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The Jaded Eye
Cards With Regards
by Gerry Ayers
 

You don't want to be with me when I'm at a flea market or antique shop and suddenly discover a stash of vintage post cards for sale. I become mesmerized by them.
For me, it's not only what's on the front that's important — maybe a landmark, a town, a waterfall or a museum. But what really grabs my attention is what's on the back! Secrets. Genuine, hand written ones.
Essentially, post cards were the forerunner of modern day tweets or texts. Think about it. In a tweet, you only get to use so many characters to get your message across to someone else. On a post card, you are limited by space. Just a few inches worth. Thus, people had to condense thoughts.
Post cards, like tweets, are to be short and sweet!
"Dear Pauline," started the one post card I picked from a pack. On the front was a street scene from a small town in the Midwest. A theatre, a Woolworth's, a drug store, a bakery, and a few storefronts. "We stopped here during our trip home. The weather has been extremely hot, and I swam with mother at the motel pool. She treated me to a new dress in town. Father is enjoying the new Desoto he got in the spring. Be back soon — tell Mack I said hello. Love, Sandra."
Putting imagination to use, I surmised this was a schoolgirl on vacation writing to her best friend or a neighbor pal. Her penmanship was remarkable, and the words were spaced just right. By reading this, I could not only sense her excitement of her trip but of getting home to see her friends again.
And that Desoto? Wow. I am sure it was two-tone (pink and gray?) and had the mandatory fins out back. The post card was dated July 1956. Did Pauline expect Gerry Ayers to "intercept" this card so many years later? Of course not.
I bet that after Pauline got it, she put it in a drawer or a shoebox. Sandra moved and the card got shuffled as everyone got older. Perhaps they died and this relic ended up in an estate sale. I don't find it sad, but rather happy I could read her expression, some moments in time, from a stranger. 
Also happy that this small card has stood the test of time. In 2017, if Gabby texts Justine about her summer vacation, it's gone and deleted in 30 seconds. The post card lasted over 50 years and gave me a slice of Americana that is long gone. The theaters, the five and dime stores, and of course, the Desoto. 
It was also hand written, and a stamp had to be licked to be put on. It was probably walked to a postal box. It was thoughtfully sent. The whole process is a thing to behold.
The text? Lost in cyber space. If you think any of us are going to retrieve it in a day, let alone 50 years from now, it's just not going to happen. "Hey Justine, on the way home from vacation. What's up? A/C broke in dad's new Tahoe. This sucks! TTYL. Peace out, Gab".
Somehow, the text doesn't take on the same meaning as Pauline's post card does. And even though Gabby could send a quick "selfie" of herself poolside, I like the street scene photo better. Less ostentatious. I already know what you look like. I don't know what that town looks like.
I can read post card after post card and never get bored. Amazing how just a few short paragraphs can tell me what was happening at the time. The older the post card, usually the more interesting.
I have stumbled upon dozens of post cards from fathers writing to their family while on business trips. Tons from college kids to their parents back home. 
Some from grandparents to grand kids from Niagara Falls or Yosemite Park.
I can't possibly collect the hundreds of thousands of post cards that intrigue me. So I limit them to interesting places in Pennsylvania or ones that feature cars or automobile dealerships on them. Most dealerships sent out cards to "hot prospects" each fall as the new models came out. 
Now, they send out an e-mail. And unfortunately, I don't collect e-mails. I like stuff I can hold. That's why I still cherish junk mail. 
By now you've figured out what I am trying to say. Post cards have preserved our past, and by finding them, we get a taste of the what, where and when. Texts and tweets, while trying to do the same, and in a much faster way, lack the same character.
In fact, after holding and reading a post card, a text or tweet actually seems downright — impersonal!
I suggest that if today's children want themselves and their events remembered, they better discover how to write, how to use a stamp, and how to put feet in motion and walk to a mailbox. Computers break. Texts can get lost or misinterpreted. 
Who knows? Maybe in 60 or so years, the card they send will be found by someone like me who finds it interesting. 
One major roadblock in all of this. Do they even produce post cards anymore?

 
 
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