My sisters and I were in charge of the West family reunion this year. With the onset of COVID-19, we hemmed and hawed, we waited and debated, and, after discussions amongst ourselves and with other family members, decided yes, we’ll do this.
However, as we’ve all become acutely aware, the virus situation in some areas of the country has gone from sort of bad to pretty bad to really bad. There are family members who would have to travel for this event—how safe would that be for them and for us? More discussions, then the decision that yes, we should postpone this gathering until next year.
In anticipation of the reunion, I had been (again/still) going through family “stuff” to share with unsuspecting cousins. My goal was to re-home some postcards (read “Wouldn’t you like to have this, because I really don’t know what to do with it …”).
A hundred-plus years ago, people communicated with words on paper — most often words that were spelled correctly, arranged in coherent, grammatically correct sentences and punctuated properly. But we’re living in time when the president of these United States communicates to citizens of this country, and to the rest of the world, in Tweets with random and incorrect capitalizations, excessive exclamation points and a decided deficiency in coherency.
But these postcards are tangible glimpses into the past, my past, and I love them and what they represent. There are dozens of them. My grandfather, Fred West, was a traveler prior to marrying my grandmother, Della Ludington. I don’t know the particulars of their pre-nuptial relationship, but he sent her lots of postcards from all kinds of places — some as close as Elmira and Keuka Lake, some as far as Nebraska and Washington state.
Other friends and family members kept in touch via the U.S. Mail as well. Someone named “Lillian” sent my grandmother a postcard from Keeneyville. There are cards from Knoxville, Coudersport, Mansfield and Williamsport. One shows Main Street, Tioga, circa 1907, and the writer (I can’t read the signature) is telling Grandma that she (could have been a he, I guess) is having a “fine time” in Tioga, and that “I believe you owe me a letter.”
The cards themselves are beautiful. Some are colorful and embossed, trimmed with sparkles and funny sayings. Others have photographs — one shows a bleak Slate Run, with an almost-bare mountain in the background and stacks and stacks of lumber in the foreground.
The addresses were often sketchy — many of the cards to my grandmother were addressed simply to “Della Ludington, Tiadaghton, Pa.” Sometimes there was an “RD#1,” sometimes not. The postcards to my grandfather on his travels often had just his name, a city and state, and sometimes an “in care of” with the name of a local person or place. But, they were delivered.
The Post Office then, and the Post Office now, seems to do a pretty good job of getting the job done, and that job could include voting by mail. There are states that already conduct their voting almost exclusively by mail, though in-person voting remains an option, and most states will provide a mail-in ballot for those who request one (you might have to provide a reason that you can’t go to the polls).
We hear stories of people in other countries who face life-threatening obstacles to voting, yet they vote anyway. We’ve got it easy by comparison, but with COVID-19 a continuing threat, it is understandable that people at risk might not want to stand in line to vote.
So, I would be interested to know why mail-in voting could not be an option for eligible voters in all states. I can’t imagine the Post Office is not up to the task. I think you could get all the information you need about mail-in voting in Pennsylvania from the county Voter Registration Office at 570-723-8230.
It may be that the era of one-day, in-person-only, voting is on its way out. That leaves me wondering why all federal, state and local legislators aren’t interested in exploring honestly why certain Americans are disenfranchised, wondering why they may not want to help as many Americans as possible participate in our democracy, and then wondering why it’s not a priority to make sure every eligible voter can cast his or her vote safely and conveniently.
Maybe a postcard blitz is in order.