Notes from Candice Ransom

Party Like It’s 1908

I bought my first antique postcard around 1980.  Mama and I were junkin’ at Law’s Flea, a stockyard turned antique market every Sunday.  A man was selling postcards.  I flipped through a box and pulled out one showing a wild turkey sitting on a fence in the moonlight.  It was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen.  The Thanksgiving postcard, dated 1908, started us both collecting holiday postcards.

Mama preferred the “turkey cards,” as she called them, while I gravitated to Halloween (the most expensive) and New Year’s.  I loved the New Year’s cards because they depicted good-luck imagery: four-leafed clovers, spiders, horseshoes.  I’m hopelessly superstitious (a trait from Mama)—I never take the tree down until New Year’s Day and always fix black-eyed peas and collard greens.

I found mostly 1908 New Year’s cards.  The penny postcard (made possible by cheap but gorgeous German lithography) and the penny stamp came into popular use that year.  Many people didn’t have telephones, but in larger towns and cities, mail was delivered three times a day.  You could write a postcard inviting someone over for supper, they’d get it, and reply they’d be there.

Each January I’ve displayed my favorite 1908 postcards.  In the 80s, I told myself they’d soon be 80 years old, then 90, then 100.  In 2008, I pulled out all my 1908 cards and tucked them all over the house.  Most of them look as if they were bought and sent the week before.

This New Year’s I’m sick with a rotten sinus infection.  I spent a festive New Year’s Eve in Patient First, making sure I didn’t have pneumonia.  I don’t, but I’m aware that my slowness in recovering is a sign of age.  I’ll be 66 in July, considered old back in 1908.  I didn’t feel much like digging out my postcard collection, but I did anyway, adding wintry silk flowers and my stepfather’s coin silver watch.

It’s 2018, and my collection is 110 years old.  I re-read the messages, admiring the lovely penmanship, and wondering what “H”s “dandy” Christmas was like—oranges in the toe of a sock, maybe ribbon candy, neighbors caroling in the snowy road—and longed for that simpler time.  My ever-practical sister, when I called to croakily wish her a happy New Year, reminded me I’d have no amoxycillin, no Flonase, no central heating if I lived in 1908.  Maybe not, but I still believe 1908 was better than now.

Tell me what’s lovely about texting a friend a New Year’s greeting?  Where are the four-leafed clovers, the forget-me-nots, the gilded horseshoes?  A party-hat emoji doesn’t cut it.  I already sent Christmas cards, but I’m also sending New Year’s cards.

I’ll keep my 1908 cards up till February.  Then I’ll pull out my vintage Valentines, still wishing for a simpler time.



8 thoughts on “Party Like It’s 1908”

  1. Happy New Year! I love hearing about your postcard collection. What treasures!

    I long for simpler times too. Yes, I marvel at and depend on modern technology, but I think in some ways it’s made people less courteous and caring.

    Sorry to hear about the yucky sinus infection. Glad it’s not pneumonia!

    What will 2018 bring? BTW, Congrats on having Tooth Fairy’s Night named as a Cybils Finalist. 🙂

    • Any of my books being a Cybils Finalist is an honor! Won’t win but I’m still thrilled!

      I’m afraid to think about 2018! Just get me through this month (only two books to write and a class syllabus to create).

      Cheers to you and Len!

  2. Dear Candice,
    Whar beautiful arrangements of your collection and beautiful photographs. I love the idea of collecting a specific year and theme. May your year be full of more fun collecting, good writing, awards, and no more sinus infections.
    I got good news just before the new year. Roaring Brook bought the manuscript about Ruth Asawa that I read to your editor when she visited Hollins. Her positive response helped inspire me to keep working on it so thanks for setting up that opportunity.

    • Caroline! This is great news! That is a beautiful story and deserves to be published. Your Roaring Brook career is well underway! Congrats and happy new year!


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