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EDITOR'S CORNER | Racy (and regular) postcards from the past

Were these the equivalent of flirtatious texts in their day? The eggplant and peach emojis of pre-World War I courting?

A few months back—well, all right, last February—the Pelham Historical Society put on one of their periodic displays at the Fonthill branch of the Lincoln Pelham Public Library. It was historical postcards, almost all from the first decade of the 20th century, making them 110 to 120 years old.

Well, says I, that sounds like a ripe candidate for a photo gallery for the then-new, so I got in touch with Society member Carolyn Botari to arrange to take photos of a selection of cards, which duly occurred in early March.  And then...

Life intervened, including in the form of a thankfully brief but no less distressing hospital stay for yours truly a couple of weeks later, a new puppy in our household, and various other distractions over the summer into autumn.

It also didn't help that I'm cursed with a mild form of periodic perfectionism, and you never know when this will pop up. In this case, seeing so many interesting postcards, I'd taken 60-plus photos, and each of them needed to be rotated, cropped, colour-corrected, and resized.  So you can see how this tended to get postponed in favour of pretty much anything else.

But here we are, finally, nine months later, with a selection of what I think are the most interesting cards of the bunch. (If you ever catch me un-ironically using the verb "curate," by the way, drop a toaster in my bath.)

In probably his best known poem, Annus Mirabilis, the British poet Phillip Larkin begins with these lines:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me)
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP

Larkin was wryly commenting on the start of the '60s sexual revolution in Britain, with 1963 a pivotal year of scandal, yet it was a cultural shift that also came too late for Larkin himself to enjoy—by then he was already 41.

More broadly speaking—Japanese woodblock prints and Greek vases notwithstanding— each generation imagines on some level that it alone has invented sex. So I was delighted to find in these century-old postcards evidence to the contrary—a distinct tendency toward the gently racy, toward the tweaking of frowning schoolmarms and puritanical priests (oh, the irony there).

Were these the snailmail equivalent of flirtatious texts in their day?  The eggplant and peach emojis of pre-World War I courting?

Mixed in with the humour are some Niagara subjects—in a few cases generic designs where it's obvious that space has been left for local printers to customize the cards with their local town names.

Enjoy the show. To expand the frame, click the red box, upper right, containing the double-arrows.

See you next time.


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Dave Burket

About the Author: Dave Burket

Dave Burket is Editor of PelhamToday. Dave is a veteran writer and editor who has worked in radio, print, and online in the US and Canada for some 40 years.
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