Momma Told Me: The Death of The Postcard

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Death of The Postcard

Momma Told Me: Practice your penmanship!

I had no problem with handwriting as a child, especially cursive; which I would have wrote in all day if my teachers had let me. There was always something somehow therapeutic about putting a pen to paper and watching all of those thoughts spill out in ink. No matter the subject, it was like a mini confession, for anyone to uncover between those lines. Throughout the years, and especially when I got into illustration and (basic) graphics design, as a pre-teen, I even created various publications, and my own line of greeting cards. While only distributed locally (to my family, haha), Jenmark is still very much around today. I stamp that logo on the back of every Shutterfly card I make! Of course, today, I feel like the art of the written word is ever-fleeting. Even I, who make an effort to write every day, limit the majority of said writing to digital content. Which is precisely who I enjoy participating in the blog swaps (PetPals and Foodie PenPals), I do each month. Not only is there the physical connection of receiving a parcel full of hand picked goods, but each box contains a hand written note, a sort of personal long distance handshake.

When I was a child, and more-so when my own parents were children, and the American Road Trip was reality, there was a method of communication known as a postcard. Why am I referring to postcards like they're bell bottoms or a Super 8? Because, at one time, you couldn't walk into a drugstore or gas station and avoid the spinning racks by the door. You could walk in, passing through town, pick up 10/$1, and have them posted the very next morning. Of course, mail was also slower 'back then', and the postcards often wouldn't reach their destination before the individual that sent them had arrived home, but this was the way society shared glimpses of their travels. In modern times, this ritual has been replaced by a constant stream of social media. Just a few weeks back I was visiting my family for my Grandfather's birthday and was transfixed as my Aunt's phone went off every 5 minutes. Her 23 year old daughter was quite literally sending her blow-by-blow photos of her day trip up the coast for New Year's. I recall pondering how many of those 'candid' shots were in the process of invading my Facebook page at that moment.
Where are we going with this? Well, a week ago I got it in my head that I was going to begin sending a postcard with each my my 'swap' packages. I had a little lightbulb and I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if my 'written requirement' was some sort of element that could be held onto or collected?" I wanted to send something that gave a tiny glimpse into my corner of the world. So I thought I'd go out and buy a bundle of postcards just for this purpose. Well, this proved to be quite the task; even delaying the speed of my Foodie PenPal box by several days, for lack of postcards in sight. I stopped by all the major gas station-fast food- Jiffy Lube conglomerates off the highway, and was even disappointed at local drugstores on Main St. I live in the middle of the coast in California, just an hour outside of Los Angeles, and 2 hours down from a major tourist area. How was it that there were no postcards to share my town, or at least my state?
I was quite frustrated. When was the death of the postcard? I still had an entire collection of them stashed away in storage; the most vivid snapshots of my childhood, and the world back then, frozen in time. Without postcards how would people have known about the amazing Wagon Wheel Resort, Restaurant, and Bowling Alley here in my hometown? Driving by on the highway you certainly wouldn't recognize it, a shell of an alley barely still in operation today. But at one time families had vacationed there, at the nicest Olympic length pool in the county, before retreating to their cabin like bungalows. And how would I know about the Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo, CA), where my parents had spent their second honeymoon on the way to Vegas. To this day I still pull out the, highly collectible, postcards of the dated decor; each room themed with extravagance and 'state of the art' luxury. It's those scraps, those visions of history, I still cling to when I imagine romance, and envision my own similar memories to be made one day.
I understand we live in a digital age; but what would happen to us humans if one day all of those electronics were to fail. Looking back, 100 years from now, without the internet or digital records, how would our ancestors know who we were today in this age? I may be a little old at heart, and perhaps a little resistant to change, but the world around us seems to evolve rapidly each day, and it's scary to think the memories I will leave my own children consist of SNES vs PS3, or CD vs MP3. Let's face it, so many of our memories are kept in digital format, making them vulnerable. When photo albums are kept in an unseen 'Cloud' and road trip mementos consist of Instagram snapshots, where does our history really lie? Do you or your family still maintain certain 'old school' traditions to preserve memories and events? I try to physically print my favorite digital images at least 3-4 times a year to safeguard against digital unknowns.

What Daughter Says: While there's an irrational fear inside me that the written word may die out all together, I still practice handwritten letters and postcards today.


jeremy patesel said...

I miss post cards. Yes it is a lot easier (and cheaper) to snap a pic of yourself in front of a momument and send it to all your friends... but... there's nothing tangable :(

bohohippiemom said...

You don't have to miss postcards! I send postcards to people all over the world, and get some back in return from I have received over 125 postcards in the past year and a half doing this! Love it!

Katy Rose said...

I actually send postcards fairly frequently. They are so much easier to write and send then a full-out letter and people love receiving them in the mail. - Katy

Jenn Mitchell said...

Such a good point that postcards are disappearing. We purchased one during our trip to Canada and never even sent it. Reminds me to print more of those photos.

Still Blonde after all these YEARS said...

You could always make your own postcards with your own pictures..very easy to do. And you have the talent!

Teresha@Marlie and Me said...

say it isn't so! Maybe you can revive postcards under the Jenmark brand! Get people to send you pics from their cities.

Two Little Cavaliers said...

I like picking up post cards as mementos the picture quality is usually really good. I tend not to put them in the mail though and just save them like picture.

Lena B said...

I still love browsing through the card wherever I go - they look so authentic

Lelanie Denso said...

I miss postcards and handwritten letters, too!