Postcards From the Edge

Since we received a bit of positive feedback to our Vapor Trails post (a truly rare occurence here), and since apocalyptic weather has kept our canoe flipped over waiting for the tornados to pass, we're going to paste more of the postcards we found this week at a local used bookstore. Like this one from the Drake Hotel in Chicago, circa fifty years ago, where guests at the Coq D'Or cocktail lounge are enjoying their mid-day drinks. At the bar sits a well-dressed business man, Pall Mall in one hand and Johnny Walker in the other, precisely the clientele the Drake was targeting. This card harkens us to a place and time when the captains of industry conducted their day to day business in smoky rooms, where discussions with gin-soaked associates ended with either a warm handshake or swinging brass knuckles.

The writing on the back of this card was in Russian so we're not exactly sure what it says (if any of you can translate Без перевода ðàçüåäàòü õîäèòü ïî ïÿòàì, let us know). Our best guess would be peasant family feeding their chickens in the Ukranian countryside or something to that effect. The bigger mystery here is when was this card made: with their yellow skin and neon clothing, we're left to wonder if this photograph was taken before or after the Chernobyl melt down?

There's something a little odd about this beach scene. Why is the schnauzer twice the size of the people? Why is he staring at the lake? Maxine Farrow of Bancroft, Iowa, chose to not discuss the obvious incongruituies in her note to Mrs. J. White of Portland, OR, dated May 25, 1945: It rained nearly all day. I sure wish it would warm up. Our company left Saturday. Gee it's lonesome now. We had a wonderful time. Write soon.

Look at this card with the border collie sitting in front of the barrel house in Tonopah, NV. We've been to Tonopah and can attest to the lack of trees in the high desert. So it makes perfect sense that a early pioneer, after his horses died of dehydration crossing the barren hinterlands of northern Nevada, would use whatever belongings he had to make a home. Nice casa too- except for the little problem with bulging lower barrel (by the dog). Uh oh- that is not in the book of good things. We wonder if the hard-scrabble homeowner fixed the structural defect or if he awoke one morning after a heavy snow wondering why he was covered in dirt and rocks.

Written on the back was this message dated January 8, 1909, to Mrs. Bertha Blecha in Clark Co, Wisconsin: My dear- rec'd. pkg. All OK. Just lovely. Bunch of girls coming and we are going to spread paint in my room. Wish you were here. Hastily, Lola. Lola clearly had lesser things to worry about in her home than the owner of the barrel house.

This postcard of oil fields near San Luis Obispo, CA, also had us wondering. We passed through the area several years ago and found a quaint city nestled in the hills with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. So why would anyone choose a postcard of sludge tanks over a nice ocean sunset? Clarence didn't consider this in his note to Miss Lottie Miller of East Toledo, Ohio on January 20, 1921: Dear Cousin. We all well and happy to find you all the same and i am to home now. You git better i say goodbye to all.

Then we saw this postcard of the Kentucky Dam on the Mississippi River, and we had an epiphany: back in the day, oil fields and dams were objects of great civil pride and that is why so many of the postcards from decades past show interstate tunnels and skyscrapers and power plants. These were the projects that built our society and made us different from the rest of the world. Pretty sunsets and mountain peaks- phooey! How about our freeways and hydroelectric dams!

On the backside, the card is dated May 24, 1942 and addressed to Mrs. Rose Clegg: Dear Grandma, It is 2:00pm and we are ready to catch some big ones. Sure hope we do. We'll we see you in a week or so. Love Mont and Everett.

Now here's a card we can relate to: a solo canoeist style paddling a cedar strip canoe near Algansee, MI (we'd never heard of the place and wondered if it still existed. A Wiki check said yes, Alagansee is a real place near the border of Indiana). The card is postmarked June 21, 1915 and the handwritten note to Miss Mary Franks of Montgomery, MI (another place unknown to us. Turns out it's right next to Algansee), is absolutely illegible. But we still like the card.

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