“Having a wonderful time…wish you were here!”
How many times has the letter carrier delivered a postcard mailed from some exotic location by a thoughtful friend, bearing that tantalizing message? Receiving an actual postcard is something that an Internet message just can’t duplicate—yet.
After reading the postcard’s inscription—hopefully it’s legible—and perhaps, rereading the message, how many times have you wistfully daydreamed about transporting yourself to one of those destinations: Niagara Falls, Williamsburg, Washington, D. C., The Grand Canyon?
If you’re lucky, there will also be one from Paradise!
A repro of one postcard in one postcard collector’s collection shows a tintype of Fay Fuller, the first woman who climbed Mt. Rainier –before Paradise lodge was built. It depicts the young Yelm, WA schoolteacher who made the ascent on Aug. 10, 1890, almost two decades before Paradise Inn was built.
Fay’s reflection about that escapade is inscribed on the reverse side of a 4 x 5 postcard, and her words are far more encouraging than the usual “Hi…” (See Fay’s message below.)
During more than four decades of postcard collecting, the art of which is officially known as “Deltiology,” the assortment of both domestic and international scenes have improved the surfaces of countless refrigerator doors.
A postcard, bearing the cancellation stamp of “Paradise,” however, is definitely memorable—and highly valued.
Those who are familiar with the Pacific Northwest know that the card hasn’t actually been sent from any heavenly kingdom—although, driving the ascending highway to the dormant, snow-capped volcano can feel as though you’re approaching the celestial kingdom.
Postcards in the newly refurbished gift shop at Paradise Inn feature a wide assortment of scenic vistas: plenty of choices for those “wish you were here” messages.
The custom of postcards came into vogue in the mid-19th century, with the first postcard being suggested in 1869 by Dr. Emanuel Herrmann. The first approved card was printed in 1870—produced in connection with the Franco-German War. The first advertising card was published in 1872.
The tradition of postcards as affordable souvenirs began in 1873 at the Interstate Industrial Expo in Chicago, with the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago as the second such postcard-sending occasion.
The 2009 centennial of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition featured repro Expo cards from Washington State; postcards were equally popular during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
The history of postcards makes for interesting reading, and by visiting one Internet site: www.shilohpostcards.com information seekers can learn more about that tradition. From view cards to historical cards, from linen stock and white border cards to photo-chrome cards, knowing about the different styles and origins make one’s hobby all the more interesting
Where post cards are mailed from is equally interesting:
There are several small, picturesque post offices around Mt. Rainier National Park, from Ashford and Elbe to Mineral and La Grande. Still, there’s something unique about seeing the name “Paradise” stamped on the card that conjures images of an out–of-this-world experience.
Conveniently located adjacent to the gift shop, the clerk staffing the weathered wood P.O. counter is a seasonal employee and not an official postal clerk, according to Pam Newlun, Mt. Rainier Guest Services manager.
The Paradise station provides basic services such as stamps and money orders. There are several convenient spots around the Inn for inscribing those summery messages, such as a nearby ledge; or sitting at a mezzanine-level table surrounded by distinctive wildflower-painted lamps, or at one of the mammoth pine slab tables on the inn’s main floor.
An Ashford P. O. carrier picks up and delivers the mail Monday through Friday. Newlun says she “believes the Inn’s mail bear drop box was carved by someone living outside the park,” but she didn’t know the carver’s identity.
Nevertheless, a jaunty “Mail Bear” sits atop a huge barrel that serves as the collection point for all outgoing mail. From early June through the end of September the wooden box serves as a temporary repository for all those tantalizing messages.
Depending on how often one purges the annual summer messages, it’s always pleasant in the depths of winter rains or snows to revisit those special memories.
But, back to Fay’s memoir:
“Before departing, I donned heavy flannels (skirt and heavy bloomers), woolen hose, warm mittens and goggles, blackened my face with charcoal to modify the sun’s glare, drove long caulks and beads into my shoes, rolled two single blankets containing provisions for three days and strapped them from the shoulder under the arm to the waist, the easiest way to carry a pack, shouldered one of Uncle Sam’s canteens, grasped my alpenstock…and was resolved to climb until exhausted.”
“I have accomplished what I have always dreamed of and feared impossible.”
Note: Fay is said to have refused any assistance during the climb. She spent a steamy night in the summit’s crater and suffered only sunburn during her ascent.
(An interesting aside: Her climb was rumored to have been a publicity stunt to boost circulation for her father’s newspaper.)