Snail's Postcard Post

Postcards from Strangers

For a project, I was searching online for a 1950’s photograph of a California freeway, when I came across this delightfully period postcard from a vintage postcard eBay store ($T2eC16VHJHIE9nyseFeIBP8RnVewmg~~60_57t_ca_la_freeway_616672Postmark: El Monte (East of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley),
May 31 PM 1973
Thursday a.m.
Dear Mike,
This freeway system really is crazy! Everyone drives at the permitted 70 or 65 mph in all four, five or even six lanes. Overtaking is OK on either side–there is almost no warning before an exit–cars [swop?] lanes with gay abandon when they want to leave the freeway. Not my idea of [car flexible ?] driving.
See you soon


That poor Englishman…

This horrors-of-the-freeway postcard gave me the idea to root through my collection for the postcards with the best messages from people I’ve never met! (I’ve shared these postcards at different times before, but I thought it would be fun to post them together in this context.)


Found this at a boutique. Why is the postcard from Vancouver, B.C. when it was written and mailed from the San Francisco Bay Area? Did Dad go to Vancouver earlier on his entrepreneurial trip? And why is there a postmark on the front of this postcard, and backward at that? IMG_5663IMG_5664IMG_5665IMG_5666

Found this at Grandma Snail’s. Thought it was so cool that Anne (?), in 1979 (by the postmark), was staying in the same hotel where her mother stayed in 1925!

Continuing with Italy and Grandma Snail, here’s a postcard from Lake Como looking out to Comacina Island. It’s from a soldier named Jay who wrote to her all through WWII. I don’t know if they knew each other before he shipped out, or if they ever met later. The correspondence may have just sprung from the morale-boosting effort to get young women to write to the troops. It certainly gave Jay a morale boost; his many letters are mostly written on the backs of snapshots of himself goofing around in camp or just looking like a total stud. I’ll have to post Jay’s snapshot letters sometime. For now, this is the only letter of his I’ve found on a postcard, and he’s clearly trying to sound fancy to impress her.IMG_5667IMG_5668IMG_5669The postal service seems to have written “Free” in the stamp space. From the couple of letters I’ve seen, it seems that WWII American servicemen didn’t have to pay postage. Was this the case? Please comment if you know how this worked.

Another soldier wrote to Grandma Snail during the war, sailor Murray:IMG_5671IMG_5670

Caption: Chow LineIMG_5672

While Camp Ward was operational from 1942-45, it was the second largest U.S. naval training station. But what’s the point of a naval base in Idaho? 

Now here’s my most news-breaking postcard from a stranger, no context necessary (and none known–I found it at a boutique).IMG_5675Dear Folks,
Well, here we are waiting for the event. Am afraid we will have to leave before it arrives. We drove up, so will have to leave at least by Sat. It is overdo [sic.], so I guess it will be a girl. I had bet on a boy. Audrey is fine + she has been glad we have been here. Time has gone faster in the waiting process. George is the [wonderful?] father, + is getting anxious for it to come. Grandpa’s birthday Fri. 16th. It may come then. Having some nice weather.
Love, Mae + Elison

And for the finale, another boutique-find that, with some detective work, proved most educationalIMG_5678Betty and Norma, it turns out, were referring to the exploits of William A. Clark (1839-1925), a Montana senator at the turn of the century who bribed members of the Montana state legislature for their votes. Mark Twain hated his guts. Before and after his two terms, Clark thrived as an industrialist with his fingers in newspapers, mining, railroads and banking. At the ripe old age of 86, he died in his Fifth Avenue NYC mansion one of the 50 richest Americans of all time.

The mentioned Clarkdale, Arizona was formerly a smelting town William Clark founded in 1912 to serve his copper mine in the nearby town of Jerome. The “track” to which Betty and Norma refer is the Verde Canyon Railroad, a tourist line that traces Clark’s 1911 route to the town.

I looked up the addressee, Professor Robert Vosper, as well. Quite opposite of William A. Clark, it’s clear that Robert G. Vosper was a most admirable man. The president of the American Library Association in the 1960′s, he simultaneously held the position of  director of libraries at UCLA. He firmly believed that librarians should devote their energy to that which would give most to people–book acquisition and developing collections. The dry business of cataloguing and reference–the emphases of many libraries at midcentury–was less important to him.

Ever socially conscious, Vosper encouraged multilingual collections, and during the McCarthy era, he daringly co-organized an exhibit on intellectual freedom. The exhibit catalogue became so popular it went into a print run of 20,000. In 1970, UCLA administration pressured the professor to close the library due to a heated anti-Vietnam student demonstration following the Kent State shootings. In response, Vosper posted a notice declaring his refusal to shut the doors on the grounds that the purpose of a library was to be a sanctuary devoted to the free access of intellectual and cultural information. 

Bob Vosper passed away in 1994, meaning this 1990 postcard is from the last years of his life. I feel lucky that this little thing he once owned found its way to me, leading me to his story. Is there any better way to learn than reading other people’s mail?IMG_5676

This entry was published on May 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm. It’s filed under Historical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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