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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Do I Get So Excited About These Things?

Maybe you thought that headline signaled another post about books, and it’s no secret that books excite me, but today I’m fixated on old postcards. I’m giddy over them, to tell the truth.

In the midst of our kitchen remodeling, lots of things are currently out of place, and finding temporary storage for displaced dishes and pans and cans reminds me, forcibly, that lots of things are always out of place in certain corners of my life, corners that cry out for attention they very seldom receive. Facing those areas can be overwhelming. What to trash, what to recycle, what to keep? But it’s surprising how quickly I can make decisions once I finally tear into the mountain, and then there are the rewards, such as today unearthing, among many other less exciting forgotten items, an overflowing box holding my completely unorganized but beloved “collection” of old postcards. (Is it a collection if it is not organized?) As soon as I started taking cards out of the box, a handful at a time, I got all excited, thrilled to rediscover my very own treasures! Florida and Georgia (winter travels), South Dakota (where I was born), Illinois (where I grew up), Indiana (traversed many times over the years), Ohio (home of grandparents), but my favorites are the postcards from Michigan.

Here is a quartet from Kalamazoo, including the courthouse where David and I got married the first time around. (Second time was in Paris, Illinois.) You can see from the 4-card shot that I was much too excited to pay proper attention to lighting and focus. The single shot of the courthouse is better.

I have a lot of postcards from the U.P., from Mackinac Island and the Bridge clear up through the Keewanaw peninsula—lake and boat and bridge pictures, mines and mining, small U.P. towns, and more.

Lots of my postcards show main downtown streets of Michigan towns in both peninsulas. Towns range from built-to-last Calumet (its entire downtown now a historic district) to little, off-the-main-road Paradise. Every single one of these towns has me tingling for travel. Some of them have changed hardly at all over the years, and it's fun to look at places of towns we know and recognize streets and buildings.

Between Kalamazoo and the U.P. lies the northwest peninsula, with Leelanau County the mitten’s little finger. “Mittens don’t have fingers,” my former logic professor pointed out when I explained Michigan geography to him. No one else has ever made that objection. Sorry, Steve, the Little Finger is my home!

Below Leelanau, however, lies Traverse City, which is the way most people get to us unless they’re arriving by boat. (Long ago summer tourists arrived by boat from Traverse City, coming up from the south end of Lake Leelanau by steam launch to Leland and Northport, but that’s another story.) One feature of historic Traverse City that I remember from 1970 was the miniature replica of the town at Clinch Park. It was a popular postcard subject. From the photo that includes the children (top left of the four), you can get an idea of the scale of the buildings. My son probably does not remember the miniature Traverse City, though he was pushed through it in his stroller many times.

And here is a really old postcard showing the Traverse City State Hospital, now coming back to life as the Grand Traverse Commons.

One branch of M-22 comes north from Grand Traverse County, the other from Benzie County. The two branches join just south of the village of Northport. Do you recognize (or can you guess) which is which?

Now we come to old Omena:

And this is Gull Island, offshore from Northport in Grand Traverse Bay:

I can’t go on, I can’t! I’m too excited to think straight! Another day, or on various days, we’ll have Leland’s Fishtown, Sleeping Bear “Dunesmobiles,” 84-year-old “Spike Horn” Meyer from Harrison, Michigan, the Club on the Ste. Claire Flats, a look at mid-20th-century Port Huron and all kinds of other fun peeks backward in time--because this post, my friends, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Is anyone else as goony about this stuff as I am? I hope so. And think about this, those of you spending the winter Up North: it's mighty cozy to sit indoors and shuffle through stacks of postcards when the wind chill is below zero.


Gerry said...

Because they are fun! Quantities of fun! When you find Spike Horn again could you send me a picture of his postcard? Terry Wooten has a poem about his, um, enterprise and I'll send you a copy of that.

I have to get back over to Nora's to make copies of her UP postcards. Most of them were collected in the 1920s.

P. J. Grath said...

Gerry, they are so much fun that I’m tempted to ignore reading and writing and housework and dog grooming today to plunge back into the pile, but a more sensible approach would probably be to allot myself one day a week—say, a Winter Wednesday Postcard Promenade. I promise that Spike Horn will be in my next postcard post, just for you. But where else to focus for the second round? It’s so hard to choose!

Ajijaak said...

Lovely collection of vintage postcards! This reminds me of a few cool vintage postcards I could post on my blog.

I have an old 'Say Yes to Michigan' red license plate. Its really cool!

Cheers! :)

Billicat said...

When I'm up there next summer I'll stop by and show you two of my prize postcard possessions - one of Northport cabins on Highway 22 and another of the "toboggan" slope at Sleeping Bear, half covered in dune grass and with lots of Model T's parked below.

P. J. Grath said...

Hey, you two, I'm glad to hear about others with my old postcard addiction, and I'd love to see some of your treasures, too.

Owlfarmer said...

My students and I were just talking about postcards this week (in a philosophy class on utopia--one student's planning to create an artist's book of postcards from her idea of utopia), and we all agreed that there's something compelling about these small "invitations" (with the implication, "wish you were here")--and perhaps that helps explain your excitement. I had one student last quarter who collects postcards, so gave her one I'd found in a used book; it turned out that she had just visited the featured town (some cute place in Germany) the previous summer.

I don't have many of them myself, but will probably start putting those I do have into a box for future perusal--having been inspired by this post. I found you through Sharon Astyk's "pimp your blog week" effort, and will visit again when I've got more time. Interesting stuff.

P. J. Grath said...

Owlfarmer, I'm so pleased you find me through Sharon's blog and hope you will visit again, especially as we have philosophy in common. Where do you teach? I love it that postcards played a part in your classroom discussion.

Stacie said...

Nice collection! I've linked to you on the Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear Facebook page and our page on Twitter, PreserveHSB. Thanks for showing us this peek into the past!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks for visiting and linking, Stacie. If I stick to the schedule I've roughed out for February, I should be showing some postcards from Sleeping Bear and environs for my Feb. 23 post. Have some other things planned for the Wednesday of Feb. 16.