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The Lost Art of Letter Writing

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It’s no surprise that I love keeping a journal, writing letters, and saving things. It’s partly because I enjoy looking back, partly because when it comes to history I’ve always like reading about ordinary people and therefore it’s fun to think about reading my own stuff many years from now, and partly because my mom was unsentimental and barely saved anything, much to my dismay.  I can fall into a hole of nostalgia by reading past blog posts and wander down memory lane upon finding an old photo or letter. Yesterday, while on a search for an important document, I began opening some boxes of old stuff.  I literally have hundreds of pieces of correspondence that I’ve saved. When I saw it all what I couldn’t get over was how often my friends and I wrote each other actual letters. There’s a delightfully large batch from when one close friend in college did a semester abroad.  There are envelopes with all my different addresses from college, graduate school, and beyond. And there were many, many letters from my father and grandmother, both of whom are now gone and so I especially cherish them.  I picked out a letter at random and it was a densely written double sided letter from a college friend (who is still a close friend) that was a tiny bit scandalous. We email laughed about it, especially the part where she’d written “Do you ever think when you’re writing a letter that it may someday become published if you get really famous OR infamous, and that you’d better 1. try not to sound too vapid, 2. not tell the whole truth, and 3. use proper sentence structure?”  And see? Here it is 20 years later and that letter was found and read! So then email was invented and it seemed like we no longer wrote letters to each other, which is why I was delighted to begin pen-palling with a friend a couple years ago.  So, that was my stuff I found.
And then there was….Paul’s stuff.  Paul’s mother was apparently cut from the same cloth as me. I’ve written before about the marvelous convalescence scrapbook we have of hers.  Well, yesterday I came across the lovely box of every card they received when they got married. And the box of cards they received when Paul was born. And all Paul’s first communion cards. (and then Paul found all the “signing books” from his grade school years and also all the little shirts from his various sports teams. Which we tried on. I have to say they made better t-shirts back then because they were all really nice soft cotton in good shape still. The best is the Little League shirts from the year his team was sponsored by Diamond Liquors. It seems like nowadays they wouldn’t let little kids wear shirts emblazoned with Liquor.) Anyway, I come to the same conclusions about greeting cards from way back as compared to now. So much better variety! Hilariously corny! Sweet little pictures! It also seems like it was likely easier to pick up an inexpensive card-like they were everywhere and you’d pick up a pretty one and send it on its way. (Going back and reading that convalescence post I see I have already made that comment!)
Wedding Cards: 1958
The wedding cards are pretty, religious, sweet, feature many drawings of brides and grooms, and came in such a variety of sizes.
Wedding Cards: 1958
I especially liked the one that explained the “bluebirds of happiness”, a card I can’t imagine finding at the drugstore these days. I was pleased to note it was sent by someone whom we still get a Christmas card from!
Wedding Cards: 1958
Paul’s mom noted on each envelope how much money they’d sent and checked when she sent a thank you note. Usual amount? $10-$25.
One of my favorite finds was a letter sent to his mom from someone who was sorry to have missed the wedding because she’d just had a baby 8 days before. (Though she notes this letter is written a full month letter as “You see with 2 children it took me a while to get a schedule etc and things are just about back to normal now.”)
Wedding Cards: 1958
Listen to this sweet thing she writes: “Well how does it feel to be a Mrs? Heavenly I’m sure! I know this sounds corny but I truly still feel a special thrill when I realize that Ron and I are married and that nothing and no-one can come between us. All this mush after 2 children, so you can see I haven’t changed a bit.” I mean, really. Thank you lady for writing those words 57 years ago for me to enjoy today. I think it’s charming you felt that way and wrote it to your friend. I guess that’s what really comes across in all these different greeting cards-there seemed to be an absolute ease or simplicity in the sending of a little message.
Wedding Cards: 1958
Then I came across the box containing all the cards received when Paul was born. I found their style less charming, mostly because they are more modern, but still being from 1969 they had a definitive style.
Baby Cards: 1969

Baby Cards: 1969
As noted from the convalescence cards, people had a weird habit of using unnecessary quotation marks. “Son”, for example. Paul really was their son, no need to quote it.
Baby Cards: 1969
I like this dreamy looking romantic 1969 mother.
Baby Cards: 1969
I am grateful to Paul’s mom for saving these mementos and hope someday my children or grandchildren enjoy looking through the boxes of wedding and baby cards that I’ve saved (though I can’t imagine them being so charmed by the greeting card styles of 2004-2009.)

And hey, after reading this, why not write someone an actual letter? I’m sure they’ll love to get it!





About Sarah

I'm a librarian living with my lovely family in a gorgeous spot of New Jersey, where we raise chickens and love the outdoors. I try to find enough time to indulge all my hobbies-cooking, photography, gardening, sewing, and I write about it all on my book blog & personal blog.

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