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Rhode Island Post Card Club—50th Anniversary
Reminiscences of the Early Days
Article by Peter F. Meggison #333 (1964)
Copyright 2009, Used With Permission
In tracing the early days of the Rhode Island Post Card Club (RIPCC), it’s necessary to go back to an even earlier time when post card clubs were in their infancy. The Post Card Collectors Club of America was founded by Albert Wood in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1934. In the first issue of this club’s publication, The Post Card Gazette, issued in June-July, 1940, the need for the club was stated thus: “we saw the need of a clearing house through which collectors of post cards could obtain the names and addresses of other reliable collectors and where they could obtain sets of cards, odd views, and in time establish values for their cards. These objectives are gradually being realized. “ Interestingly, Member No. 1 of this club was William Leinhos of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Within a few years, Bob Hendricks of Los Angeles brought the hobby a step forward by initiating a new publication for post card collectors, Post Card Collectors Magazine. The first issue appeared in December 1943. Like the Post Card Gazette, this publication served as a vehicle for post card collectors to meet other collectors with whom they could exchange post cards through the mail. By 1946, the publication had over 1000 subscribers.
In 1946, Mr. Wood turned over activities of the Post Card Collectors Club of America to two young disabled World War II veterans, C. Ray Mitchell and Bob Miller of Kansas City. This event was reported in newspapers throughout the country.
By 1947, though, it was necessary to move the Post Card Collectors Club of America from Kansas City to Los Angeles, with Bob Hendricks serving as President and Editor. The hobby was growing by leaps and bounds in the years immediately following World War II, and 2500 copies of the July 1947 Post Card Gazette were distributed. Two separate publications continued for a short time; but in July 1948, the publications merged to form the Post Card Collectors Magazine and Gazette. The word gazette was dropped in 1950. Throughout the 1950s, most American post card collectors belonged to this club; unfortunately, the club ceased to exist in 1959. Our own Don Brown, founder of the Institute of American Deltiology in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, who is with us today to celebrate this festive occasion, was featured in an article in the April-June 1948 Post Card Gazette entitled, “The Younger Set in Myerstown.”
During the post-Word War II days, the Post Card Collectors Club of America encouraged the formation of local clubs, known as “chapters” of the parent organization. By 1948, 17 of these “local” post card clubs had been formed, and many more were established in the 1950s. The Metropolitan (Metro) Post Card Club of New York City was formed in 1946, the Southern California Club in Los Angeles in 1947, the Windy City Club in Chicago in 1948, the Bay State Club in Massachusetts in 1949, the Connecticut and Wolverine (Detroit) Clubs in 1954, and the Rhode Island Post Card Club in 1958. In time, most of these clubs would become national in scope as they developed their own club bulletins.
So this brings us to May 25, 1958, and the founding of the Rhode Island Post Card Club at the home of Mrs. Ethel Patt in Barrington with 16 Charter Members: 13 from Rhode Island and 3 from Massachusetts. Mrs. Patt became the first honorary life member shortly after the club’s founding; her husband Edwin was honorary member #2. John Rose (Charter Member #3) was the club’s President for the first two years. He was the last of the 16 Charter Members to survive, and there are many present today who will remember John. For 1958 and 1959, there was a club newsletter--but not the “What Cheer News,” with which we are familiar. It was “dittoed” (purple) copy—probably familiar to you from your school days. During 1958, eight meetings of the club were held. Dues were 50 cents for the year and were raised to $1 a year in January 1959. For new members, there was an additional 10 cents charged for an address plate—remember those? They were used in conjunction with an Addressograph Machine.
By December 1958, 69 collectors had joined the Rhode Island Post Card Club! Fifty more collectors joined in 1959; and by the club’s secondary anniversary, in May 1960, there were 162 members. During the early years, the club met at the Audubon Society, 40 Bowen Street, in Providence. In May 1961, the club moved its meeting place to the Providence Preservation Society, 24 Meeting Street. After meeting here for several years, the club outgrew this facility and in January 1968 moved its meeting location to the American Legion Post on Elmwood Avenue, Providence, where it continued to meet for many years.
