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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Postcard Passions

I'm still digging out the things that we put away "safely" for Hurricane Rita. As predicted, there are things that I now cannot find. If anyone finds two 8"x12" views of the Twelve Apostles, in black frames, wandering around lost, kindly direct them to me.

In digging through the non-rubble I found the postcards I bought at a stamp show on Sep. 17th. I didn't put them away because I meant to blog about them, and then the hurricane attacked and I never got a chance. So I'll bore you with them now.

Still working on that poem post, by the way.

Anyhow, these postcards. Postcard dealers buy up collections from estates (I guess), and so when you dig through their stock you find multiple postcards to the same people. One dealer I see all the time from Iola, Texas, is selling off his grandmother's postcard collection (he's old enough to be a grandfather himself). She got some nice old linen postcards back in the day, and I like the idea of having bought them from her grandson.

So "family postcards" turned out to be the theme of the other day's haul. First up are four postcards sent in the late-'70s to mid-'80s to the Baggins family, Bag End, The Shire. No, wait, it wasn't Baggins, but something similar; and it wasn't Bag End, but something different; and it wasn't the Shire, but Adelaide, Australia. One of them was addressed to "Master Frodo Baggins". OK, not really Frodo, but you get the idea. Three of the cards are in the same (rather curly, European-y) hand, signed "Grandma", and have a return address label stuck to them. Grandma, it seems, lived in Berkshire, England. She sends cards from Piccadilly Circus, Blackpool (a lovely, gaudily-lit night view there), and Tunisia. Doesn't everyone's grandma go to Tunisia? Ah, but she had a special purpose:

Yesterday went to the cemetery that your Dad's name is on the plaque [something?] of the likes of him. Put the posy at the bottom and the Major took a photo with me pointing to the name.

The postcard is from Hammamet, Tunisia, and a little googling turns up the Medjez-El-Bab cemetery near there. Here are some pictures by a Canadian who "does" military cemeteries, whatever that means. I couldn't find a list of names for Medjez-El-Bab, nor could I find a Baggins associated with the cemetery. Grandma's name is not Baggins, so it's possible that this is Mrs. Baggins's mother. Grandma's surname is much more ordinary, and I couldn't find it associated with the cemetery either. Of course, Grandma may have remarried, so if this is Mrs. Baggins's father we're talking about, I have no way of knowing his name.

I didn't read this card until I set out to write this post. Funny. The final of the Baggins' postcards isn't from Grandma, but it is from Berkshire, and mentions young Master Frodo being there.

Next up are some postcards I'd wished I'd bought more of. They're from "Jack" to his mother in River Edge, New Jersey. Obviously Jack was a sailor, since one card (which I didn't buy) showed an English dockyard; on the back he wrote, "We are docked second from right [or something like that]. Not a thing to do in this town." One of the cards I bought is of the waterfront in Long Beach, CA. Jack writes that he's going to some sort of show, and that it is "bank night". He adds "Boy I hope I'm lucky." Not the sort of thing you expect a sailor to write to his mother. ("Bank night" was apparently kind of like a lottery, or bingo, where you got tickets/cards with your movie ticket.) The second of Jack's postcards is from the Panama Canal. "Wrote this just as we passed through the Gatun locks. Very hot now." Jack, it must be said, is not the most scintillating correspondent. But he did send a lot of postcards. These two, by the way, were from 1938.

The last of the family-themed postcards comes from 1919. This fellow, from Hillsboro, Texas, worked at the Hillsboro Cotton Exchange, which we know because he sent them a postcard of the Pennsylvania Hotel in NYC. He writes:

Cotton went up yesterday anticipating my arrival. The majority of the brokers did not know we had worms in the cotton [in] Texas. I told them the worms was not only eating it up but was pulling it up by the roots.

Sounds as if he was trying to get the New Yorkers to believe cotton was going to be scarce. Ha, them rubes'll believe anything.

He sent the same postcard to his family, which doesn't say much interesting, and at some other time (there's no postmark) sent a generic hotel postcard from the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. This poor fellow apparently never got out of the hotel! At least the Pennsylvania's card had a picture of the hotel on it; the Windsor's just has a cartoon of men in 18th-century livery fiddling with some carriages (or possibly automobiles). There's not even a month on this card, but he writes (to his father), "Pretty cool here. Slept under a sheet blanket and counterpane." The fact that this was a source of wonder to a Texas man indicates that the card was sent sometime during the (Texas) summer, which narrows it down to about ten months out of the year. (Hillsboro is north of Waco, so make that eight months out of the year.) He adds, "They sure do write funny here and have funny money".

The last of his postcards has no stamp or date. It's an old-fashioned flowered, gilded, embossed affair which just says "To my pet". Based on the names on the other postcards, I think this is to his mother.

In non-family cards, I got one of those multiple-view, foldy postcards ("Twenty views of beautiful Moose Jaw!"). This one's of the farmer's market in Los Angeles, though, and I bought it largely because of the relentlessly sixties outfits on the women, and especially for one picture in which they're examining "Delicious Fruits from Islands of the Pacific" from beneath giant bell-shaped hats covered in shredded coconut, or possibly sheepdog hair. No, these are not novelty hats; I believe they're meant to be fashionable. There's also a picture of a hairy-armed fellow decorating a cake. Yum!

Now finally we have the rare class of informational postcards. The first has an olde-fashionede drawing of some sort of institution populated by women, and reads:

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor iron Bars a Jail;
But 'til the E.R.A. is Won,
We're only Out On Bail.

Har! Wonder if they've served their time yet. This was one of several ERA (link provided for you young 'uns -- they're still going strong!) postcards there. This one was copyrighted 1977. I thought it was dead before that, but apparently it didn't die until 1982, the previous link notwithstanding. I bought this particular postcard because it -- alone -- helpfully showed the text of the amendment:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

The final postcard is also meant to be informational. It (also one of a set, and I wish I'd been able to buy the others) shows a cartoon of an African village. There are three women, carrying water, wearing short shirts which have cut-outs for their (rather large) breasts. Two naked men, one wearing what seems to be a crown, are watching nearby, and the crowned one is saying, "The missionary says it ain't decent to go without clothes---"

On the back you are informed that this is a GENUINE (don't be fooled!) NUDIST COMIC CARD:

Information about the philosophy and practice of social nudism in America may be obtained by sending a dime to... address in warm and sunny Spokane, Washington. Approved by American Sunbather Magazine!

There were maybe a half dozen of these cards there. I picked this one because it was politically incorrect, and because I actually got the joke. One of them showed a cartoon (all very pretty, the cartoons, in pastels) of hotsy-totsies cavorting around a pool. It was captioned "Wish You Were Here". Well, OK, that one's comprehensible.

But another card had two cuties. One is fiddling with a camera, and says to the other something like, "Nice scenery here." Which would be understandable if Kevin Sorbo were prancing about nekkid, but the only man in sight is a balding, beer-bellied fellow in a chaise lounge. I guess the subtext is supposed to be, "Middle-aged men! The nudist life means hot chicks panting to take polaroids of your tender vittles!" Sure, I believe it. Will Kevin be there too?