Cottonwood Falls

Messages from the past part of postcard charm

While often banal, once in a while, you find a postcard message that gives you insight into the era it was written.



Part of an ongoing series about West Kootenay collectibles.

Postcard collecting appeals to different people for different reasons.

Most deltiologists (the pretentious name for postcard collectors) are after what’s on the front of the card, be it a specific town or theme. But there are other interesting things to watch for: the stamps, postal cancellations — and messages.

While often banal, once in a while, you find a gem that gives you insight into the era it was written or a fleeting glimpse of someone’s life.

Here are some examples that recently sold on eBay for a few dollars each.

On an undated but ca. 1910s card showing Nelson’s Cottonwood canyon:

“We passed so many beautiful waterfalls. Went out kodaking here and got some dandies. But we all notice the altitude so. It is 8,000 ft. elevation and so hard breathing. I can hardly sing. Have just finished another lovely stage dress. It is a nile green accordian plaited with white shadow lace and pink beads. Very pretty for dancing. Our dances are going big everywhere especially the Hesitation.”

So both an instance of the obscure word kodaking — as in picture taking — and a reference to the hesitation waltz, in which dancers suspend a foot in the air during the full waltz measure. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

Another card showing a man in front of Cottonwood Falls in winter was postmarked Nelson, April 25, 1909 and mailed to Miss Mary Davies, 743 Greenwood, Portland, Oregon. It read:

“Dear Mary, I rather like here (as much as it is possible for a Kasloite to like Nelson) and am in no great hurry to go. The falls shown are nothing to our own Powder Falls. DHB” (Powder Falls are across Kootenay Lake from Kaslo.)

A card showing a bird’s-eye-view of Trail mailed in December 1907 to Miss M. Bullery of Surrey Centre, struck an ominous tone: “Am worried to death. Am trying to get something for closing exercises. L.W.” A teacher seeking inspiration?

Finally, an unmailed but ca. 1910s card showing the stairs from downtown Trail to the smelter (with original capitalization, spelling, and grammar) reads:

“This is the steps that goes up to the Smelter Junction. There is a depot up there. 2 of the trains come down town and the other stops up there. There is 290 steps on the picture. Where you see the Telephone Pole and Electric Light is just 1/2 of the way up. Where the Pole is is where the wagon road goes up to the Hill. I wish you could see the roads winding up the Mt. It looks a little fishy untill one gets used to it. The first time I climbed those steps I was Dizzy and Darned near Petered out to.”

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on June 7.

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