Listening to Postcards

As detailed in an earlier blog, one of the collections that is being digitised and catalogued thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding is the personal collection of a family who used to live in Huyton and was deposited by a member of the family who had been born in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of war. Luckily for us, she was an habitual hoarder – keeping correspondence between herself, family members and friends, as well as various other family-related items. Included amongst the family’s business and personal documents are some fantastic postcards sent and received from the First World War through to the Second World War. My earlier post on this collection described how powerful and insightful these are and how they provide a fascinating glimpse into the relationships family members had with each other and their wider friendship and community networks. The combination of image and words that postcards bring together has a wonderful way of evoking voices, allowing us a rare opportunity to listen to the past.

Now that the digitisation and cataloguing of the postcards have been completed, we decided to put up a small display of duplicates, with labels providing interesting contextual information.

girl holding dog postcard 1918

Postcard from 1918 showing a young girl holding a dog

Four of the postcards are part of a chain between a father who was serving in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and his young daughter (whose personal collection all of the items in the display come from). As described in an earlier post (‘Postcards from the Past’), the pair used to enjoy trying to outdo each other with cards that made them laugh or they found particularly cute – usually meaning pictures of little girls or sweet animals or, even more ideal, animals and children together!

Also from the First World War period, we have two cards that portray the devastation wrought by battle in Europe. Postcards with images of bombed ruins in France were popular towards the end of the First World War with British soldiers sending word home or to be purchased as a souvenir of the war. The postcard of Peronne we have selected (below, top) is one of several in this collection that was not sent to anyone, but brought back to England as, presumably, a memento. As ever, humorous cards were very popular to send home and our other card of war damage (below, bottom) provides a brilliantly incongruous image of a British soldier taking a nap on a bed amongst the ruins.

the little house postcard 1917

‘The Little House,’ Peronne, 1917

Tommy sleeping in the ruins postcard 1917

‘A Tommy Does A Sleep Amongst the Ruins,’ 1917

The postcards we have selected from the inter-war years reflect the social life of our depositor as she became a young woman who was lucky enough to travel across the country and visit parts of mainland Europe. From 1928, her elder sister, sends a beautiful image of the Blackpool Illuminations back home to her then-teenage sister, a reminder of both the long history of the Illuminations and the popularity of Blackpool as a short break destination for residents of Merseyside and the surrounding areas.

blackpool illuminations front

The Blackpool Illuminations, 1928

Our young woman’s correspondents during the 1930s include a German man who would send her postcards in English, French and German. Amongst these are two postcards of great historical significance. The first (below, top), from April 1938 and written in English with an image of Semmering, Austria, was sent from Vienna, Austria, shortly after Adolf Hitler had annexed the country and paraded triumphantly through the city. The sender uses apostrophes when writing how ‘happy’ his friends are to see Hitler there, possibly indicating that they were exactly the opposite. The second (below, bottom) has an image of the Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesberg, Germany, and was sent on 22nd September 1938. The German text contains references to Hitler and the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as it was written and sent whilst historic meetings were taking place at the hotel between the pair that would, with hindsight, bring the Second World War one step closer.

postcard Semmering Polleroswand 1938

Semmering, Austria, 1938

bad godesberg front

Rheinhotel Dreesen, Bad Godesberg, 1938

The mini-exhibition of postcards can be viewed at Kirkby Library, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays: 10am – 5pm; Thursdays and Saturdays: 10am – 1pm. For any more information about the collection or to view the originals, please contact Knowsley Archives.

Christmas Delights!

Christmas trees are being decorated, cards are being sent, and the sales of Baileys are suddenly soaring. Not wanting to be the humbugs hiding in the archive, we’ve decided to put together a small display in Kirkby Library of Christmas related documents from our collections.

christmas robins postcard front

Some uncomfortable looking Christmas robins

Included in the exhibition are four Christmas cards, all from during, or shortly after, the First World War. The earliest of these is a card sent by a man serving in the Royal Flying Corps to his daughter back home in Huyton. The straight-forward monochrome design of the card, featuring an image of fighter planes circling that must have intrigued the young girl when she opened the card, contrasts with a more saccharine image of three robins sent shortly after the end of the war in 1918; although the fact that the robins appear to be stuck within a parcel filled with jagged holly leaves does add a peculiar note to the picture. The third card is one that incorporates a strangely blurred image of a cottage surrounded by a decidedly un-Christmassy summer garden. The nature of the blurring is reminiscent of 3D pictures, but could be the result of some kind of production error. Either way, a father at some point, probably in the 1920s, selected the card to send to one of his children. The fourth card is a Christmas message sent from the Huyton Vicarage in 1949 with the “heartiest” greetings from the Rev. W.H. Lewis and his wife and would probably have been received by many Huyton residents at the time.

Huyton’s Parish Magazine was keen to share some household tips with its female readers in 1959. Alongside recipes (Chunky Cake, anyone?) on the page we have scanned for display, readers could also learn how to remove soot fall from carpets (presumably after Father Christmas had dropped down a tight chimney); solve the “problem” of toddler’s shoe laces; and discover how to stop pans boiling over (smear the top edges with butter apparently*). There were also some “Christmas Specials;” and if you’ve ever wanted to add “glamour” to your Christmas parcels then you need to read this!**

cross typed xmas message crop

A high-tech Christmas message from Cross International

The offices and factory of Cross International in Kirkby were very keen on Christmas in the 1970s and our exhibition features three documents telling the story of their Christmas celebrations in 1971. As well as a photograph showing the children of staff members working their way through mountains of cake and wearing novelty hats at a party, we’ve offered a taste of what their parents were up to with the menu for their impressive looking Christmas Dinner Dance (if anyone’s ever had Cranberry Peach Boats, we’d love to know more). Cross International were a cutting edge company and they knew how to show off to colleagues and fellow companies across the globe. Why send a boring old Christmas card (that was so 1960s) when you can send a state of the art message where the very letters of the words are made up entirely of the word ‘Cross’? It’s a wonderful document that hints at the excitement that new, rapidly-evolving electronic technology offered, as well as the confidence of an international business.

School logbooks can make fascinating reading, providing a revealing insight into the daily troubles, successes and challenges of school life. For this Christmas themed exhibition, we’ve included copies of two pages from the logbook of Whiston County Infants School. The first is from the Christmas period of 1938-39 and, as well as notes on the impact of snow fall (“attendance 52%”) in the New Year, it records that children were sent home for the Christmas break with milk vouchers. The second page, from 1953-54, features, alongside an alarming number of staff illnesses, an entry regarding the Christmas party to which, we can all be reassured to know, “Father Christmas arrived in good time.” Knowing Santa’s usual method of arrival, we’ll have to hope that school staff were already aware of how to remove soot fall from carpets, as it would be another few years before the Huyton magazine published that gem.

The exhibition will remain up at Kirkby Library until at least the 8th of January 2016. The library’s opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, Friday: 10am-5pm; Thursday and Saturday: 10am-1pm. The library is closed all day on Wednesdays. During the Christmas period, the Library is closed from the 23rd December 2015 until the 4th January 2016, with the exception of Tuesday 29th December, when it is open as normal.

*If someone gets the chance to test this, please report back with results!

**For those of you too far away to visit Kirkby, its all to do with ribbons saved from chocolate boxes…