Monday, November 13, 2006

Lives in Letters: Postcard with a Mystery for you to Solve

This postcard seems full of mystery and intrigue. I'll post my thoughts below in the notes, but I'd welcome your comments about what you think it means too!

Auto Poem
Syracuse, New York
July, 1921
Addressed to
Mary May N-
Geneva, New York
Preprinted on front:
When I bring around my Auto,
You be ready to jump in.
For I really think you Auto
Come with me, and take a spin.

Message on back:

Dear old girl.
Sent card to
“Your friend” to-day.
Do write me a
_____. Lots of love
to you. “Pat”

The first thing I noticed was the strange little poem. It's kind of awkward, don't you think? Then of course, there is the picture, which has some fun details. Note the hat with the very long feather. And I think she's wearing what was officially known as a "car coat." Oh and did you see how much smoke was coming out of the car at the end of the lane?
Now about that message... I'm so curious.
"Dear old girl," it starts. So I wonder, how old is Mary May? Is "old girl" meant ironically, affectionately, or in some way literally?
Who is "Your friend" and why is it in quotes? And why is the Y capitalized? Could it be someone Mary May secretly loves? Or perhaps someone she despises?
I love the use of "_______" instead of the word line. I think this suggests a younger writer and recipient, probably because it reminds me of text speak.
I wondered about Pat. Male or Female? I'm guessing female, but if male, then related (brother perhaps). Why? Because "Lots of love to you" seems out of place for any non-related male to use as a sign-off in 1921.
Why is Pat's name in quotes? My guess is that her name is Patricia, and she uses quotes simply to indicate a nickname. Of course her name could be Gertrude or Constance or any of a number of others, and then "Pat" could still be a nickname. Some day, ask me about the many many random nicknames in my family!
Okay, here's my final theory. Patricia and Mary May are college chums. Pat knows that Mary May is in love with Mr. X, though Mary May claims he is just a friend. Mary May asked Pat to send Mr. X a card, either as an invitation to some event where Mary May can see him, or as a note of encouragement or sympathy due to some trouble in Mr. X's life. Pat sent the card, but can't resist giving Mary a little teasing.
So, what's your theory? I'd love to see who can come up with the best story.


Stidmama said...

The "smoke" you describe could also just be the dust the auto was kicking up on the invariably unpaved road or drive...

My great-grandmother had scads of greeting cards with similar silly ditties. It was sort of the thing in those days, burma-shave picked up on their popularity in those early automobiling days!

Nancy said...

Hiya stidmama! Nice to have you visit!

Good point about the dirt roads. 1921. Wasn't even considering that.

I love the old burma-shave ads. So much fun to see on the road. Not that I am old enough to have seen them in their hey-day, but I've seen similar things since. And this postcard poem would have made much more sense as a burma-shave series of signs I think.

Any alternate theories about the back story on the postcard message?

runart said...

This one is particularly intriguing to me as I live in Syracuse. I think you have nailed the backstory, though, Nancy. I agree that the Pat in quotes indicates a nickname - I think they did that alot years ago. It sounds to me like two friends in cahoots to get a "friend" to notice the one. The whole thing is charming - from the drawing to the use of the line in palce of the word line.

Anonymous said...

I think it's Pat whos in love w/Mary May's friend. She's sending Mary May a copy of the postcard that she had the courage enough to send to Mary's "friend." And she's revealing to Mary exactly the message that she sent Mr. Wonderful, giving Mary the benefit of both the visual and the words that went with the card.