The early RIPCC publications were edited by Mrs. Ethel Burton Quincy, member #56. Mrs. Quincy was President of the Pioneer Post Card Club of Tulsa, Oklahoma; and when she returned to her native Rhode Island in the summer of 1958, she quickly became active in the Rhode Island Post Card Club. Mrs. Quincy was very knowledgeable about the workings of post card clubs; she was also an avid button (clothing) collector and was often a judge at conventions of the National Button Collectors’ Club.
Our club’s first official bulletin, “What Cheer News,” was issued in January 1960. For 1960 and 1961, the publication was mimeographed. Mrs. Quincy served as “editor-in-chief,” a position she held until 1970. Mrs. Quincy was now also the club’s president, a position she held until 1971; and her husband Earl, member #55, was the club’s treasurer. The first issue included a letter from John Rose, our first president, as well as a letter from Rhode Island Governor Christopher Del Sesto. Since the bulletin was now being published monthly, except for July and August, RIPCC became a “national” club, rather than strictly a “local” club. One of the early non-local members was Gene Tallmadge of Seattle, Washington. I knew Gene from the Wolverine Post Card Club of Detroit, and we traded cards continually from 1965 until his death in 2003. In 1991 my wife and I had the opportunity to visit with him and to see his fantastic post card hobby room in Seattle.
January 1962 saw a new face for “What Cheer News.” The publication was now photo-offset, the only post card club in America that was using this process at the time. Thus, the bulletin could now be illustrated with reproductions of post cards. The bulletin was, for many years, the absolute best of the American post card clubs in terms of content and quality—and all of this is attributable to Mrs. Quincy. In 1964 Steve and Kay Staruch of New Jersey established an independent post card publication known as “The Post Card Traveler.” A year later they started an awards program which included an award for the “best” club in the country. I nominated RIPCC for this award, which the club received! (More information about this award is found at the end of this article.)
You may wonder how I got involved with the RIPCC at such a young age. In 1963, while I was in the eighth grade, I would often visit the main library in New Bedford after school, which was close to the grammar school I attended. One day I noticed a copy of “Hobbies” magazine in the reading room; and as I was running through it, I saw an ad for the Windy City Post Card Club of Chicago. I wanted to join the club since I was eager to learn more about the post card hobby; however, dues were $2.50 a year, which was quite a lot for a 13-year old 45 years ago! Finally, I saved up enough money and joined. When the Windy City roster arrived, I wrote to about ten collectors asking if they would exchange post cards with me. I offered to send New Bedford cards in exchange.
One of the collectors to whom I wrote was Mrs. Yvonne M. Laffan (Charter Member #7) of Manville, Rhode Island. She immediately wrote back saying that she had all the New Bedford cards available as her sister, Mrs. Simonne Berard (Charter Member #16), lived in New Bedford and would obtain them for her. She encouraged me to get in touch with Mrs. Berard, which I immediately did. As luck would have it, Mrs. Berard lived only two blocks away from me—about a two minutes’ walk. Mrs. Berard and I became instant friends and remained so until her death 20 years ago. Once I received my driver’s license, Mrs. Berard and I would go on post card buying sprees three or four times a year throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As adults, we tend to blame others for our shortcomings…our faults. I guess it’s just a human characteristic. Well, if I’m a cardaholic today, to use a term I think Evelyn Marshall coined, Mrs. Berard is to blame!
Mrs. Laffan also invited me to join RIPCC and sent me an application for membership. I joined in early 1964 and was assigned membership #333. As a person joined the club, he/she was assigned a sequential membership number, a practice that was discontinued in the early 1980s. I attended my first meeting in March 1964, and I remember that day vividly! Since I was only 14, my father drove me to the meeting. Route 195 was not yet complete between Providence and New Bedford, so it was a long, tedious drive. As I entered the second-floor room at the Providence Preservation Society, the club President, Mrs. Quincy, immediately came over to me. She was absolutely delighted that a young person was interested in collecting post cards and had joined the club. Being the perfect host which she was, Mrs. Quincy, holding my hand, brought me around to the dealers who were set up around the room and introduced me. There were two speakers on the program that day: Bill Crane was speaking on hold-to-light post cards, and Frank Tamits was speaking on German Passion Play post cards. In between time, Mrs. Quincy managed to go out to the parking lot to check on my father who was perfectly content reading the Sunday paper in his car! She escorted him up to the meeting room and ensured that he had coffee and other “goodies” for the then-long trip back to New Bedford. Years later, my father would inquire about Mrs. Quincy and recall her congeniality.
