Dear Pen Pal, how are you? Letter writing, romance, and life-long bonds

Receiving a handwritten letter might be rare these days, but for past generations of young people, getting a pen pal was part of growing up.

Wendy Jones, who lives in Brisbane, started writing to her pen pal, Anna, when she was 11.

“My dad always had a thing about World Expos, so when it came to Brisbane in 1988 he bought a family pass for us,” Wendy says.

Thousands of people gather at Expo 88
Expo 88 opening day crowds at Riverstage in Brisbane on April 30, 1988.(Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

While waiting in a line, Wendy noticed a machine that was offering to match people up with an international pen pal.

“It asked your name, age group, and hobbies, and then the machine spat out a card promising to connect you with someone else also looking for a pen pal,” she says.

At the time, Anna and Wendy shared a love of collecting novelty erasers so this could have been the key to their pairing.

A bit of background here: this tradition Wendy is describing started at the New York World Fair in 1964.

The Parker Pen pavilion offered a similar automated pen pal matching service.

A postcard from New York's World Fair in 1964.
The Parker Pen pavilion was a popular exhibit at the New York World Fair, which connected pen pals from all over the world.(Flickr: Joe Haupt)

Even further back, the first pen pal organisation opened in 1936 and was called the Student Letter Exchange.

Its founder was a teacher who decided that young people writing letters to students from other countries could stimulate better understanding between cultures.

A few years earlier, in 1931, the term “pen pal” entered the Oxford Dictionary.

Old letters between pen pals
A stack of letters sent over the years from Wendy to Anna.(Supplied: Wendy Jones)

“A few weeks later, I remember my Mum picking me up from school and there was a letter sitting on the dashboard of the car,” Wendy says.

It was from Anna, an 11-year-old girl who lived in the UK.

“For the first 20 years, it was handwritten letters and then we moved to email and Facebook messenger,” she says.

Two young women smiling to camera.
Wendy and Anna have been pen pals for 35 years and Anna’s family is considering a move to Brisbane.(Supplied: Wendy Jones)

In 2000, after 12 years of writing to each other, Wendy and Anna met for the first time in England.

“I couldn’t wait to hug her because, despite never meeting, we knew so much about each other,” she says.

Six decades and going strong

Source link

Tags: No tags

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *