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Remembering My Grandfather Through Postcards

Phyllis People 34 Comments

When my mom gave me a little cardboard box and told me that I would love it, I had no idea that the contents would delight me as they did. Inside was a small collection of hand-embroidered postcards that my granddad sent home from France when he was stationed there during WWI. My dad’s father, Oliver Street Norton, bought these delightful cards to send home to his mother. Also inside was his personal calling card that is hand lettered and painted. What a treasure!

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Since I have a passion for needlework, I was astonished that you could buy hand-stitched postcards and mail them. When I studied these I realized that the backs greatly resemble postcards of today. The fronts of the cards have embroidered designs on silk with tiny stitches that must have taken a large amount of time. I wonder how much he paid for the cards and where did he bought them.

My granddad was a farmer who served in the military and returned home after the war to resume his farming life. He was a very quiet man, and when he spoke, you listened. He actually listened to opera every Saturday night with his radio right by his chair—very intriguing to me. My grandmother worshipped the ground he walked on, and rightfully so. She was 12 years younger than Granddad, and he had to wait for her to grow up so he could marry her. I have so many memories of their life together on the farm. They grew and picked cotton and made a fun time of it. My favorite times were sitting in rocking chairs under the huge walnut tree in their yard. It was an enormous tree that created a shaded canopy. Conversation was the order of the day.

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I wish I had known of this little box back then so I could have asked all the questions about these keepsakes. Isn’t that the way it is? We find these family keepsakes and then wish we had all the details about them. So I choose to remember my sweet Granddad, who bought beautiful needlework treasures for his mother, as a man who loved beautiful things in life, from growing cotton to listening to opera.

Share with me your memories of special keepsakes.

Victoria September 2014

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Comments 34

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  2. How wonderful! My aunt recently shared our family’s story through her treasures – antiques. One amazing antique is a wood chest featuring an intricately carved fleur-de-lis. She inherited this piece from my great-grandmother. It represents our French Canadian heritage and our family’s migration from French Canada to Maine many years ago.

  3. I have a short memory of my maternal grandmother, just being 4 years old when she passed, but I have some fancy needlework pieces she made and a beautiful hair wreath. She was 17 years old when she made the wreath (1894) using hair collected from relatives, twisting it around a fine wire then shaping flowers and vines which were mounted on a satin background and boxed in a glass-covered frame. It is truly a museum piece and hangs in a special place in our family room.

  4. Phyllis, what a treasure!! I have postcards my dad sent my mother from France but they are nothing like these. I too, wonder about where your grandfather got them and the story behind them!! Here is one of my favorite grandfather stories. When we were young children and would go to visit our paternal grandparents, we drove down a little country road to get to their house. There was a tree on the side of the road that was shaped like a horse’s back and we made a game of shouting “That’s my horsey” as we passed it. Our parents made our picture sitting on it once. Years later, when we were both young marrieds, we decided to have out picture made on it again for our parents as a Christmas present. ( As we have done most of our lives and still do to this day, on many occasions, we showed up in the same outfit.) When our mother showed the Christmas picture to her father, he told her that he was responsible for the tree being shaped like that. That as a child he had played with our other grandfather, and together they had tied the young sapling tree down someway and it grew into that shape. All those years that we played on that tree, and we had never known that!

  5. My grandfather came to America from Genoa, Italy. He landed at Ellis Island
    and worked very hard to be able to send for my grandmother to join him.
    I loved my grandfather very much and he loved me. Part of my growing up years were living in his brownstone house in Brooklyn, N. Y.
    He loved America so very very much and instilled in me my love for our country.
    He was a Chef in NYC at some of the big hotels and could he cook. and my
    grandmother was a wonderful cook also.
    He passed on many years ago but all that he taught me I still remember and it was all good.
    In loving memory of you grandpa your grand-daughter Lucia Maria.

  6. I am visiting my parents this weekend in New York and we always “go through things” on these visits. Today we went through an old cedar chest and lo and behold I came across the same type of embroidered postcards shown in your picture. My grandfather had sent them to my grandmother while he was in France in 1918 shortly after Armistice Day. I was delighted to find these little treasures.

  7. What a beautiful story.All of my grandparents were gone when I was born.I do have my grandmother’s crazy quilt and my grandfather’s mustache coffee cup.I also have my mother’s doll.She is about 100 yrs old.

  8. Such great treasures you have from your grandfather, Phyllis. I never knew my maternal grandmother because she died when my Mother was 4. Her sisters shared many memories of her with both my Mother & myself. She had many talents & sewing was one of them. I still have the handsewn baby cap that she made for my Mother. The stiches that hold all of the lace together are so tiny & intricate. I sometimes look at it & wonder about the Grandmother I never knew.

