What’s in the Mail: Postage, pizza and politics

(Originally published April 2008.)

Here we go again: On May 12, the United States Postal Service will increase the cost of postage. This mailing-cost “shift” is destined to become an annual occurrence due to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed by George W. Bush at the end of 2006, which allows postage to stay on track with inflation (but don’t look for the rates to ever decrease). So with this May mandate, say adios to another slew of one-cent stamps as the price for first-class letters goes up from 41 to 42 cents while two ounces costs 59 cents. Our beloved postcards now require 27 cents, but at least we can anticipate some tropical fruit stamps for the new postcard postage.

Mothers Day postcardDuring my hibernation this past very snowy Chicago winter, I waded through boxes of rackcards and freecards received in trades when those promotional gems filled racks in trendy coffee shops, bars and brewpubs, cafés and restaurants, bookshops and cinemas in major cities around the world. From about 1996-2006, a wondrous bounty of parcels loaded with these cards stuffed my mailbox. So many, in fact, that I lost track of how many people with whom I traded. Often, these cards were marvelously designed and regularly covered holidays. In the United States and the Netherlands, Mother’s Day (or Moederdag) is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Here’s a Dutch Boomerang freecard that vividly displays a multitasking homemaker as envisioned by the Amsterdam firm Cover Mechanics.

21 postcards to send to your grandkidsEnroute to voting on Super Tuesday, I stopped at Target to inspect their inventory of Valentine stickers. They had some nice ones labeled Stickety-Doo-Da, but what caught my attention was this booklet of perforated postcards which retailed for $3.99 (plus tax). Titled 21 Postcards to Send to Your Grandkids, it encourages writing-and-mailing postcards because “any season is a reason to be in touch with your grandchildren.” Some of the illustration-side messages state “you’re special,” “star of the game,” “I miss you,” and my favorite “Write Back!” I’m on the fence whether to keep these, share them with my sister Jill (who just became a grandmother) or mail the group to my mother whose list of credits now includes great-grandmother.

All across the country, buildings are being spiffed up with murals painted on exterior walls and sometimes, these decorative murals are preserved on postcards. The Wisconsin community of Chippewa Falls accomplished both. In 2002 and 2006 the organization Chippewa Falls Main Street and the Gaber Signs Company coordinated their efforts for a “downtown beautification project.” They got more than 30 murals painted and these were followed by a group of six black-and-white postcards. The selected postcard murals picture such old-time scenes as an Ojibwa Indian tent, the largest sawmill in the world (under one roof), the town’s first spring house, the Mason Shoe Factory, the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, and this Studebaker. The set costs $1.25. Also issued was a color postcard (priced at 50 cents) of a nature scene complete with bears and deer beneath the Duncan Creek Bridge. This mural is visible during the Leinie’s brewery tour. To order all seven cards, send a check for $1.75 plus your self-addressed stamped envelope (to fit these 4 1/4-inch by 6-inch cards) with 59-cents postage. Write Mary Brown, Administrative Assistant, Chippewa Falls Main Street, Inc., 514 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls, WI 54729.
Obama clinton postcardI’d been hoping that someone would come up with a postcard featuring the Democratic presidential candidates, and artist Esther Crotty did just that! Her take on the current election has Hillary Clinton, clad in purple and as angry as a bull, ready to charge the svelte matador Barack Obama. You can see more of her watercolors on the “Mighty Esther C” blog at http://estherc.blogspot.com/. She mailed the majority of these 4-inch by 6-inch postcards to potential clients but will sell the few remaining for one dollar each plus your SASE with 42-cents postage affixed. Write Esther Crotty, 199 Gelston Ave. Apt. A6, Brooklyn, NY 11209.

On June 12, Pizza Hut celebrates its 50th anniversary. The first Pizza Hut was opened in Wichita by Dan and Frank Carney, who proved to be very successful pizza entrepreneurs. After PepsiCo acquired their company in 1977, the original building was moved to the campus of Wichita State University where the Carney brothers had been students. Since finding Pizza Hut postcards has never been easy, I appreciate that the Wichita Postcard Club enhanced my collection. Becoming a member supplies such perks at three Rick Geary postcards mailed with the monthly newsletter at different times during the year. The club’s 1993 membership postcard showcased Pizza Hut. For more information about joining, check www.wichitapostcardclub.org or write Wichita Postcard Club, 6613 East 47th St. South, Derby KS 67037.

And speaking of Rick Geary, last year he and his wife Deborah moved from San Diego where they’d lived for more than 30 years to New Mexico. To celebrate their new digs, Rick fashioned a Greeting from Carrizozo postcard that he’s selling for $2 postage paid. Write Rick Geary, P.O. Box 869, Carrizozo, NM 88301.

