Dorothy Brown saved the love letters she received during a three-year courtship.
"Darling, I am very thankful for the times we've been able to have the past week," Jim Brown wrote some 53 years ago.
Another read, "To my precious sweetheart (with a heart of gold) ... ."
What makes these proclamations of love so special -- beyond his sincerity -- is the story behind them, the longtime Sonora residents said.
Jim wrote them on an old Linotype machine during his evenings working as a printer at a Southern California newspaper in the mid- to late-1950s.
A Linotype -- the staple of newspaper publishing for a century -- used molten lead to form the letters and punctuation marks and put them in place for printing. It was replaced in the 1970s by "cold" phototypesetting equipment.
The old machines are pretty much museum pieces these days. But for Jim, the Linotype did more than provide his livelihood. It helped him get the girl.
Call him the last of the hot-lead lovers, pouring out his innermost thoughts and romancing her in 9-point Times New Roman font.
"Two inches wide, 14 inches deep on newsprint," Jim said proudly.
He was the son of a tramp printer -- someone who moved from print shop to print shop, "always looking for the golden pot," Jim said.
The family moved from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, job after job and town after town in between, until they finally settled in El Centro. They did. Jim didn't.
"I had to leave there," he said. "I'm missing my front teeth because of my dad. He was a brute and an alcoholic, which was common of tramp printers."
Jim learned his dad's trade as a teen and left El Centro High before his senior year to work as a printer in Los Angeles. His mother talked him into returning to finish high school. He left town again right after graduating and moved a whopping 10 miles away to Holtville. There he found work as a printer at the Holtville Tribune, a weekly newspaper. Shortly thereafter, he met Dorothy.
They began dating about a year later, and that's when he wrote the first of the Linotype love letters. He'd leave the newspaper office at 2 a.m. and deliver it to her in person.
"We lived across the street from each other," Jim said. "She'd hear my car when I got home. I'd traipse over to her bedroom window. We'd talk, and I'd slip 'em through the screen."
"I was taken aback," Dorothy said as she remembered receiving the first letter. "I thought, 'This is so special.' I knew he had to have done this after he got done with work."
They planned on a Valentine's Day wedding in 1958, but duty called.
"We had to put out a 28-page special section for the Holtville Carrot Festival," Jim said. "I probably worked 80 hours that week."
So, they got married six days later, followed by a four-day honeymoon in San Diego.
"We drove to San Diego in a 1936 De Soto," Jim said.
Oops! A verbal typo.
"A 1937," Dorothy corrected him.
A successful courtship, indeed. They'll celebrate 52 years of marriage Saturday. They adopted a girl, and then Dorothy had another daughter 10 years later.
The family moved to Sonora in 1969, where Jim spent a decade working at the Union Democrat newspaper. Dorothy delivered papers in the afternoon. Later, they owned a print shop for 11 years.
Occasionally, Dorothy will get out the Linotype love letters. With other notes and cards he gave her during their courtship, they fill five small boxes.
"I wrote the letters," he said. "But I'm not the one who saves stuff."
When she read one to him awhile back, "He said, 'I was wordy, wasn't I?' " Dorothy said. "I thought they were beautiful. When I read them, I knew I was getting a wonderful person."
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.