I can feel the bile rise in my throat and my eyebrows grow gray and thick, Andy Rooney-style, as I type the following sentence:
Nobody writes letters any more.
It feels like such a bitter-old-man thing to say, like complaining about how no one appreciates Glenn Miller.
And it’s not entirely true. I suspect there are plenty of people out there who write at least the occasional letter, and a small handful — some of them younger than 80 — who still use hard-copy correspondence as their preferred method of staying in touch with the outside world.
(If vinyl records can make a comeback in the popular esteem, and photographic film can cling to a small but devoted fan base, good old-fashioned handwriting can’t be anywhere near finished. Only the increasing cost of the U.S. Postal Service stands in the way of a full-on comeback for handwritten letters. Just you watch.)
One of the advantages of handwritten correspondence is the quiet classiness of personalized stationery.
Have you ever seen an email sigfile that had the same elan as a piece of personalized stationery? Me neither.
A letter on personalized letterhead always looks like it came from a mansion; an email tailed with a personalized sigfile always looks like it came from a cubicle farm. (Unless the sigfile has an embedded image, like Snoopy, in which case it always looks like it came from an elementary school.)
I do not have any saved hard-copy correspondence from the “mansion” that was 1107 Hope Street, though it is possible that my parents or my aunt do.
I do not think I wrote to my grandparents often as a young child; and when I was 12 or so, they moved about 15 minutes away from my house, so there was no longer much reason to put pen to paper.
I’m pretty sure they had personalized stationery in the house back in the day, though, because I saw it on their calendar.
Friday, Oct. 6, saw plenty of activity at 1107 Hope St. There was a doctor’s appointment for the college-age daughter of the house; then a trip back to college for her; and in the meantime, a cake to bake for the non-driving member(s) of the family. (Did the cake go back to college, or was it for a church event? History sayeth not.)
But somebody took time during the day to order stationery from Brock Press in nearby Norwalk.
There’s no mention on the calendar of a trip there, so I’m guessing someone called — or maybe even wrote in — and perhaps renewed a standing order.
Brock Press is yet another of those ’60s and ’70s local businesses my grandparents patronized that don’t seem to be around any more. The most recent reference I can find online, not including obituaries, is a 1977-78 Norwalk city directory.
(I also found the online memoir of a man who apparently married the woman who inherited Brock Press. By his telling, the company is still around, but has passed through various mergers. The meat is in the last paragraph of this page. Feel free to read the rest if you want; it is juicier and jauntier than anything you will read on Hope Street.)
It would be nice to close this post with an example of a letter from my grandparents on their old stationery. But, as I mentioned, I don’t have any.
Which brings up a larger pondering: I wonder if anything my grandparents wrote exists outside the family.
Is there some company my grandparents did business with that still has its order in their files somewhere? Some now-deceased friend whose saved life’s-worth of correspondence now reposes undisturbed in a grandson’s basement?
I’d say probably not. All that stationery my grandparents ordered probably sits — crumpled, mustard-stained, yet remarkably intact — in landfills between Bangor and Buffalo.
Not everything is meant to last forever, though. And while the stationery was around, it did the job it was intended to do.
Certainly, it looked classier than anybody’s sigfile.