Hancock building postcardLifetime deltiologist, web designer, and suburbanite Neil Jan Gale opened the Chicago Postcard Museum on Nov. 1, 2007. Constructed with lobbies, galleries, rooms and exhibit halls, his virtual museum can be toured at www.chicagopostcardmuseum.org. Neil plans to share his collection of nearly 3,500 Chicago postcards by scanning both sides of each and putting them on his website. By the end of March, he had posted online about 14 percent of his collection. The variety of postcard displays includes such topics as the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (look for the rare set released before the fair opened), the Century of Progress (four jam-packed rooms), the “I Will” series, panoramic views and Greetings from Chicago. For May and June, the museum is introducing Marshall Field’s postcards. I really like the inclusion of cards from all decades; thus, those who refuse to collect postcards after 1950 and those who love moderns can find something that will appeal. Stepping into the physical world, the museum issued this continental-sized postcard of the John Hancock Building in a limited run of 300. It costs $2.50 postage paid via PayPal from the site’s store. Although no bricks-and-mortar museum exists, you can send a postcard which will added to the Correspondence Corner. Write Chicago Postcard Museum, c/o Neil Jan Gale, 780 W. Army Trail Rd. #208, Carol Stream, IL 60188.

It was weird seeing our third-floor condo and balcony on a realtor’s postcard delivered to our home address about a recently-sold unit in the building. For years I have used a mailing service located about 7/10 of a mile from this location since during those heady freecard-trading days, our tiny condo mail slot was not up to the chore. Back then our box 23 received more parcels than anyone else’s at the Highland address.

world's largest souvenirAfter her original traveling museum was retired and for which the postcards are sold out (check PCC June 2006 page 22), Erika Nelson obtained a Gerstenslager bookmobile that she’s in the process of restoring to hold the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things. To hear the catchy theme song for “your favorite motorized museum,” see it immortalized in a Zippy cartoon and read about her making the World’s Largest Souvenir Plate, visit www.worldslargestthings.com. The colorful 14-foot-diameter plate (shown) took her three months to paint and can be found on Highway K-18 in Lucas, which is known as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas. Besides the souvenir plate postcard, she also sells one of Scout, her art car that with paint and procured items embodies some of her obsessions like roadside attractions, kitsch and the world’s largest things. Her two different postcards cost one dollar apiece postage paid. They can be purchased from her website or by check. Write World’s Largest Things, P.O. Box 101, Lucas, KS 67648-0101.

Reconstruction postcardReconstruction, the stylish and puzzling 2003 film from Denmark, wouldn’t merit a mention except that about 25 minutes along, a Danish Go-Card rack appears in a bar. Freecard fans (the few ofyou still collecting), this made for a stunning, laugh-out-loud moment. The main character (a photographer) was supposed to bring photos to a mysterious blonde woman, who just a few scenes earlier in this twisting-of-reality tale, seemed a complete stranger. They’re seated in Copenhagen’s Café Krasnapolsky when he says “I’ve got some right here.” Then he walks over to the wall-mounted rack and pulls out three cards from the upper left slot. Each is the same black-and-white shot of a nude female’s back. Towards the film’s conclusion, the rack briefly becomes visible again. Although freecard racks have appeared in other films, this was the first time I’ve seen one actually used as a cinematic prop.

Thanks to Ace the Postcard Pal for alerting me to the Edward Gorey House. Gorey (1925-2000), the prolific, inventive and ominously-toned illustrator/ storyteller, was born and grew up in Chicago but later resided on the East coast. Although the house sells an array of Gorey postcards in perforated books and sets (check the online store at www.edwardgoreyhouse.org), they offer only one card specially related to and published by them. Titled A Whale of a Gorey Tale (2006), it displays two whales adorned with sinewy human figures astride finned-and-winged serpents. This 4 1/16-inch by 5 7/8-inch postcard costs 75 cents plus your SASE with 42-cents postage. Write Rick Jones, Director/Curator, Edward Gorey House, 8 Strawberry Lane, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675.

The State of Ohio combines some of its rest stops with tourist information centers, which frequently stock free postcards for inquisitive – and acquisitive – travelers. A couple of summers ago, I grabbed a stack of Bucyrus (Crawford County) cards when we passed through the Buckeye State. This “Great American Crossroads Mural” parades small-town America at its most nostalgic. If you’d like a 4 5/16-inch by 5 11/16-inch Lincoln Highway Historic Byway postcard, send me a note and your SASE (full postage, please). Write Jennifer Henderson, 1610 W. Highland Box 23, Chicago, IL 60660.