Friday, October 01, 2010

Sepia Saturday: 'Oh You Kid' - 20th Century Tweets

As I mentioned in my last post, I have the duty of being the custodian of my maternal grandfather's trove of 78 discs. On the other side of the family, I have an equal if not more daunting task -- caring for my paternal grandmother's stash of hundreds of stereographic cards and even hundreds more post cards.
Born in territorial Oklahoma in 1890 -- just months after the big land run the previous year -- she had only a couple dozen photos of her and the family before her marriage in 1910. But there are hundreds of postcards sent to and from her brothers and recounting her budding romance with my grandfather.

The bulk of the cards are from 1907 to 1909 to and from her brothers (such as Oscar who wrote her in the card below from teacher's college) and between her and my grandfather. They provide an often fascinating glimpse into her teenage years as her older brothers left the nest and she prepared to marriage.
There is often very amusing disconnects between the messages and the accompanying photos. It's not unusual to read about an encounter with a Cherokee chief or an attack by a rattle snake in the chicken house with a picture of Buckingham Palace or the Tivoli Gardens on the front.
These semi-private messages -- going through the public mails and likely shared with the whole family offer an intriguing glimpse into daily life and colloquialisms of the day. "Oh you kid" was the "Yo, homie" of its day.
This was likely the only communication between my grandmother and her brothers at the time since long distance phone calls were probably considered an extravagance even though they were only 30 miles away.
When I was a child, I love to flip through these cards, amazed by the art and message from so long ago.
My grandmother was amazed that anyone of my generation would have an interest in something that she thought so trivial and ancient. But she would fill in gaps and context for the cards.
Looking back at them today, they bring additional nostalgia and fascination. I also see that this was the Twitter and Facebook of its day, immediate, snappy communication that was running a parallel track with the contemporary popular cultural -- the personal and the popular running side-by-side.
I love the cards just for the artwork and glimpse into cultural norms, but the family history and human connection carry much deeper meaning. One side of me says that I can put off until retirement transcribing all of the messages and connecting the dots with my own memories, oral histories from my grandmother and her writings. Good sense tells me that needs to start now. One card at a time.



At 10:48 PM, Blogger Joan said...

You are so lucky to have these cards in your possession. I wish I had a family stash like your's.

At 12:45 AM, Blogger tony said...

Some Things Remain The Same! For Example, The Weather Forcast Doesnt Seem To Have Changed!

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Joan - These are a real treasure, and the messages are intriguing.

Tony - Yes, I have the same expression as that guy quite often. Sort of looks like he's on the Titanic.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

You have a treasure trove! Your postcards are fun and bright and charming - just perfect messengers from that time period. When you transcribe them will you put them in an album with the transcription beside? I guess it would be interesting to see them in chronological order.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Marilyn said...

What a fabulous collection and to have the memories, your grandmother's stories to go with them. I enjoyed reading your post and viewing these cards so much. It is a daunting task - one card at a time makes sense but I have so much that I haven't recorded, made notes of!

At 11:23 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Nancy - I do hope to post them here as I sort through them. There is such a wealth of cards that it will take time to sort through them.

Marlyn - The concept of "one card, one day at a time" is definitely the only way to make my way through so many entries.

At 2:43 AM, Blogger Alan Burnett said...

That looks like a great collection. I too am the custodian of a collection from the same period and it gives me endless pleasure going through them and using them as starting points for journeys of exploration. And I agree with what you say about how postcards were the facebook/twitter of their day.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger TICKLEBEAR said...

intriguing selection. i also love the artwork, and the obvious need of people of communicating with each other with the means they had back then.

At 6:32 AM, Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

wow, wow, wow.....what a wonderful treasure trove.

i can't imagine anyone better suited to the task of shifting and organizing the respective stashes of the past than you!!

a cousin who recently passed away (at a way too tender age of 62) was the main receiver of the majority of the old photos and letters from my paternal grandparents - i'm very worried that the family treasures are lost....

unfortunately he died while my father was in the hospital dying. my brother who was at cousin steve's side near the end came back to be with be with dad when the news broke that dad was in fact nearer to 'the end' than we once believed....and then couldn't get away to help with the sorting of steve's stuff.... i'm afraid to call his sister, to see if she saved the treasures as i heard through the grapevine a local florida friend of my cousin steve's was asked to go through steve's stuff and sell whatever he didn't want....not sounding promising. the problem of large modern families scattered across a large area....

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Meri said...

Definitely start now!


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