Collecting postcards is like having a shoebox full of time capsules. If someone mailed the card, there’s the message of course, but also the stamp (which may have cost very little), the postmarked date and perhaps a picture of a very different world.
A century after Nora sent Miss Sarah S. Yates this postcard from Salem, Massachusetts, the 200-year-old willows still stand in the park by the harbor, but all those ladies in big hats and gentlemen in suits are gone.
However, I don’t need to look to antique postcards to find a bygone age. I see many a lost world in postcards that landed in my mailbox.
My sister sent me this postcard of Disneyland in 1978. Walt Disney had been gone more than a decade, but either the park still celebrated their founder or they made sure they used up their stock of old cards. Check out the characters lined up behind Walt — a few familiar faces, but many have been supplanted by 35 years of new arrivals. Sherrie wrote, “My company had a special deal where by buying a ticket for $5.75 per person, you got into Disneyland and all the rides were free from 4 pm – 12 midnight.” Another era indeed!
Reno may not have changed as much as Las Vegas over the years, but it sure doesn’t look like this anymore. Notice how the streets in the center of town are nearly empty of traffic, but plenty of people throng the sidewalks. Did people actually walk more back then?
A family friend, Dagmar Morse, sent me this postcard from Palm Springs. Aunt Dag was a seamstress, and when my parents visited her house, my sister and I played with a machine she had for covering buttons with fabric to match the silk and velvet cocktail dresses she made to order. She wrote, “I’ve also been very busy; I have 32 gowns for the Rebecca Lodge to finish by Christmas.”
As for the picture of Lucille Ball’s home, I’m struck by its modest dimensions compared to the homes owned by many celebrities today as well as by its openness to the street. No high walls or security gates. I wonder if Lucy bothered with an entourage?
But as much as the world changes, our messages home sound very familiar. Here’s what Nora told Sarah:
“Dear S — Am spending the day here. It is a beautiful beach but very quiet. The old willows are grand. I have not seen any witches as yet, probably they fly at night. Hope you are all well. With love to you all, Nora.”