I have always appreciated photography and geography, as well as art and architecture and civilizations and cultures. So, as I have traveled and lived throughout the world, I have often kept in touch with family and friends through a combination of visual images and the worldwide mail system.
Yeah, I'm a postcard person.
Letters with photographs enclosed are great – I've sent many during my life's journeys, especially to my parents – but postcards are fast and easy. They are also rather like beautifully visual and briefly informative little treats that show up in the mailboxes of those important to you. I think they are fun to send and fun to receive. Maybe I'm just a sentimental old fool, but I still like postcards.
While at the Trenton, Ill., post office recently, mailing some things for my dear mother, I bought a sheet of stamps for postcards. I decided that I need to send some summertime postcards. I've been slacking off too long – long enough that the postage went up again. Stamps for postcards are now 34 cents each. Postcard stamps used to cost a penny. Of course, that was before my time.
Postcards made their debut in the middle of the 19th century. After reading a few so-called histories of postal cards, all of which seem to differ a little from each other, I settled on the mid-1800s mark. Oh, also, apparently, postcards were born in Europe and here in America and wherever. For practical purposes and for this humble blog, let's just attribute the beginning of postcards in our beloved United States of America to the official act passed by Congress on Feb. 27, 1861. That would be the "Act of establishing certain Post Routes" – Section 13, of which, authorized the mailing of postcards.
Pushed through by the 36th U.S. Congress, the act's Section 13 declares: "And be it further enacted, that cards, blank or printed, blanks in packages weighing at least eight ounces, and seeds or cuttings, in packages not exceeding eight ounces in weight, shall also be deemed mailable matter, and charged with postage at the rate of one cent an ounce, or fraction of an ounce, to any place in the United States under fifteen hundred miles, and at the rate of two cents an ounce or fraction of an ounce, over fifteen hundred miles, to be prepaid by postage stamps."
So, there. You have been authorized to greet people through the U.S. mail using postcards, so get busy. Buy some beautiful postcards, and do not whine about having to pay 34 cents to mail each one. It's fun, and you will enjoy sending them.
Postcards can come in other forms – other than the pretty, hard-stock cards you write on – according to some people. Just ask singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, for example.
"My music and my lyrics are essentially emotional postcards," Sara is quoted as saying.
Who wants to argue with the famous Lilith Fair organizer, whose emotional ballads "Angel" and "I Will Remember You" are among my favorite songs. Call them postcards, Sarah; I'm with you, girl.
And I used to enjoy the "Postcards from Nebraska" from Roger Welsch every week on "CBS Sunday Morning." They were not postcards that I could hold in my hands. Yet, I could watch and listen and thoroughly enjoy Roger's interesting, insightful, folksy, six-minute, audio-visual reports – postcards, if you will – from Roger's hometown of Danneborg, Nebraska.
However, my postcards are real postcards, picture postcards, souvenir cards, whatever you want to call them. And I have been sending them since summertime vacations with my parents long ago. I began sending a lot of postcards after I joined the Marine Corps. Recently, while going though some boxes of old photos and papers in my mom's house, I found quite a few of the postcards I sent to my parents over the years.
I photographed those cards, and they're up there at the top of this blog. See the one with the Eiffel Tower? It is postmarked Sept. 14, 1970 in Paris, where I was assigned to the American Embassy. I wrote: "Dear Mom and Dad, Have started French classes every morning Mon. through Thurs. at 0930. Hope everyone is fine – I feel great! Will write a letter tomorrow. Love, Tom"
That sure does bring back memories. I had forgotten that my French classes were almost every weekday at 9:30 a.m. My teacher was a Parisian woman, and class was held in a room in the United States Information Services offices in the old Talleyrand Building in Paris. My classmates were a couple of other Marines and a few U.S. Embassy civilians. I was not a brilliant student, but my accent was good, as was my ability to order from most any menu in Paris. That was important for a chowhound!
Back to the photo collage above, do you see that portion of a postcard below the ship in the upper right corner? That's the Hotel Curacao Intercontinental, and the postcard is dated Nov. 20, 1973. On the other side of the card, I wrote: "Dear Mom and Dad, This morning we left Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. The city was Willemstad. It was a great place to get good buys on watches, cameras and other imports. However, I didn't have much money with me, so I just went out to dinner two nights and had some good Dutch beer. Will be at Vieques tomorrow. Love, Tom"
As you can tell, the chowhound in me had my priorities straight. I wonder what I ate. I can't remember. Whatever it was, it probably included seafood, and I'm sure it was delicious!
By the way, that ship in the upper right corner is the USS Barnstable County, an amphibious assault ship that hosted me and my rifle platoon during our deployment to the Caribbean. The card is dated Dec. 7, 1973, and I wrote: "Thought you might like to see a picture of the ship that has been dragging me all over the Caribbean. Arrived in San Juan today. We will remain here for 3 days and then return to N.C., arriving there 3 days later. Love, Tom"
That was a great deployment to the Caribbean. We pulled liberty in Willemstad and San Juan! We earned it, though. Before Willemstad, we had to make it through Jungle Survival School in the Panama Canal Zone. And before San Juan, we had to conduct an amphibious assault of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, followed by some hard-corps training on Vieques. Oh, before I forget, let me tell you that the chowhound in me enjoyed San Juan, grubbing down on scrumptious Puerto Rican roast chicken, some spicy Indian eats and plenty more I cannot remember. I do recall I also visited a rum distillery, where I savored free samples and bought a bottle of fine rum. But that's not why I don't remember everything I ate. I'm just gettin' old.
I should include Anne's native country in this postcard trek, so check out the card up there on the left that says "Hilsen fra Bardu," as in Bardu, Norway, above the Arctic Circle. That postcard was to my folks from one of my deployments to Norway. Postmarked Oct. 6, 1977, the back reads: "Dear Mom and Dad, The words on front mean "Regards from Bardu," the town where the Norwegian Army camp is located. Have been here since Sept. 28, and the Norwegian officers and men have been super. No snow here yet, but it should come in another month or so – after we're gone, thanks. Leave here Oct. 13 and fly south for an exercise near Stavanger. Love, Tom"
I can remember what I ate in Norway – fish, a lot of fish. And reindeer meatballs. And eggs. And fantastic bread. And potato lefse. In other words, I got to eat the things I always eat and enjoy in Norway. The Norwegians brew good beer, too.
I shan't bore you by transcribing what's on all those other cards. I know you have to get to the store to buy postcards and then to the post office to buy your 34-cent stamps. It's a really nice stamp, by the way, with a blue hummingbird. Write well, my friends.