I am not sure if anyone really knows how collections are started. There are probably as many collections as there are people. Books, coins and stamps often lead the list of things people collect. Although I am by nature quite a pack rat my only salvation is that I have moved a lot and am not one to carry unnecessary stuff around. For that reason many of my would-be collections were short-lived and ended up in rummage sales or with the salvation army around the Northwest. That's except for one; my post card collection.
I am not sure when I started collecting them, but the first post card I remember hanging onto was a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman card I was sent from a grandmother when I was about 10. Then when I was 16 I traveled with my classmates to Montreal to attend Expo '67 and came home with a large envelope of postcards from around the world.
About that time I left Canada and finished high school in Montana while living with my grandparents. They resided near Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. From the time I was a teenager I remember buying postcards showing the beautiful scenery in Western Montana. This was long before I took an interest in photography.
But the hobby of collecting postcards didn't really start there. Like a lot of things people get, those I had ended up in boxes along with letters, cards and memorabilia from events and activities.
It wasn't until years later that I realized I had hundreds of post cards and in one of my early moves I organized them into a shoe box. From the time I and my wife were first married we loved to travel, often to local resorts, mountain areas or recreational spots in southern Canada or Montana. Each visit, without really thinking about it I would pick up a handful of post cards and bring them home.
Now 30 years later, my one little shoe box has turned into a large post card rack that I picked up from a drug store that was going out of business. I also have several shoe boxes full. I estimate that I have over 30,000 cards from all corners of the world.
As I sat down on the floor Sunday night surrounded by stacks and stacks of post cards I thought I could glance through a few hundred and get enough thoughts or material to write a few paragraphs. What I soon realized is that in those stacks of postcards was enough material for a book (or several books).
Most of the post cards are not from places I have been, because as friends discovered my love for the cards they began bringing me more every time they took a trip. This past year I received cards from New Zealand, Germany, England and Scotland.
By the way, very few of the cards are written on. Unless they have a post mark there is no way to tell the publication date. However, following my grandparents and my mothers deaths I went through several boxes of old letters and pictures and there I found post cards sent from England and Canada dating back to the mid-1920's. It appears that families often had their photos made into post cards back in those days, as I found several family pictures and scenes from the early ranches and farms on the prairies in that form. Most of these were dated.
I have written in columns that my sons and I climb a different mountain every summer and ski at a different resort every Christmas. When I do that I pick up a couple dozen cards from every destination.
Despite my personal efforts to pick up cards however, some of my favorites are from friends who send me cards as they travel. Once while living in Pendleton, Ore. I rented out extra bedrooms to rodeo fans who couldn't find hotel rooms for the famous Pendleton Round-up. One of these renters was an engineer from Austria, who had a fascination for the American west and cowboy way of life. That was back in 1988 and at least four times a year he sends me a post card from some remote part of South America, Australia, or the Middle East. These are locations where he is building his latest bridge or building.
Many of the older cards I have come from antique stores where I pick up a stack of cards presumed dated in the 1920's or 1930's for a few dollars.
To the best of my recollection I have cards from 34 states and 110 foreign countries. I have post cards from seven world expos and 22 national parks or recreational areas. The collection contains hundreds of animals from various corners of the world, faces of interesting natives from many foreign lands, large collections of art work and historic buildings you often see in history books.
And one of my favorites is "Castle Gate" before the current road system was put in. There is no date on the card, but it reads, "Railroads and all-weather highways enable travelers to reach the remotest places in this beautiful state. Mother Nature has been generous here in her gifts of huge rock formations, tumbling waterfalls and towering forested mountains." I have had this card for many years and always wanted to visit this part of the world. Little did I realize that someday I would be living here.
So what does one do with that many cards? It could drive me nuts trying to keep them organized so I don't even try, although at different points in my life I divided up the states and countries. I guess the best answer is that I just keep gathering them. I intend on traveling to five more national parks this year and that means about 100 more cards.
I mentioned this propensity to amass post cards to my sons over the holidays and my oldest son had a great comeback when I asked him what he was going to do with the collection when I am gone.
His response, "Thank God for E-Bay!"