Bring back the postcard!

Help keep this fun form of communication from becoming extinct

It’s fun to write postcards!

It’s fun to write postcards!

Sustain friendship, sustain the post office (and sustain the skill of handwriting)
Those who know me well know that I am an avid letter writer. I love sitting quietly in the evening writing a letter or postcard to a friend or family member, even if—as is occasionally the case—that person lives no farther than the other side of Chico. I derive similar pleasure from receiving handwritten correspondence in the mail.

Fittingly, my friend Tom S.—a former Chicoan living in Eugene, Ore., who corresponds with me regularly—recently mailed me an article clipped from The Oregonian newspaper titled “The postcard’s stormy birth.” It details the history of the “open-post sheet,” as the postcard was first termed in 1865 when German postal official Heinrich von Stephan proposed it. His idea was rejected, however, as being “too radical”: “Who would forgo their privacy, even for the sake of convenience and frugality?”

In 1869, a similar proposal was accepted by the Austrian post office, and “[t]hree million postcards passed through the Austrian post office within the first three months.” It wasn’t long before the postcard took off worldwide as a revolutionary, inexpensive means of communication.

Fast forward to today: The postcard remains a relatively cheap way to communicate (a domestic postcard stamp is 33 cents; international, $1.10), but has been pushed to the tumbleweed-filled sidelines of communication methods thanks to such Internet “equivalents” (Christine does not agree, hence the quotation marks) as Twitter and Instagram.

“We need to create a campaign to bring back the postcard,” wrote Tom. “How about writing something in the N&R about postcard pen-pals?”

’Nuff said, my friend.

I offer that the postcard is a wonderful, not-too-complicated way for one to not only communicate with pals (with the unique intimacy that comes from writing with one’s own hand, and perhaps a favorite pen), but also to be creative and eco-friendly at the same time. Pieces of cardboard from the backs of used-up notepads, for instance, make great canvases on which to create magnificent, one-of-a-kind postcards. Used postcards also work well—just glue a piece of paper on the back and reuse; local antique shops are loaded with boxes of old postcards, some of them very cool-looking. Speaking of antique stores, there’s a vendor at Eighth & Main Antique Center that sells old black-and-white photographs that are perfect for gluing onto cardboard or card stock for this purpose.

Bird in Hand (320 Broadway) has a nice selection of brand-new postcards, including a number of Chico-centric ones.

The Oregonian article mentioned a female friend of the author who “recently found out that her 25-year-old brother had never received a postcard in his life. … [She] seemed to imply that no one cared enough to take the trouble to buy a simple postcard and stamp, write a few lines and mail it to him. She decided to be the first.

“Perhaps we have it backward,” the article continued. “We seek communication that is easy and effortless [such as what takes place via the Internet], and think that will foster genuine communication. But what truly matters is the trouble we take.”

If you, GreenHouse reader, do not know the pleasure of writing a postcard, take the “trouble” to make one (or buy one) and send it to someone.

Here’s my challenge to you: Make a postcard and send it to me at the Chico News & Review, 353 E. Second St., Chico, CA 95928. I will publish some of my favorites (read: most creative, interesting use of recycled materials) in a future column.