Archive for the ‘Festival of Postcards’ Category

Lux Mundi

The theme for the 7th Festival of Postcards is Light.  The postcard I chose to illustrate this theme is modern, not vintage, but the Light that it portrays is much older!  This postcard was sent to my parents from me in July, 1985 on my now infamous first trip to Rome, Italy.  The image is the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here)

This image was taken from the nave near the statue of St. Peter, which is shown in the foreground on the right, and is looking towards the magnificent baldacchino or canopy over the altar.  The reverse of the postcard is as follows:

I wrote: “Dear Mom, Dad, & Drew, We are having a great time – very interesting!  See you soon.  Love, Donna + Louie + Tom.  P.S. I was there” Very interesting? An understatement that only a teenager could make with a straight face.  Though, in retrospect, I probably kept it simple so as not to surprise my mother with the little details that would make her crazy, such as our dump of a hotel or the fact that I was wandering around a large city of foreigners occasionally without adult supervision.

The light shown on the postcard appears to enter the basilica from one of the windows near the dome.  While it may look like an overly dramatic image that was “touched up” to sell postcards, I can assure you that the rays of light entering St. Peter’s is often that dramatic depending on the time of day.  I took this photograph years later from a slightly different position in the basilica and got an equally dramatic effect.  I am standing right by the main altar looking towards the left transept – you can see only the twisted columns of Bernini’s baldacchino but not the canopy itself.

Interior, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome - taken by the author December, 2003.

While the play of light on the interior of the basilica makes for stunning photography (and postcards), I chose this for the “Light” theme for another reason – the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World, that I feel within these walls.  For every time I visit Rome and enter St. Peter’s, I can not help but feel the overwhelming love of God in addition to literally being overwhelmed by the immensity of the building itself.  I am drawn back there time and again.

For more images of the interior of St. Peter’s that also show the incoming rays of light, see the Wikipedia article and Sacred Destinations.

[Submitted for the 7th Festival of Postcards: Light]

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The theme to this month’s Festival of Postcards is “quadrupeds”.  Once again I have managed to find a unique example that meets the theme and also has a connection to my family history.  Here’s a great card that shows a couple of quadrupeds all decked out to celebrate the dog days of summer!

Dogs with ShadesDogs2The text of the postcard reads:

Dear Donna, As you can see from the picture, we’re not the only brother-sister team that can party Hawaiian-style!  Even if the other sisters are cool – they’re not as nice (and kind & intelligent & loving) as you!  Thanks for the CCD material – it really came in handy.  You’re in my thoughts and prayers.  I love you, Drew

As if you could not figure it out, the postcard is from my brother to me.  But the postmark didn’t quite make the card itself, and I couldn’t remember exactly when he sent it to me.  To determine the date of the card, I used the investigative techniques I’ve learned from my genealogical work as well as skills I’ve learned from others about how to date photographs and postcards.  I focused on three distinct areas to estimate the “age” of the card – clues provided by the sender/recipient, the writing or message content, the card itself, and the postage.

First, the sender and recipient – my brother and me.  There were two different times in our lives that my brother sent me letters and postcards because he was living away from home.  The first was a five-year period in the early 1980’s when he was in the United States Marine Corps.  The second was about a five-year period beginning in the late 1980’s when he was serving in a very different type of “corps” – two different seminaries.

Next, I looked at the subject of the text.  At first glance, I assumed the card was sent while he was in the seminary for two reasons – he’s rather, uh, nice and complimentary.  I’m not saying he was rude when he was a Marine, but I remember the seminarian as a kindler, gentler brother!  Also, he mentions me sending CCD material.  CCD stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine” which is a Catholic religious education program for students attending public schools.  On the one hand, I figured my seminarian brother would have more of a need for CCD material than the Marine brother.  But, I was teaching CCD classes during the time my brother was in the Marines.

The next clue came from the postcard itself with a copyright of 1984.  In 1984, my brother was in the USMC and I was teaching CCD classes, so this clearly tipped the scale in favor of that time period.

Finally, the card has a 20-cent stamp.  I looked at The History of Postage Rates in the United States.  This site shows a 20-cent postcard rate beginning in 1995.  By then, my brother was married and not sending me mail, so this was not possible.  I know that when I send a postcard, I sometimes use a “regular” stamp if I don’t have time to go to the post office for a postcard stamp.  Looking at the normal postage rates, the 20-cent stamp was in use from November 1, 1981 to February 17, 1985.

Conclusion: The postcard has a copyright of 1984, the stamp was in issue from then until 1985 (the denomination, anyway – I could have done further research on the design of the stamp itself), I was teaching CCD during that same time period and my brother was in the USMC during that same period, therefore, the postcard was likely sent during 1984.