Mrs. Quincy’s warmth was evident from the moment you met her. She believed—and enforced—the club’s chief bylaw: that the Rhode Island Post Card Club was to be—first and foremost—EDUCATIONAL. This was certainly reflected in the quality of the bulletins and the caliber of the programs when Mrs. Quincy was at the helm. Another component of the bylaws that was evident in the early days of the club—and still is—was to promote enjoyment and friendship among post card collectors. Even though Mrs. Quincy felt that club meetings were a social event, she feared that the club, over time, would be reduced to a mere flea market-type atmosphere. Fortunately, her fears never materialized.
Mrs. Quincy was a person who would really make one feel welcomed! When I was in high school, I would come home and often there would be an envelope with some cards in it from Mrs. Quincy. The note enclosed, signed “EBQ” in Mrs. Quincy’s beautiful handwriting, would state that the cards were part of some special set that she felt I should know about, were of some topics she knew I collected, or would be interesting in some other way. This shows the type of person Mrs. Quincy was: very tiny in stature—under 5 feet and weighing less than 100 pounds—but unmatched in character, drive, and competence. To use today’s terminology, we would say that Mrs. Quincy was a “people person.” Today we have with us another long-time member who has traveled from Florida to celebrate our 50th anniversary and that is Mrs. Quincy’s daughter, Phyllis Ansell. Let’s recognize her!
The first exhibit of the RIPCC was held at the Crown Hotel in Providence on October 27, 1963. I attended my first exhibit in 1964 at the same location. Since it was a presidential campaign year, there was a patriotic theme to the exhibit. On the stage were political campaign signs for the two candidates, Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Also on stage were panels of post cards from the 1908 and 1912 presidential campaigns, undoubtedly from the collection of Earl Quincy. Another annual event was the club picnic, usually held the last Sunday in June, at the home of Mrs. Dell Davis in Foster. My mother and father dropped me off for the event in 1965; and when they returned to pick me up, they told me that they had visited the “Brooklyn Bridge”—in Connecticut!
Since I belonged to several other post card clubs in addition to the Rhode Island Post Card Club in the 1960s, I was able to recruit quite a few members for RIPCC! In fact, in 1965 I won the prize for obtaining the most new members for the year—a set of three plastic sleeves that could be attached to a wall or other surface and that would exhibit 20 post cards. I still have them! In the January 1966 “What Cheer News” Mrs. Quincy wrote: “At the December Christmas party, a special award was given to our youthful member, Peter Meggison #333, New Bedford, Mass. He did a marvelous job in obtaining 10 new members for 1965. Al Miller was next in line with 8 or 9. Good work, boys! Peter is a fine collector and very much interested in all types of cards. You will hear more from him later as he has cards he desires to know about.” Many of you will remember Al Miller and his wife Anne Miller Crane, who was backbone of the Bay State Post Card Club for many years.
Being from New Bedford, one of my main post card collecting interests has always been post cards of New Bedford and vicinity. In early 1964, I placed an ad in “Collectors’ News,” a tabloid-type publication, stating that I was interested in buying New Bedford-area cards. Three RIPCC members responded to my ad from whom I purchased many cards: Mrs. Anna Marks of Armistice Boulevard, Pawtucket; Clyde King of Broad Street, Providence; and Miss Mildred “Millie” Santille, proprietor of “Fortunate Finds,” in Pontiac. Mrs. Marks had a relative in New Bedford whom she would visit each week. I would often meet her on Water Street, an area close to where I lived where there were many “second-hand” shops, as she would bring cards for me to look over to purchase while she was touring the second-hand shops. The Water Street shops no longer exist since urban renewal of the early 1970s. Mrs. Marks once told me that she had “barrels” of New Bedford cards.
