So, as you may or may not know, I’m a deltiologist (one who collects and studies postcards)…my specialty being postcards of the ephemeral nature…antique postcards of the Edwardian era (1901-1920 officially…but extending through 1918).
Blah blah blah…let me get to the point…that being, as a deltiologist I have learned that one must be selective in which postcards to keep and which ones to sacrifice for the frustrating sake of lack of storage space.
Therefore, when I received an E-Bay auction “lot” of 15 vintage Christmas postcards, I knew that there would be a risk that some of them would have to be let go…whisked away to join someone else’s collection.
I initially bid on the lot of postcards because this one, and at least seven others, were so darling! The lot was up for a cheap beginning bid, and I was pretty astonished when I won them for the opening bid price. Impatiently I waited for the postcards to arrive, and when they did, I began to sort out the ones I favored and could keep over the ones I could not.
It’s important to mention here, that I like antique postcards not just for the beautiful artwork or photographs on the front, but for the wonderful messages that can be found on the back! I LOVE when I find a fun, fun message on the back…or especially a romantic one, etc. But to be honest, most have a simple, “Merry Christmas,” type message or something. Others however, are very interesting, tender…or in the case of one of the postcards in this lot, historically significant!
So there I was, sorting through postcards…and though I hate to part with ANY postcard, this one of the 15 was my least, least, least favorite. In truth, I didn’t like it at all…the poor little French clown kid having fallen down and dropped his mistletoe and holly. 🙁 How sad! Definitely not my type of postcard.
Yet, if and when I do have to part with a postcard, I always, always read the back first…and I’m so glad I do!
You may or may not be familiar with my book The Fragrance of Her Name…and the mention of the Influenza Pandemic that killed an estimated 100 million people (3-5 percent of the world’s population at the time). WWI was part of the reason for the rapid spread of the virus, and as you know, Brant Masterson was a wounded WWI soldier at the beginning of the book.
While doing research for The Fragrance of Her Name, I learned so much about the “Spanish Flu” (so nicknamed because Spain it was falsely assumed, for some time, that Spain was especially hard-hit). I remember a little skipping rhyme that I learned was popular at the time of the Influenza Pandemic:
I had a little bird…
Its name was, Enza.
I opened up the window,
Morbid I know…and it stuck with me long after my research was over! It STILL sticks with me!
Also during the time I was researching stuff for The Fragrance of Her Name, I went to visit my sister in Tennessee. (Yep…same trip where we went to visit Graceland!) Knowing I LOVE old cemeteries, she took me to one in a little town near where she lived in Knoxville.
As we were searching…wandering through the part of the old cemetery where those who had fallen during the Civil War were laid to rest…I meandered away from that spot for a ways. I came upon a line of tombstones…the names of which all ended with the same surname. At first, I thought that it was simply a family plot…for it was obvious that all the people interred there were relations. Yet as I looked more closely I began to read the dates on the tombstones. Seven of the tombstones bore dates very close to one another—with in days of one another—all in the year 1918. Five of the tombstones were children, as I recall…and two were there parents.
In truth, it took me a moment. I thought, “How terrible! A whole family within the space of a week! I wonder what could have…”
Yep…that’s when realization finally hit me…influenza. How sad!
I was pretty depressed, in truth…thinking of that poor family and those who may have lived to miss them. But then, when I returned to the car, my sister had switched my beverage (ice and water) with hers (ice and Sprite) in the center car console, and when I picked up my drink (which had only ice remaining in it a few moments earlier) and removed the lid from the plastic fast-food cup and tipped it and my head back to retrieve ice…but then found SPRITE all over my front, I was kind of startled out of my despair for that poor family back in 1918.
Anyway (how I DO ramble on, right), as I was going through the postcards I’d won on E-Bay, and found this poor little French clown kid one that I didn’t really like, I DID take a moment to turn it over and read the back. Wow! I hadn’t expected what I read…and needless to say, the postcard remains in my collection…not because of the front, but because of the message written on the back and it’s historical significance to me.
(Postmarked December 23rd, 1918)
To Mrs. Norma Ransbottom (Thanks for the name info, Mindy!)
I have been wondering what had become of you. We are well…have escaped flu so far. Schools are closed again. My sister is here visiting again so I am pretty busy. How is Lorene and Edwin’s kids? (Often) speak of them. Answer real soon. Your friend, Ethel.
See what I’m saying? Historical treasure!!! Did Ethel escape the flu entirely? Did she catch it and then survive it? Did Norma ever tell her how Lorene and Edwin’s kids were doing?!?! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! So many burning questions!
Maybe it isn’t the pretties postcard ever…but the history behind it is incredible and has already settled into my mind permanently! Moral of the story…always read the back of something before you give it away!
And now, for a new silly contest. Let’s see…the winner of my last blog contest is (“Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”)…this post from Michelle Zeugin!
Michelle Zeugin says: