I have to admit I love postcards, those wonderful quarter-dollar mailers that at one time were a staple of any trip. I didn’t go anywhere without picking up a handful of postcards and spending an evening back at my motel, usually on the last night of the trip, addressing cards to family and friends, stamping and dropping them in the mail the next morning before leaving for home so they’d have the local postmark.
Postcards were ubiquitous at every destination gift shop, at every resort, restaurant and diner and pretty much everywhere we went. They were always the same price, 25-cents, and I believe if you can find one fifty years later, they’re still 25-cents. I saw some on a turning rack on the Santa Monica Pier just a year or two ago and I think they were still a quarter. Talk about beating inflation!
They were a way to say, “Hey, thinking of you. Wish you were here.” Or something similar to that type of sentiment. Really, it was mostly a way to connect with loved ones and send photos of girls in bikinis.
A few days later, sometimes even after we’d have returned home, the postcard would arrive and take its place of honor on the refrigerator behind a magnet. “Wish you were here!”
But now, with everyone having a cell phone and sending instant pics, texts, photos in emails, does anyone even bother sending a postcard? Are they a thing of the past?
Even the motels had their own postcard, often these were free. I had a friend when I was younger who would buy postcards for her scrapbook so she didn’t have to try to take those photos, and she’d concentrate on taking pictures of the people she met while traveling instead. And she would write on every page to remember what she did where, who she met, what the dates were that she was there.
Is all that a thing of the past? The photo albums are long gone. Don’t know about scrapbooks.
Are there any postcard companies left? There used to be photographer market books, and postcard companies listed what they were looking for and how to submit your photographs. Is it possible they still exist? Maybe in some other countries that still use them, perhaps?
A couple times a year there are ephemera shows (also called paper shows) in Denver with booksellers and antique dealers selling books and other printed material–magazines, maps, vernacular photographs, as well as postcards. Whenever I attend one of these shows, the age group average is about 70. I don’t think young people today know what a postcard is, and couldn’t be bothered to buy and send one.
“That’s what the phone is for,” I can imagine them saying.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m nostalgic to the way it was because it’s what I know, how I grew up, or was it really something? It feels like something. Like getting a real letter in the mail from someone.
I still on occasion type a letter or a card with an actual typewriter and mail it to friends. One in particular, a woman who was the librarian at the New Jersey newspaper where I was a photojournalist said that when a letter arrives, she takes it inside, sits down in a comfortable chair, takes a letter opener and slowly opens the letter and reads it. She does it slowly because she wants to savor the experience. It’s more than just mail, it’s a personal letter and the opening and reading requires a ritual, an honoring of the special-ness of the letter.
In a sea of bills, flyers, mailers and political ads, a letter or a postcard is quite a welcome thing. I would imagine if you opened your mailbox and saw the usual sea of junk mail, then a hand-addressed envelope or a postcard, you’d pay special attention to that mail.
There was something in that low-cost mailed gift that traveled across miles to reach us. There really was.