“Dear Friend”…

Vintage postcard / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

… “How are you? I am fine,” begins the message on the tattered postcard. It’s addressed to my Dad. It’s postmarked July, 1915.

The text goes on to mention the condition of the crops in Calamus, Iowa. The signature is unreadable, but I suspect it is that of a fellow farmer cousin in Iowa writing to my dad who farmed in southwestern Minnesota. (My ancestors emigrated from Norway to northern Iowa and later moved to Martin County in Minnesota.)

A picture of daisies graces the front of another postcard to my dad from 1909 that is signed “Nettie.” Given that Nettie mentions “being out on a case for two weeks,” and that “the doctor just came in”, I expect she was a traveling nurse.

Now, I should explain here that I am a Depression baby. And that my dad was young and single during the early 1900s when these postcards were written.

I’d never seen them before; they were in a batch all tied in blue ribbon that I found in the attic (some are chewed up a bit by mice). A fountain pen most often was used in the writing. Some were scribbled in pencil.

They’re enlightening me about my dad before he married my mother!

One, from a male friend (with a picture on the front of a man stealing a kiss from a woman) begins, “Dear sport.” This makes sense. My dad always loved baseball! He even played a little in the meadow behind the Hanson family farm, along with neighboring farm boys, all wearing their bibbed overalls. (I saw an ancient black and white photo of this.)

“H. J. Christensen” from DeWitt, Iowa displays exceptionally fine penmanship. Unusual, as then farmers got only an 8th grade education, in a one-room schoolhouse in the country.

My dad married my mother late in life. And it seems he had quite a few girlfriends before her. Josie, Thelma and Abie wrote him regularly, as did Nurse Nettie. Some others signed off very sweetly with “Your Friend” or “Your Pal.” One began, “My dear Carl.”

Reading these postcards, each bearing a green one cent stamp picturing George Washington or Benjamin Franklin, gives me a tiny glimpse of rural life hereabouts 100-plus years ago:

“There’s going to be a basket social at the school.” . . . “We went to town Saturday night for the trading” (shopping).  . . .  “Had you heard, Carl, we formed a baseball league here? We are only waiting for you.” (My dad was a pretty good pitcher).

Each and every postcard mentioned the weather: “We had 6 inches of snow, April 1, 1913.” . . . “I think it might rain tomorrow.”

I have to chuckle at the pictures on many of the postcards from my dad’s bachelor friends. Most depict a man and woman alone together in a slightly intimate pose, which must have been pretty risqué in those days.

Indeed! What goes around certainly does come around! E-Mail surely has taken the place of the postcard today!

Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess.