A long, long time ago … or at least that’s what it feels like … I picked up two boxes of old postcards when I was in France at a car boot sale (well, the equivalent). I am not a deltiologist by any means, but upon opening one of the boxes I found an old identity card and a lot of old family photos. Perhaps I was feeling particularly sentimental that day but I hated the thought of these going to someone who didn’t care about these people, or who wouldn’t respect that these represented somebody’s life.
It then became apparent that a lot of the postcards were written by a French soldier called Louis to someone called Amelie, who would later become his wife. Then there were later ones sent from Louis to his child Louise (chère Louisette). There are cards from uncles, aunts, cousins and godparents – and a number of people whose relationship was so well known that it was never written down – even a card to Amelie from “little Amelie”.
Eventually I was able to piece together that the soldier was Louis Beranger, and the young lady who became his wife was Amelie Doublié.
The collection of cards starts in 1901 and the last date I can find is 1975, and is not limited to those addressed to Louise or her parents.
I’m not an expert in dating photographs – least of all French photographs, but looking at Louise’s date of birth (1912), I would imagine that the oldest photographs depict her grandparents, or perhaps even great-grandparents. Unfortunately none of them are named, and the only few with dates on are clearly of Louise as a mature woman, and dated to the 1950s.
You may be wondering why, other than curiosity, I’m sharing all of this with you. And you’d be right to ask.
Amongst the postcards are various ones for Easter, May Day and “Thinking Of You” as well as the standard ones of towns and villages, ‘local’ attractions and the like. But there are also various “Happy New Year” ones. It might be worthy of note that in France the sending of Christmas cards was something unheard of until the last few years and the ever-encroaching Americanisation of the country. The standard was sending Bonne Année cards to friends and loved ones. The sending of what we’d call greetings cards is also a rather ‘new’ convention – traditionally it was all postcards. Even now the nicer cards are all in postcard format – with a folded greetings card often appearing, uh, cheap or tawdry, or aimed at small children.
So, yes, in the upcoming weeks between now, Christmas and New Year, I’ll be sharing some of these cards. The earliest dates from 31 December 1910, and the latest is from December 1921.