Even though this was a “recent” postcard and sent directly to me, I gave this example of trying to determine its date not only because I myself didn’t remember, but because it is a good example of how to proceed with following a postcard’s clues to estimate the time period in which it was sent.

More importantly, once again in finding an entry to meet the “challenge” of the Festival, I am reminded of what postcards are all about…keeping in touch with family and friends.  I was in high school when my brother was in the Marines, and it was always a special treat to get a postcard or a letter from him.  I didn’t save all of them, but I did save a few that were special.  I am sure this one made my “save” pile not only because of his loving message, but because of the humor of the card.  In fact, I think he had a Hawaiian shirt just like that one they have on!  I was about to enter my Hawaiian shirt & shades stage (I haven’t left it yet, by the way), so it was particularly fun to receive this one.

[Submitted for the 5th Festival of Postcards: Quadrupeds]


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The theme for this month’s Festival of Postcards is Water.  Here’s a fine example of a watery scene from a 1950s French postcard (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here):

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

Water PC 2

The text reads:  “Dear Mother, I could not get a birthday card for you.  I hope this will due.  Happy Birthday.  Jimmy” The postcard was mailed on 07 April 1958 from Nice, France with a lovely 20 franc stamp depicting the shrine at Lourdes.  The text on the card reads (in French): A bird’s eye view from Cannes to Italy.  The card shows a lovely view of the Côte d’Azur.

Jimmy is my father, who was serving in the Navy on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Cadmus (AR-14) during the spring of 1958.  His mother’s birthday was 11 April – I wonder if she got it in time?  It was her 45th birthday – since I am nearing that age it seems too young to have a married son!  I also couldn’t help but wonder if he also remembered to send my mother some wishes via postcard as well.  The date he mailed my grandmother her birthday greeting was the date of my parents’ second wedding anniversary!

[Submitted for the 4th Festival of Postcards: Water]


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This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”.  My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany.  Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph.  Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920.  This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz.  Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square.  The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification.  If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square.  The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

The postcard reads as follows:



Misson accomplished!  I think I’ll send 2 though.  Guess what!  The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought!  I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard!  Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store!  Take care, Rachel   P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS.  More later…

Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly.  She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family.  In her free time,  she took the time to  visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich.  She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself.  But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited.  I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post).  The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz.  I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S.  However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street.  There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken.  It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.

As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category.  Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked.  Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen.  I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)

But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences.  I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history.  I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person.  I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.

As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos  (one is actually a postcard) of the same square.  This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph.  Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph. Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square!  Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west.  Estimated date is 1890-1905.

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west. Estimated date is 1890-1905.

This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich!  I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006.  While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II).  What does the Karlsplatz look like today?  Take a look at this 360° view!

Postcard logofestivalwishyou

[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]

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There’s a new carnival in town – A Festival of Postcards.  This carnival will be a bit more challenging than the others I participate in, because I do not have a large collection of postcards – and very few related to genealogy!  But half the fun is the challenge itself, and I was delighted to find one for the inaugural edition of the festival.  The theme is Wheels.  Here’s a postcard I must have received with some photographs from my great-aunt:

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

This is a nice “vintage” shot of a gas station (was it called “filling station” back then?) called the Wallace Garage in Salem, IL.  If you click on the photo for a close-up view, you will see that the garage is a Texaco station that does general repairs.  They’re an official AAA station, they use Havoline engine oil, and – best of all – a sign in front advertises “modern sleeping rooms.”  It may look a little different than today’s gas stations, especially the cars to the right in the photo.  But, some things never change – just notice the woman trying to get the hose to reach to the other side of her car while the attendant seems to just be standing there watching her fumble with it.

The photographer is noted as “Benke” – apparently this was a Fred A. Benke.  He was called “Salem’s well-known photographer” by this Salem historical site, but I wish he was just a bit more well-known so I could find out more about him!

The reverse of the postcard:

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

It is not postmarked in Salem, Illinois but in Odessa, Texas at 7 PM on August 24, 1932.  It was mailed using a 1 cent stamp to Mr. J. Zawodny, 2512 E. Indiana Ave, Phila. Pa.  (same address as the 1930 census).  The note reads: “Well folks were making good time going to Mexico tomorrow.  Stan.”

The recipients of the postcard are my great-grandparents, Joseph and Laura Zawodny (although it’s addressed to Joseph, the note does say “folks”).  My logical assumption is that the  sender is their son, Stanley, who would have been 23 years old at the time.  My first thought was that perhaps this was a road-trip honeymoon; however, Stanley did not get married until 1934 (to Elizabeth Tiernan of Philadelphia, PA, the sister of his brother-in-law John).  I have no idea why Stan was traveling to Mexico in 1923, but hopefully he had a good time!  At least he was a thoughtful son to drop a line to his parents on the journey.

[Written for A Festival of Postcards: Wheels]

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