Growing up in Louisa – Postcards
Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn
Thinking back to the days of 3¢ postage, I recalled a chance encounter with a stack of picture post cards in an antique store. What bothered me at first is that these cards were mostly created AFTER my graduation from high school and well into manhood. Does that mean I am an antique? After huffing around the displays I was nonetheless drawn back to the postcards. I found that the stack had samples of much older cards, perhaps from my mother or grandmother’s era, so I felt vindicated enough to browse further. Upon doing so, nostalgia filtered into my body glazing my eyes such that I was in another world. This world was one made up of my old experiences, whether real or imagined, but certainly real enough for the moment.
As a nosey child I really liked the idea of post cards because I could read the message, whether it was addressed to me or not, because I could, without steaming open an envelope, read the message and look at the picture usually found on the reverse side. I could see that cousin so-and-so was at Niagara Falls, or an aunt was in Hollywood. Most seemed to say, “I wish you were here.” That was the point to send a picture and make us jealous, I suppose.
As a child it broadened my horizons with pictures from all around the world, and let me know that the tri-state area was only a piece of the greater whole. I had seen maps and globes, and had seen a few movies filmed in far off places, but the bits I saw on picture post cards supplemented this embryonic process of understanding.
Today we take vacations for granted, sometimes, but in those early days few really took vacation trips anywhere. Part of the reason was the cost, both in the travel expenses and in missed work. Another reason was that the roads just weren’t there yet. It would take all day nearly to go 80-100 miles, and these attractions were several hundred miles away. A dream of going to Florida was just that; a dream.
Granted, many were commercial in nature, either selling a location, a dream, or even a product, but they were backgrounds for a quickly scribbled note. I wonder how they may have changed the world, perhaps by an encrypted message sent during times of war, or containing a proposal of marriage or an apology. Alas, many were lost because of their diminutive size as embryonic postal machines chewed them easily and spat out a Paper Mache wad with unidentifiable scraps. Novels could be written about some going to their grave without the necessary knowledge that would have changed lives; maybe good and sometimes bad.
In addition to this I also got to see stereoscopes and the 3D pictures of many places, including the pyramids in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, Victoria Falls, Big Ben in London, and a much different sky line of New York. I saw palm trees, deserts, oceans, beaches, lakes, the Rocky Mountains, World’s Fairs, the destruction of Germany and parts of Japan, and a favorite Valley of the Kings. Additionally, I saw postcard pictures of celebrities, including movie stars, politicians. I also saw daredevil flyers, authors and speakers.
Mail, whether by a letter or by postcard, was just becoming a welcome thing as I was growing up. It hadn’t been long that unexpected letters were a bit scary. Good ones came from loved ones serving in a theatre of war, and bad one might have been from his commanding officer, informing us of an injury, lost in action, or death. Usually the worst war news came by telegram, something unheard of today, but they were dreaded by everyone. Sometimes you would answer the door and find uniformed men with a letter in hand. I cannot imagine the sinking feeling that many had when they realized their worst fears. When someone got a telegram the family would go silent, hearts raced, waiting for the unavoidable message. For this, an open postcard would not do.
After the fighting, telegrams became a source of ‘good news’ and regular mail, too. In keeping with the subject of this article, the best news often came by postcard. Indeed, a note from a honeymoon destination letting everyone know the couple had arrived safety; a note with a new address mailed hurriedly as boxes were being unpacked; or, a note bragging on the sights all as friends or family explored far-flung places. The most common message on those postcards said everything, “Wish you were here.”
To my readers who continually hang on as I develop my stories, please accept my affections and know that I am “Thinking of you,” the second most common phrase on postcards.
Growing up in Louisa – Eddie Boggs
Sometime before my lifelong friend, Johnnie Bill Boggs, and I went to grade school, I remember his father, Eddie Boggs, in a white uniform. I think that he worked for a dairy, perhaps delivering milk around the little town or working in the plant. In those days milk was delivered to homes daily in quart-sized glass bottles with a paper seal on top. I remember that in those days without refrigeration, the ice box didn’t always keep the milk very well. I recall the term “clabber,” and to me that meant spoiled. Later, I learned that while it wasn’t much good for drinking, it was part of a process that allowed you to later make butter, but that’s another story. I remember the smell of such milk and it wasn’t particularly pleasant.
My memory of Eddie Boggs in this early time period is so spotty that I can’t be sure the pictures in my mind are all Eddie, but maybe, instead what I saw in magazine ads, or movies. I cannot say for certain where the dairy was, but I believe it may have been in ‘Little Italy’ at the upper end of Pike. I really don’t remember it being there as I grew up, but I was rarely in Little Italy except to go to Stanley Brown’s house or Richard Wilson’s. It’s more of a feeling than a memory, I guess.
During my high school years, Eddie worked as the agent for an insurance company (State Farm, I think) and had an office down by the old Brunswick Hotel, next to the corner store. I stopped by there more than once to just say ‘hi.’ Often he was busy with clients, so I couldn’t hang around, but there was a kind of assurance that all was well, Eddie was there.
After I left for the Air Force I didn’t get to see the Boggs family much, but after hearing about the car accident involving Eddie I made it a point to stop in to see him the next time I was in town. I went to their home up on Clay Street, about halfway between Pike and the Coke plant. Maggie answered the door but warned me that the accident had been very serious and that Eddie may not even know me. I wanted to see him anyway. It didn’t matter if he didn’t know me, I knew him. I was led to him and our eyes met. For a moment I could see him searching his memory, and then a light sparkled in his eyes as he reached out to clasp my hand. “Yogi,” he said. Then he said, “Michael.” I looked at Maggie and saw tears in her eyes as she smiled and wiped at her cheeks.
Eddie and I talked about some memories and he recalled a number of things that brought back the special times we’d shared. When I left after too brief a meeting, he followed me and waved as if we both knew it would be the last time. It was. I believe that God puts special people in our lives for a reason. In some cases, I wonder how or why, but in Eddie’s case, I know I was so very blessed to have known him. There are times that I gaze off into the distance and remember those tears Maggie shed. Then a tear rolls down my cheek, but a broad smile swells in my heart. I know God has a special place for men like that.
This brings me to the point I cannot help but raise. Have we considered the effects our lives have on others? Will someone, someday, be able to write about how you or me were a positive influence in their lives? Take the time to be that kind of a person. Leave this world a better place because you have lived.
Eddie was our scout leader, our baseball coach, and our friend. He counseled, and bestowed his wisdom on life and the best way of living. He taught us to be responsible to others and to our nation. He took us fishing, worked with us in his family garden, and drove us all around, often pointing out historical facts about a place or a past event. My best memories are when he took us to various baseball fields around the county and coached us. I remember Jim Ray Rose, Billy Elkins, Stanley Brown, Johnnie Bill, Harry Richard, and others playing on Sunday afternoons in far-flung places like Carter’s Bridge, Buchannan (Bear Creek), Fort Gay, High Bottom, and Lomansville. Some games we lost badly, others we won. Regardless, Eddie built up our esteem and confidence. I remember being so disheartened I wanted to quit, but Eddie took me aside and restored my faith that I could and would do better. He also coached us in the pony baseball league we played in Fort Gay. It was so good to hear him call me ‘Yogi,’ after the famous Yankee catcher.
Who, where are you in Lawrence County history?
Hint: Boy Scout Troop...
...sent to me by Johnny Bill Boggs
Last week's picture: contributed by Mike Miller
Greater Louisa Industrial group c. 1965
See comments below for answer...
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