A Box of Old Letters

One day, while in my mid-teens, I came across my mother looking through a box of old letters. This box, always on the top shelf of her closet, had followed us from house to house and from town to town, but this is perhaps the first time I expressed curiosity. The letters, it seemed, were written during World War II, letters that my parents exchanged with one another during those war years. Most likely, some of them would have pre-dated their marriage in 1943, while others may have been written later. I wanted to read them, but my mother said that they were personal, and she did not want to share them.

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Onegin Ballet

The San Francisco Ballet has concluded its repertory season, ending on a high note, even for this world-famous ballet company, with the magnificent production of the Onegin ballet. The story, based on the poem Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, with libretto by John Cranko, is performed to the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky. References to letters are significant to the drama. The Onegin ballet enacts the story of Tatiana, a young woman living in rural Russia, and her love for Onegin, the worldly, elegant friend of her sister Olga’s fiancé, Lensky. In the opening act and scene,…

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Social Correspondence: 2015 in Review

As 2015 draws to conclusion, it is notable that the most read post of the year in Social Correspondence was Letters to Myself, the story of the amazing Alan Blackman and his exquisitely designed calligraphic envelopes featuring stamps from around the world. On Gratitude, published for Thanksgiving, attracted hundreds of readers, as did Letters from France 1917–1919; Office Supplies; Postcards from Notables; and Letters from Wisconsin. The commonality among these posts was that they focused, for the most part, on stories about people, as reflected in their letters. Many people write letters and/or send cards to…

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Letters from Wisconsin

Kay Christensen Roberts and her sister Jane grew up in Cumberland, Wisconsin, a rural town with a population of slightly over 2,000, then and now. Growing up in Cumberland in the 1950s, Kay became a devotee of the public library and especially of the town librarian, Katherine Robinson, who may have been her namesake. Katherine the librarian and Kay’s mother Aleda Christensen were good friends. The Christensens lived fairly near to Katherine’s mother and, as Kay recalls, “when I was very little I would toddle up to Engesether’s, where I think I spent as much time as…

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Letters to Myself: Alan Blackman

Alan Blackman has had a long and storied career, as an artist, calligrapher, typeface designer for Adobe, lettering arts instructor, and three years working for the U.S. Post Office at San Francisco’s Rincon Annex. By his own account, however, his most significant work is Letters to Myself. Letters to Myself was a personal project first undertaken by Blackman in 1968. His then 11-year old son Stephen lived across the bay in Berkeley, east of San Francisco. Through his work in the postal service, Blackman became familiar with “first day covers,” letters affixed with a stamp on…

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Letters from France: Deployment

Joseph Bosque, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War I, was deployed on May 20, 1918 from Camp Merritt, New Jersey to Marseilles, France. Although he was not permitted at the time to reveal his destination, he left prearranged clues in his letters to his sweetheart back home in San Francisco, Annie Corbett. On May 16, 1918 he signed one of his final pre-deployment letters by saying, “Au revoir, ma chère, Joe.” In his final stateside letter, he wrote a brief message, which he signed, “Yours affectionately, Joseph.” The use of his full name…

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National Card and Letter Writing Month

The United States Postal Service kicked off National Card and Letter Writing Month on April 1. “Letter writing improves social and penmanship skills. More importantly, it helps create lasting memories with the people you care about most,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell at an event held in Washington, D.C. This year the Postal Service, in collaboration with Scholastic, is encouraging classroom activities that teach children to write. The occasion of National Card and Letter Writing Month was marked by the issuance of a colorful new From Me to You Forever stamp. The stamps…

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Mailbox Magic
Mailboxes, Sausalito, CA Photo by Tibby Storey

Mailbox Magic

The magic of a mailbox is not necessarily what it looks like, but what it contains. That special envelope, perhaps a baby announcement, a love letter, an official job offer, or even a much-needed tax refund check, are all pieces of mail that can brighten one’s day. When I left home for the first (and last) time at the age of 17 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, a mere ten miles from my home town of Lafayette, California, it was a given that surprise in-person visits from family were not allowed. This was my…

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Readers Corner – Wedding Etiquette

Dear Readers, As always, I enjoy and appreciate receiving your comments and letters. The following are excerpts from letters received about the post "Wedding Etiquette," See also comments posted on the site. "Happy mother of the bride!" LETTERS Just read your posting and enjoyed very much!  As for timelines, I'm happy to receive a thank you anytime!  I know manners have changed dramatically in the past decade or so, and I'll accept any form of thank you!  Although with my limited experience, because my kids or their friends don't tend to get married, it seems when…

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Mail Privacy

Americans value their privacy, and the privacy of the U.S. mail is, for the most part, not only guaranteed, but also taken for granted. It is spelled out in the privacy policy of the U.S. Postal Service, and is codified through various federal laws and regulations. Recently, however, new information has emerged about the mail cover program, through which the postal service makes copies of the exterior of every piece of mail processed in the United States. First noted by The New York Times in 2013, this practice apparently dates back more than a century. Letter…

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