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The Postcard

Monday, August 1, 2016

“Send me a postcard during your travels,” said my friend Teresa, 1   “I collect postcards.”

“I’d be happy to do that,” I replied. 
A few days later, Heather and I set out on our journey to Québec, and I found myself looking forward to this postcard project.  Surely Teresa’s collection doesn’t yet have any cards from the little towns that we frequent near our cottage, so that in itself would make the project enjoyable; but, in addition, at the end of the summer we are planning a driving trip through the Maritimes, where there must be plenty of places from which I could send her interesting cards.

Postcards... remember them?  They were the precursor to the text-message “selfie” – a picture of the place you’re visiting on one side, and a panel for writing a message on the other.  “Greetings from East Snodgrass!” you would write, then address the card to your friend, apply a stamp, and put it in a mailbox.  A day or two later, a letter-carrier would bring the card to your friend’s door.  Of course the card, being pre-printed, couldn’t have your face in the faraway scene, as a selfie would do, but your friend would enjoy getting it nonetheless: for it would show that you’re thinking of them, plus the picture of that far off scene would be interesting, and perhaps even the postage stamp – if the card was mailed from another country – would be a keepsake.

The first chance I got to honour Teresa’s request was when Heather and I were getting supplies in the little town of Hawkesbury Ontario.  I assumed that there would be racks of postcards in every mall, souvenir shop and grocery store where we were going, and was a little nonplussed to find that this was not the case.  I began to ask clerks and shopkeepers, “Do you know where I can buy a postcard?” and they would look a little perplexed, as if trying to remember what a postcard was, and then most of them replied that they did not know.  Some said, “Maybe you should try the Post Office?”

So I made my way to the Hawkesbury outlet for Canada Post, and lo! there was an actual rack of postcards, such as I had expected to find in every store.  But instead of scenes from nearby historic sites and points of interest, these cards were generic – with images that spoke of Canada, not local places.  There was one of the parliament buildings in Ottawa, and one of the Toronto skyline, and even one depicting a monument that is well known to me – in Manitoba!

Oh really!  As if I would want to send my friend in Winnipeg a scene from a place not far from where she lives!

Frustrated, but determined to send Teresa something, I bought a card that had an Ottawa Valley feel to it, and wrote on the back: “Greetings from Hawkesbury, Ontario!  Did you know, Teresa, that postcards are going extinct?  Well, I hope you enjoy this somewhat generic Canadian card!”

I should have realized that the market for postcards has imploded.  It is too easy to snap a picture, press “send” on your smartphone, and connect instantly with friends back home.  But I was determined: Teresa’s collection simply had to have a few cards from me!

My luck seemed to turn when I went to church in Montreal yesterday.  Christ Church Anglican Cathedral is a bit of a landmark, and a regular stopping-point for tour busses.  And there, at the back of the church, was an old-fashioned rack of postcards depicting this place of Christian worship.  Just drop 50¢ in the collection box, and one of these lovely cards is yours (quite an honour system, really – but that was how it worked)!

So I bought one, wrote on it, and sent it off.  Only trouble was, the back – where you write – was as glossy as the front, and it wouldn’t take the ink from a ballpoint pen (I tried several).  My writing looked intermittent and erratic.  “H_ Ter_s_!  Gr_eting_ f_m Mo_tre_l!” I wrote, or some such.  Luckly, there was a felt marker in my backpack, and I addressed the card with that.

With such problems around the first two cards to be sent, I began to wonder if I should simply make Teresa some post cards.  Why not print a photo or two that I have taken myself, of interesting local places and things, then write on the back, and mail that off to her?  Except that the printer I have at the cottage doesn’t do photographs, and only prints in black and white.  Hmmmmm....  Could I, for instance, print some of my photos at a Staples or a Wal-Mart, then write on – and send – one of them?

I’ve been mulling over questions like this for the past several days, while visiting my friends, John and Karen Bradley, in Hudson, QC.

Hudson is a quaint and picturesque town at the mouth of the Ottawa River, about forty kilometres west of Montreal.  The buildings are quite old, and there are several boutiques and tourist-y shops.  Even better, this weekend the people of the region decided to have a street fair – with all sorts of arts and crafts on display.  Maybe someone would be selling postcards?

John and I decided to take a walk down to the main street to see what we could find.  But I also slipped my camera into my pocket, just in case making a home-made card turned out to be the best idea.

The street fair was delightful.  Main Street was entirely blocked off; there were booths displaying all sorts of wares, and plenty of people sauntering about in the bright sunshine.

But no one had postcards for sale.  There were fold-over cards – the kind you put into envelopes – with local art on the covers; but no old-fashioned, one-piece postcards.

Out came my camera, and I caught quite a nice image of an old building called “Hudson Mews,” with flags on the roof, wares out on the sidewalk, and people walking along the street, including some examining the wares.

And last night I became indebted to my friend, John.  He took the electonic image of the “Hudson Mews” building, and made a real postcard from it on his home printer!  It took him a long time, because he wanted it to look as authentic as possible, on both front and back, but he succeeded wonderfully (see pictures).

I wrote a cheerful message to Teresa, addressed the card, and applied a postage stamp.

Heather and I returned to our cottage this afternoon, but before we drove away from Hudson, we looked for an official Canada Post outlet.  There was nothing on Main Street, and, discouraged, I turned to drive up Cameron Street, which leads out to the highway.

“Look!” exclaimed Heather, “the Post Office!”

Sure enough – there under some trees we saw the typical building and markings of a small town outlet for our national postal system.  I parked, and ran in.

The young woman at the counter said, “Oh yes, we postmark mail sent through this office, by hand.  Here, watch!”  And she touched a device to the stamp on my card, imprinting the date, and time, and the words, “Hudson, QC.”  Then she put the card in a bin marked, “Outgoing.”

“It’s on its way,” she said,

I returned to my cottage, as happy as could be.

I have succeeded in sending Teresa a genuine, old-fashioned postcard from a little Québec town!

the back and the front sides of a home-made postcard

The home-made postcard.

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1  Not her real name.  My actual friend would probably not appreciate being identified in my blog.
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