Post cards at the time were very inexpensive. At club meetings, cards were stored in shoeboxes and most were priced at 1 or 2 cents each. Rare cards were 5 or 10 cents each, while extremely scarce ones, such as hold-to-lights, may have sold for 25 cents each. Post card sleeves and specialized archival-quality albums did not come into usage until the 1970s. Collecting interests were somewhat different in those days also. There was much more interest in publishers (Tuck, Detroit, Mitchell) and signed artists (Clapsaddle, Brundage, Klein, Winsch, etc.). Historic topics were also very popular as were churches, court houses, large letters, post offices, and royalty. Expositions, railroad, and hold-to-light cards were very desirable. There was not too much interest in local views while linen advertising cards and real-photo cards were considered JUNK! At all of the club meetings there was a “penny table.” Members would bring in cards they were no longer interested in and place them on a table. Other members would go through them and purchase what they wanted for a penny per card. It was an honor system with a strong box in which the buyer would place his/her cents for the treasures obtained! Funds obtained in this way were deposited into the club’s treasury.
The program of the club meetings in the early days was always interesting and educational. These are some of the speakers and their topics in the 1960s: Mrs. Alice Kahler (Charter Member #5 and aunt of Lynn Gaulin), historic Rhode Island through post cards; Mrs. Virginia Hughes and Mrs. Almira Hillman, historic New Bedford; Mrs. Yvonne Laffan, religious shrines; Winfred Grandy, expositions; Robert Diehl, Winsch; Mrs. Hope Bromley, Souvenir Post Card Company of New York; Mrs. Ethel Quincy, Rhode Island Publishers; and Edward Rohrlack, president of the Metropolitan Post Card Club, who spoke on Raphael Tuck cards.
One of the most frequent speakers at club meetings from the very early days and continuing for many years was the well-known post card researcher, Mrs. Elizabeth Austin of Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Mrs. Austin achieved national prominence for her extensive research and compilation of checklists (many of which appeared in “What Cheer News”) of post cards of signed artists, such as Brundage and Clapsaddle, and publishers, such as Tuck and Langsdorf. Mrs. Austin also served the club as Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, and was editor of “What Cheer News” from 1970 to 1977. Mrs. Austin’s early research on post card publishers and signed artists formed the basis for research activities which continue to this day.
Another interesting program at one of the early meetings involved a “secret category” in which members brought in their favorite cards, which were then voted upon for prizes by those in attendance. The “secret category” was to represent something in a class not generally known or talked about. Some meetings were devoted to panel discussions of three selected members. Questions would be submitted in advance in writing about various post card topics, and the panel would respond to the questions.
There were many active members of RIPCC in the early days who worked diligently to make it a great club. Some of those I knew included Bill Lavoie (Charter Member #12) and his wife Ethel (Charter Member #8) of Providence and Lorina Benjamin (Charter Member #13) of Central Falls. Bill and Ethel would often pick up Mrs. Benjamin in Central Falls and then travel to Manville to pick up Mrs. Laffan for a day trip to obtain post cards. They all had very thick “Woonsocket” accents, if you know what I mean, since French was their native tongue. Bill did not really collect post cards but was the “official” coffee maker for the club for many years. Tragedy struck them in October 1964. The four of them were traveling for post cards around Mansfield and were involved in a serious two-car accident. Mrs. Lavoie was the most seriously injured and remained in the hospital for two months and died just before Christmas 1964. Mrs. Lavoie, Mrs. Laffan, and Mrs. Berard had all been members of the Post Card Collectors Club of America in the 1940s and 1950s and had amassed huge collections of post cards. They all found much joy in helping others collectors enhance their own collections.
Mrs. Rana Walker (Charter Member #6), the club’s first Vice President, I knew from the All States Hobby Club. This club was founded in 1948 by post card collectors; however, all hobby and collecting interests were represented in the club’s membership. This club held an annual convention at a different location and disbanded about 25 years ago. Mrs. Walker collected souvenir china and related collectibles. In the summer of 1967 I drove to her home in Warwick and purchased a wide assortment of souvenir items. I think that was my first time driving out of state!
Two other prominent members were John Webb (Charter Member #9) and his wife Madge (Charter Member #10) of Roslindale, Massachusetts. John was an exceptionally fine and fair dealer in all sorts of post cards. He would produce lists of cards that he had available for sale—both old and new—annually.
The Rhode Island Post Card Club continues to be one of the finest clubs of its type in America today and this is due not only to the early members I have mentioned but to many others who have devoted much time and effort to the workings of this post card club. Many of those people are here today, and we thank them for their untiring efforts on behalf of our great hobby of deltiology.
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