Postcards from the Past

In 1969 I participated in the International Children’s Game, the results of which I have been dealing with this evening. The Game was essentially a chain letter which involved sending a postcard to six children on the letter you have received, then adding your name to the bottom of the list and sending it on to six friends. As a consequence, you were supposed to receive an astronomical number of postcards from around the world. Well, I didn’t get as many postcards as I was supposed to, but I did get over 50, including a few from the USA. This was the beginning of my postcard collection.

Postcard collection

Postcard collection

Between 1969 and now I amassed a shoebox full of postcards and postcard folders from Australia and the world. Most of this collecting happened when I was young, mainly by extended family passing on the postcards they received when they had finished with them. As a result I have quite a large number of postcards from the 1960s and 1970s, but some are older.

The box of postcards was one of the things flagged as “collectables” that I needed to take a closer look out. Even though I no longer collect, or even look at them, I have been moving these postcards around with me for over 40 years (ouch) so I can’t just toss them in the bin. In any case, I know that postcards are collectables that other people value, so I wanted to get them out of the garage and back into circulation.

I decided to take the cowards way out, and start with the blank ones. My first pass was to pick out the blanks and divide them into continents, or in the case of Australia, states. This would give me an idea of what I had.  I made an attempt at selling individual cards or very small groups that seemed valuable but that wasn’t a big success. I quickly decided I wasn’t interested messing about selling one postcard at a time. Armed with my knowledge of buying and selling collectables gleaned from American Pickers I decided the best thing to do was to bundle, and listed two groups of Australian postcard folders on eBay. To my surprise one of those bundles has sold for a lot more than I would have thought, and the other has had an offer as well.

Based on my experience with the folders, I feel reassured that bundling is the way to go, as I am not trying to set myself up a lifelong hobby selling postcards. This being the case, I decided I had better go through the rest of the cards, the ones with writing on them.

Let me tell you, there is a massive difference between sorting blank postcards, and postcards from the last 40 odd years or your life, and the life of your family and friends. It was a trip down memory lane and around the world in one. I still have the original postcards from children around the world in 1969. A couple had names and addresses and I am contemplating sending a belated reply, just to see what happens. Maybe they want a penfriend? One boy from Florida sent me a poscard from the John F Kennedy Space Center with the words:

This is the same kind of rocket that just blasted our astronauts to the moon. I am so happy to send you this card because we are so proud of them. (Mike L)

Many of the postcards were addressed to my grandmother, a tangible testimony to what a great communicator she was, always keeping in touch with extended family and friends and receiving masses of correspondence in return. A lot of the cards were from a friend of my mother’s who was an independent single woman who travelled the world for work and sent back postcards from Europe and Asia. Not a common lifestyle for a woman in the sixties and seventies. And of course there was evidence of my aunties famous road trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast, when she dropped in and visited us when I was barely old enough to remember. What to do with all of these memories?

My own photo of the River Exe

My own photo of the River Exe

The thing that struck me most was not the expected trip down memory lane, but the stunning recognition of places around the world that I had been to myself. Niagara Falls leapt out at me in an instant. I had postcard from there all these years and didn’t realise that I had it, or that I would go there myself. A similar jolt of recognition for the River Exe at Tiverton in Devon England. I had walked down the same riverbank as my grandmothers sister did many years before. Both there in search of family history, we had seen the same ducks and learned about the lace making  many years apart. To top it all off, there was was even a picture of the Mirror Lake at Lake Placid in New York State, which you might know means a lot to me.

You may be wondering what I am going to do with all these marvels of social history; indeed I am wondering myself. I am sure many a shoebox of postcards has ended up back in the garage at this stage in the process. What I am planning to do is take the time to work out what I really want to keep as momentos, and what I can comfortably bundle up for sale. I hope to end up with a small collection of postcard memorabilia that has meaning for me which I will put in my memory box on top of the wardrobe. Or maybe I will pick 10 at random and just go there. Now there’s a thought.

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5 comments
  1. reretro said:

    what a marvellous story! i think we can all relate to the allure of chain letters/postcards – especially as now most communications are digital. maybe consider a beautiful collage of the postcard images / rather than the written messages? judging by the image you posted, you are heading in that direction…

    • Linda said:

      Actually, thats not a bad idea about the collage. I have been looking at the cards with writing on the back again this morning and about half of them seem too personal to sell. Many have full names and addresses of close family and friends and it doesn’t seem right to be sending all that personal information to strangers. Especially where they still live at the address! I will cull out everything that is of no personal interest so that at least I know what I am keeping is for sentimental or family history reasons.

    • Linda said:

      Thanks Swalia. Thats really nice. Amazingly I got nominated for this award a few days ago so I guess I am a “double-nominee” or perhaps simultaneous nominee? Musty be some kind of synchronicity kicking in, which I am all in favour or. What I plan to do is one reply acknowledging both nominiators and answering both sets of questions but only passing on to 11 people. Its a real honour to be recognised by two great bloggers in this way. I am working slowly at the moment due to the hot weather but I will work on my reply in the cool of the late evening and early morning!

      • swalia said:

        will look forward to reading your answers 🙂

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