was mildly embarrassed by all the attention."

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Linton High School senior Courtney Erickson entertains classmate Chris Terry during Erickson's routine as one of the Linton Chorus's "Singing Valentines" on Valentine's Day 1987.

The relationship never really developed, added Slocum, who began working as an emergency physician at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass. in 1978. "I lost touch with her after I graduated in 1968," he said.

He's also lost touch with long miles on the highway.

"I do mostly some hiking at this point," he said. "Low impact stuff."

Gazette file photos by Sid Brown, Ron Rogers, Jim Cassin, Garry Brown and Bruce Squiers.