Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ephemera: Part 2. Simple Gifts

I have the same routine every day, and not a lot of money to do fancy things to break the sameness. Last week, rooting around the magazine recycle pile at the County Library, I found some old postcards mixed in. Some were from the 1950s, some were from the 80s, but some were from the turn of the last century, tinted and colored with spidery writing on the back.

The cards I like best are the ones with a message and a postmark. In 1910, a woman in Savannah received one from New York City. The scene was of Trinity Church and the message said: “Miss Floran, This place sure looks good to me. Having a nice time but am very tired.” No signature. What I think is cute is the address is written correctly but the message is sideways crooked. And he ran out of room, starting with a huge “Miss Floran” but ending the last tiny word crowded into the corner. Who hasn’t done that? I have, anyway, lots of times.

Miss Eva Mae Palmer of Augusta got two cards from North Carolina’s Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in 1944, and they couldn’t be more different from each other. One is handwritten, the senders letting Miss Palmer know they are having a “grand time” and are “very happy.” The other is as stern as the first was warm. It’s typewritten, which tells you something. He typed the date, too, not leaving it up to the Post office's postmark. The message says:

“Dear Training Union Friends: Greetings to you as a Department and to each of you personally. Please keep striving to build up and hold up our Training Union work. Your Pastor.” The signature is initialed.

Ephemera is fun because it lets me imagine other times, other places. I like holding something in my hand that dates from a different era, imagining its source and the feelings around it. Was Miss Floran excited to get the postcard from her pastor? Inspired? Why was the other couple ‘so happy’ at Ridgecrest? Was it their first time there? It’s a peek into the past through the dying art of personal correspondence.

Ephemera, it means momentary, fleeting. The postcards were simple gifts that in their unexpectedness helped jog me out of the mundane into the creatively imaginative. And all for free. How great is that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great find! I have a smallish box of old family ephemera - some old account records scavenged from the old family farm in Houlton for example. Also in the box are some old family photographs. Well, way back when we were in college, Garth had created a mobile in his dorm room using flea market photographs - old, old photos. As we've moved around I know that some of those photos have ended up in our personal ephemera! Instant relatives!