Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Jan 31st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Notes from the Past

AE-2A new book reveals the history and beauty behind the humble postcard

One of my most vivid childhood memories is that of my mother writing postcards. Whether we were simply on a weekend getaway a few towns over or we had traversed across one or more oceans, my mom’s idea of a vacation was to commemorate it by sending a postcard to everyone she knew. The following ritual is ingrained in my psyche—stop at every souvenir stand, drug store etc. that may sell the small works of art and purchase as many as possible. Then, return to the hotel and stay up late into the night writing rough drafts (my mom is an incurable perfectionist known to take hours selecting a suitable birthday card for a friend). Finally, and with much deliberation, she would select the postcards best suited for each person and commence to write lovely little messages that illuminated the highlights of our trip thus far. Sometimes it would take us entire days to find a post office, where my sister and I would risk our lives licking the backs of third-world stamps to allow my mom’s scrawled messages to reach friends and family back home.

It’s no wonder that a new book about the history of postcards has caught my eye. Artist, author and postcard collector extraordinaire, Leonard Pitt’s new tome “Paris Postcards: The Golden Age” highlights the unassuming history of the humble postcard. Once dubbed as a nuisance that would unravel proper society (similar to the text message or tweet of today), the postcard has since emerged as the quintessential way of communicating from foreign shores with the folks back home.

Pitt, who lived in Paris as a young man in the 1960s and has since written myriad books about the French capital, bought a handful of turn-of-the-century postcards depicting Parisian streets on a whim because they were cheap souvenirs. It was only later, upon returning to the U.S. that Pitt realized what real works of art and glimpses into history these postcards truly were. It was then that he began haunting antique shops in an attempt to begin a collection of historical postcards in earnest.

In his book, “Paris Postcards: The Golden Age,” Pitt takes readers, historians and art lovers alike on a historical tour through the streets of the City of Light, illuminating scenes that have long since disappeared in the name of modernization. But it may be the sentiments written on the backs of these postcards that immortalize the wonder still experienced by travelers today. As one postcard deftly explains, “Paris will have to be the most splendid city in Europe.” Even my mom would have to agree.

GT recently caught up with Pitt prior to his visit to The Capitola Book Café on March 7 to find out more about his new book, as well as his mind-boggling postcard collection.

Good Times: What made you decide to turn your postcard-collecting hobby into a book about postcards from Paris?

Leonard Pitt: When I began arranging, sorting my collection a couple of years ago, I saw the incredible document I had. Historically, the cards are an extraordinary portrait of an age long gone. The messages written to loved ones back home are wonderfully evocative of the American experience of Paris at the turn of the century. Artistically, the photos are beautiful in themselves, but most of all, the colored ones. They are all tinted by hand. Each one individually tinted! Then there is the history of the postcard. I did a little research and was struck by what a revolution this most banal item today was at its time. The postcard changed the world just like the Internet and raised many of the same issues about social mores, laws of libel and defamation. This was a story that had to be told.

GT: Are all of the postcards in the book from

your personal collection?

LP: Every image in the book is from my private collection.

GT: How many postcards do you now have in your collection?

LP: Thousands. I’ve never counted.

GT: What is the most interesting message you have found written on one of your postcards?

LP: The one that says, “September 2, 1913, My Dear Little Mama, I am here in fine style. This is by far the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It is beyond description. I am in love with it …” beautifully expresses the American exuberance for Paris way back then. Also the one that says, “Bringing your wife to Paris is like bringing your own meal to a banquet.”


Leonard Pitt will be talking about his book, “Paris Postcards: The Golden Age,” at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 7 at the Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call 462-4415 or visit leonardpitt.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Throwing It All Away

Everybody’s for recycling, right? So why are we all doing it wrong? Our reporter gets down and dirty to uncover 10 secrets that will finally make the recycling process make sense

 

Aquarius Calling, Humanity Rising

Aquarius (11th sign after Aries) is the sign of service—serving one another, building community. Aquarius is fixed air, stabilizing new ideas in the world. When new ideas reach the masses the ideas become ideals within the hearts and minds of humanity. Air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) are mental. They think, ponder, study, research, gather and distribute information. For air signs, education and learning, communicating, writing, being social, tending to money, participating in groups and creating sustainable communities are most important. One of the present messages Aquarius is putting forth to the New Group of World Servers is the creation of the New Education (thus thinking) for humanity—one based not on commodities (banking/corporate values) but on virtues. Humanity and Aquarius Aquarius is the sign of humanity itself. We are now at the beginnings of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Humanity (rising). The “rising” is the Aquarian vision of equality, unity, the distribution and sharing of all resources and of individual (Leo) creative gifts for the purpose of humanity’s (Aquarius) uplifting. This is the message in the Solar Festival of Aquarius (at the full moon) on Tuesday, Feb. 3. We join in these visions by reciting the World Prayer of Direction, the Great Invocation.Tuesday’s solar festival follows Monday’s Groundhog Day, or Imbolc (ancient Celtic fire festival) the halfway mark between winter solstice and spring Equinox). The New Group of World Servers (NGWS) during these two days are preparing for the upcoming Three Spring Solar Festivals: 1. Aries Resurrection/Easter Festival (April); 2. Taurus Buddha/Wesak Festival (May); and 3. Gemini’s Festival of Humanity (June). Aquarius and the new and full moons together are the primary astrological influences behind all of humanity’s endeavors. The NGWS are to teach these things, calling and uplifting humanity. Join us everyone. (301)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Job Insecurity

Woman fights for her job in thoughtful, life-sized ‘Two Days One Night’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Jeffrey’s Restaurant

Why quick and friendly service matters at a local diner.

 

If you didn't live in Santa Cruz, where would you be living?

I would live in Kauai because the water is warmer, and I just love it there. Maureen Niehaus, Santa Cruz, Dental Assistant

 

Clos LaChance Wines

Pinot Noir 2012

 

Striking Gold

A taste of Soquel Vineyards’ five gold medal-winning Pinots