  9. What a timely entry. My beloved grandfather passed away last night, and I have been speaking of treasured memories of him with my husband, and looking around my home seeing the beautiful items he made for me – a wooden shadow box for my little treasures, a toy chest from my childhood now used by my own son are among them. Though he is passed from this earth, he lives on in the tangible and intangible.

    1. Jennifer,

      Many condolences on the passing of your grandfather. I am so glad you have special memories of him. Have a lovely day.

      Suzanne

  10. My Grandmother had a collection of postcards that I was allowed to look through on rare occasions. Beautiful cards, some die cut lace, some heavily embossed, some foiled, from the late 19th-early 20th century. Many, many were from my Grandfather and were signed with his initials HFC. They were written to “Dear Sally” which always puzzled me because Grandma’s name was Nora, but I was too embarrassed to ask why Grandma kept postcards sent to some “other” woman. After Grandma died and Mom gave me the box of postcards, I asked her what she knew about those cards to Sally. She told me Sally was my Grandfather’s nickname for Grandma. I also found out that day that I’m named after my Grandmother, but my name is not Nora.

  11. What a wonderful gift you have with those lovely post cards. My mother was adamant about writing highly detail information on the backs of family pictures, no matter how insignificant the pose; even silly little shots at the beach. Now, years later, we greatly appreciate the time and effort she took to leave a bit of “history” if you will, of our family tree.

    1. Hello Susan , I agree , all of these notes are priceless memories …
      beautiful for sharing – made possible by Phyllis .
      I must ask … do you live in Maryland ?

  12. Phyllis this is my favorite story you’ve written so far. Your extraordinary cards are a treasure. So many things go into making us the people we become. You had wonderful parents and grandparents. God gave you the gift of sharing special stories in a way that stir memories in our hearts. I am very grateful to have my Grandmother’s well worn Bible. By hand she wrote the history of our family covering many generations with personal comments about each person. She was the finest Christian I’ve ever known. My grandfather died of pneumonia in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression leaving Granny with 5 little children to raise alone. She bought a beautiful Victorian home and opened a boarding house. During World War II she led the parachute department for the Air Force. She told her workers to make each one as if it would be the only one as it perhaps would save a soldier’s life. She built apartments for the young military couples when women weren’t doing that. She was loved and respected by all. You and I are blessed with your gorgeous cards, Granny’s priceless Bible, and an amazing heritage.

  13. My maternal Grandmother,born and raised in Honolulu, was an excellent seamstress – she attended an “all girls school” in Hawaii to learn the art of sewing.
    When I was 4 yrs old (I am now 61), she presented me with a lovely gift:
    A baby cradle,a baby doll, hand sewn clothing for my doll and a baby doll cover . Although most of these these things exist only in my memory, I still have the cover in perfect condition . A small “blanket” made of ivory dotted
    swiss,lace trimmed – in the center is the sweetest lamb standing in flowers,embroidered in pink and blue . It warms my heart and I feel my Grandmother’s love each time I see these tiny stitches that were designed for me . The little lamb graces the back of the chair in a guest room now.
    Several years ago , one of our guests had accidentally packed my little lamb into his suitcase bound for Florida . Thankfully , she was sent back to me via priority mail !
    She will always be treasured in honor of my dear Grandmother .

    1. I love wonderful stories of cherished handmade things. i think every Grandmother must have sewn or stitched needlework. I know mine did and I wish more women today did handwork.

  14. While searching for something, I recently cleaned out the drawers of two chests that I really hadn’t explored since I brought them home twenty years ago, when my mother died. I found some amazing things; my great-grandmother’s matelassé petticoat, a child’s embroidered wool petticoat, a quilted bonnet from the mid-1800s, a finely-embroidered, lace-trimmed lawn baby’s bonnet — were among the “finds”. And you are right; if I’d only been able to ask the questions. But just holding and smoothing them on my lap brings me a sense of connection and tradition.

  15. Wonderful memories! I too spent may hours on my grand parents farm. Eating tomatoes in the garden with a salt shaker! I learned how to gather eggs,churn butter and make fried peach pies…. I played outside all day with cousins,sat down to a wonderful meal from the garden and heard ghost stories from my grandmother till we feel asleep…….I even learned to sew one summer on the farm,our rainy day activity! I will always treasure these memories of my grandparents. Diane Cook

  16. What a wonderful keepsake and memory. I lived upstairs from my Moms parents and it was such a treat. My grandfather was a farmer too with a wonderful vegetable garden–where you ask?–why in Brooklyn New York.

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