A constant during my pen pal years and when I taught school in Melbourne, aerogrammes have gone the way of the dodo and rotary dial phones. When I lived in Australia, international phone rates ran a steep $2.00 per minute. Those were the days when people shouted, “It’s long distance!” and you RAN to the telephone to save the caller from spending good money on silence.
By comparison, an aerogramme at that time cost 25¢ from Australia and 22¢ from America, cheaper than regular international postage. I could cram a lot of news into one full sheet plus a third (on the inside fold). Conversely, letters with fold and seal end flaps had a marked finish line; I usually didn’t run out of news before I ran out of aerogramme. And the very name conveyed the feeling of swift couriers carrying a message in my own hand: “telegrams” sent by “airplane” = aerogrammes.
Of course, there were drawbacks. No enclosures allowed, so I could not have mailed my cat, for example, who decided to pose on top of an old letter to illustrate my point. Plus, I don’t usually look for a letter opener, so piecing together ripped news was par for the course.
Email, Facebook and our other electronic connections are easier (and even cheaper if you don’t count the monthly Internet bill) than the streamlined aerogrammes. But wouldn’t you love to open your mailbox to find one of those thin blue missives, carrying in its folds a connection to faraway friends in distant lands?