• Laura

Searching for Stories

I’m always searching for stories. I love to wander through the antique store or vintage shop and imagine all the lives these objects have lived before. In early April, I was weaving my way through rows of vintage clothes, stacks of blue and white Pyrex dishes, and mid-century modern furniture when I came across a basket of old postcards. Intrigued, I picked them up and started flipping through. Some were blank, displaying only an outdated photo of a tourist attraction on the front, but some had messages written on them.

I noticed several with matching notes that seemed to have been added later: Uncle Robert, 1973. I turned them over to see the front: Switzerland, Bethlehem, Brussels. I paid fifty cents for each one, and brought them home, tucking them in a box with a vintage key, a 1946-1950 five year diary, and other little odds and ends that I sense a hint of a story in.

I’ve been feeling a little uninspired in writing lately: ”write blog post” has been on my to-do list for several weeks, and no spark of inspiration has struck. I returned to my box of odds and ends, hoping for an idea to take shape, and pulled the “Uncle Robert” postcards out. They are all addressed the same; to Miss Esther Woods, in Richmond, Virginia. Two of the three are postmarked 1958; the third postmark is too faded for me to read. All came from international destinations–Switzerland, Bethlehem, Brugge.

I was drawn to the Brugge postcard, as it was the only one of those destinations I’ve had the opportunity to visit. The handwriting is a tiny bit difficult to read, but I managed to decipher all but one word.

“Can’t believe we will be sailing for home in 3 weeks. Have had a wonderful time. I hope Jack’s ??? will be good. We are spending 2 weeks with Jackie driving through parts of Holland and Belgium. Spent Friday in Brugges and it was a charming town. The Fair here is out of this world and leaves me completely confused. We will be home June 8, so please come to see us. Love, May

I was curious about the fair May mentioned, and a quick google search informed me that Belgium was host to the 1958 World’s Fair (also known as Expo 58). The theme of that year’s fair was “A world for a better life for mankind,” and over forty countries had pavilions displaying their futuristic visions. I want to know: what did she find there that was so confusing, and did any of the pavilions come close to the mark when imagining the future?

The postcard also mentions their sailing date; it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t really all that long ago when air travel was still new and traveling internationally was rarer (and much more time consuming) than it is these days. Another google search, and I learned that 1958 was the busiest year for ocean liners and the first regularly scheduled transatlantic flights didn’t begin until October of that year. Was she sailing on an ocean liner reminiscent of the Titanic?

This little postcard taught me a little bit about the 1958 World’s Fair and travel in the 1950s, but overall it's left me with more questions than answers.

The postmark and stamp are dated 1958. What happened in the fifteen years between the postcard being written and coming into Uncle Robert’s possession? Was Esther Uncle Robert’s daughter or niece? Who added the December 1973 date on it?

What happened in the forty-nine years between that date being written and me picking it up at a vintage shop? Did it languish in an attic, packed away in a box, waiting to be rediscovered all those years? Who decided it was worth saving, instead of tossing it into the trash? Where will it end up, fifty years from now?

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