I used to pride myself that I wasn’t a collector. This was a pile of piffle, then and now. Sure, I never was the type to blow my bucks on the “collectible” bandwagons of Llado, Swarovski, or Hummel. Nor am I a pack rat. But trust me, I have caches of related objects I love, darn cheap and mostly cheerful.
Deltiologists are people who collect and study the postcard, and according to Wikipedia they are the third largest collection of collectors in the country, after philatelists and numismatists. I’m not worthy of the tag because 1)I know nothing about postcards,2)the most I’ve ever spent on one is fifty cents, and 3)I don’t usually buy postcard for the pretty pictures, I buy them for the message on the back.
Sometimes, as you’ll see, the messages aren’t cheerful. But they’re a window to a past, a person and a place, a few lines that are a peep into someone else’s life. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I suspect that it’s my snoopiness that pushes me to paw through dusty shoe-boxes in “antique” shops reading someone else’s mail.
This postcard has no stamp, no message and no postmark on the verso. It depicts my great-grandfather Peter McArthur, Canadian author dubbed “The Sage of Ekfrid.” He’s atanding in front of the family farm near Glencoe, Ontario.
“I arrived OK but oh dear I am in a deadful lonely place. I do hope you will come to the exhibition but I hate to ask you to board with me as it is not a nice place at all, the food and the people are lovely but I do not care much for my room,but if you don’t mind I would be oh so glad to have you but by all means try and come to the ex — add business College. Ina.”
Are Ina and Ida sisters? Is Ina going to business school? I’m glad she’s getting decent meals.
It’s postmarked Boston, October 3 1922. It’s addressed to Mrs. Jim Hamilton, Charles Sta,, Restigouche Co NB. “My dear: Having lovely weather here. Tell Jim he made a mistake in our fortunes. I expect everyone is busy with with potatos. We are all well and happy. Love, Ethel H. Hickson.” Well yeah, October in New Brunswick means bringing in the spuds to this day. But what mistake did Jim make about their fortunes? Hmmmm.
This one’s so sweet. Postmarked April 13, 1911 this postcard of The Church of Bonne Ste. Anne, Quebec is for Miss Hetty White, Gananoque, Ontario. “Dear Friend, Was in town yesterday but had no time to stay I seen you and Miss Anderson but didn’t like to step up to you because I was not dress [sic] good enough. I just had my work clothes on but will be in next Saturday to stay over Sunday. Bye bye and love, Bill.”
This last message is more mundane and en francais, but it’s a favorite of mine because it depicts the Rue St. Maurice, Trois Rivieres, Que. I remember the street looking exactly like this, and I I used to wait for the bus home in high school in front of that church.Postmarked October 30, 1958 Emmanuel and Jeannine sent this to M. et Mme. Aime Boucher 2 Main Street, Aylmer Ont. That’s a double family geographical connection: my father’s family lived in Aylmer during the 1940s.
They wrote: Hello, tout le monde: J’espere que tous allez bien + que ma tante est bien de son rhueme. Nous sommes a T. Rivieres avec Jeannot. J’aimerais ecrire a Huguette et Gerry mais je n’ai pas l’adresse. Dites leurs bonjour pour nous. Bye Bye, XXXXX Emmanuel et Jeannine.” Translation available on request.
Those postcards are but a handful of my collection. I love those tiny vignettes, the peek at the life of people I could never know — well, I might have walked by Emmanuel and Jeannine on the sidewalk I suppose.
And just maybe no one can be a writer unless she’s a snoop.