I started collecting postcards on family road trips when I was 8 or so. This chocolate-colored card box holds many that I bought in gift shops and motel lobbies at 5 or 10 cents a piece. When I realized I was beginning a "collection" (in addition to my collections of cat miniatures, pennies, used calendars, and stuffed animals), I added the ones my mother had sent to me on business trips and those my grandparents mailed on vacations and cross-country drives. Note the paper dividers for each state that I carefully wrote out in my well-practiced 5th-grade script. Most are from the 1970s and '80s. I had no idea that one day they'd be "vintage postcards"--or would be such a Grimm's fairy-tale forest of memories, odd and long-forgotten.
"The Buccaneer Motor Lodge, Jekyll Island, Georgia"
Two days ago Mr. O'Kitten asked me if he could borrow a few cards for a show he's working on, a theater production that has something to do with unsent postcards. I pulled out the plastic index card box and opened it to show him how many old cards I had (and, admittedly, to mull over how I felt about lending them to the theater for a few weeks).
I pulled out a couple of entirely random examples to show him my odd little collection's diversity, and, in doing so, discovered that I had a story to tell him about each card I drew out of the small box. The Buccaneer Motor Lodge, for example, was the motel we stayed at several times on annual family vacations to Jekyll Island. The card is surely from the late '70s, and I love the carefully posed couple gazing endearingly (if a bit stupidly) into each other's eyes. I remember the pool (kidney-shaped, which makes it no more appealing) with water as warm as if it had been artificially heated.
"Spacious accomodations and activity-filled days make this
the perfect family resort...located on the beach of historic
Jekyll Island, 3500 acres of pure pleasure on the Atlantic.
Golfing, swimming, fishing and tennis are yours to enjoy year
'round on this Golden Isle."
I'd gone back to Jekyll at some point, perhaps in college or shortly after, and the beach was so much narrower...I'm still not sure how much of that has to do with memory (everything is so much bigger in childhood) and how much with erosion (possible damage from 1989's Hugo?). The Buccaneer postcard reminds me of sitting on the edge of that pool once with my twin second cousins Ashley and Mandy who were from Florida and loved to swim (I didn't), and of the boardwalk stroll from the motel to the beach, through the live oaks, palmettoes, and yucca that would be strung with spider webs booby-trapped with large, leggy, jewel-like spiders. Watching seagulls and crabs alike scurry across the beach, and hopefully not stepping on any jellyfish. Hunting for unbroken sand dollars. Eating key lime pie.
"Main Entrance to JEKYLL ISLAND, GEORGIA. Year
'Round Beach Resort, operated by the Jekyll Island
State Park Authority. Located approximately eight
miles from Brunswick, Georgia, just off U.S. High-
way 17 (Alternate). Color by C.L. Marsh"
In another random example pulled for Mr. O'Kitten, we discovered that my grandmother visited Michigan in 1983 and the Lawrence Welk show on the Sheridan Motel TV was a notable highlight.
"Veldheer's Tulip Gardens Photo: John Penrod"
"VELDHEER'S TULIP GARDENS - One of the many
delightful experiences at Holland, Michigan, is a
visit to these colorful gardens. Windmills, authentic
Netherlands costumes and magnificent bursts of
myriad plantings treat the eyes and tempt the senses."
After additional examples, I realized that the box was rich with the sediment of childhood and family and memory. I'd carried the box--small and portable as it was--with me from place to place, mostly adding cards from friends, like this 1988 postcard of Times Square sent to me by Mike on his first visit to New York City.
He writes, "I did finally get to see New York. Yeah. And it was truly out-of-hand! There certainly are a lot of bizarre and wonderful craziness-types of things going on, huh? ... We did Antique Boutique, Tower [Records], Canal St., the Theater District, just about everything we could in a day. But I liked the roller rink in Central Park."
"NEW YORK CITY, Times Square
in the heart of the Theater District" (1988)
I didn't realize that corner had changed quite so dramatically until I found his card, but then again, it has been 25 years.
Times Square, Broadway and 46th Street, 2012
Coca-Cola still has the advertising space, but the building that held their advertising is gone. On the left (west) side, NYC created a pedestrian mall by closing Broadway to traffic. You can see another "new Times Square" building on the right. (No more "girls working their way through college" in this neighborhood!)
Best of all, to my initial collection I had added a precious thirty or so cards that my grandmother entrusted to me because she knew I'd appreciate them (and save and take care of them). She had cards from as early as the 1920s, mostly mailed to various family members, and both the colorful fronts and carefully-inked backs are brimming with stories.
This is one my grandfather sent during his few weeks in boot camp in 1944 to my Uncle Berni, who would've then been about age 4. Grandpa likely bought it at the PX. He was fond of cards with goofy cartoons on them, and the over-use of quotation marks.
"After Visiting the Fountain of Youth,
This is How I Feel"
"Florida, land of sunshine, is the Winter Playground of
the nation. Every known form of outdoor pleasuring is
pursued without the necessity of considering winter condi-
tions -- for winter skies are always smiling and December
breezes are balmy as May."
My grandfather writes, "Hi "B": "Burnie" "You" tell your "Mother" Daddy was in here (see other side of card) and that "she" better be careful when I (daddy) come home. "B" Daddy had a drink out of this well. Boy! Oh Boy. It wasn't good. Ha-Ha. Love, Daddy, a soldier." No mention of outdoor pleasuring or balmy breezes, but maybe it was too hot for either in Jacksonville, Florida, in August.
In addition to her cards, a lifetime of memories, and a book of "Her Stories," Grandma encouraged me to "keep writing and painting." I miss her so much, and think of her every day. Thank you, Grandma, for all the gifts and all the memories.
As I close my 501st (!) Obsidian Kitten blog post (a blog I'm so glad I was able to share with you), I'm happy to say I plan to keep writing--and sharing the seemingly boundless creativity you and Grandma Warner shared with me all throughout your lives.
My cousin Tonya, my grandma, and me,
in my grandmother's beloved hometown of Dallastown, PA