Yesterday I blogged about a newsletter I did in the 1990s called PET PALS! Around that time I published 2 other newsletters for pen pal hobbyists. One was called Coffee Just Write and was obviously for people who loved coffee. The other was called Heaven-Bound and was where Christians could find other Christians to write to. The 3 newsletters were fun, but it started to take a toll on my wrists and I was borderline with carpal tunnel. Once I stopped working on them, my wrists got better -- go figure.
My love for writing to pen pals goes all the way back to 1975. As a project in grade school, everyone in my class got a pen pal. Mine was a girl from Australia. Sadly, I don't remember her name. I was 10 years old at the time, so it was the coolest thing getting a letter from overseas. Eventually, we lost touch and it wasn't until 1979 that I really started getting back into pen palling. That was the time I was really into The Who. I mean, really, really into The Who! I slept, breathed, and ate Who. The band consumed my life. I joined one of their fan clubs, which produced a newsletter. In the newsletter were pen pal listings, so obviously it made perfect sense to write to other people who loved The Who like I did. This is when the hobby really took off for me. I will never forget that time in my life because it opened new doors for me. Not only was it just fun getting a letter, but you really got to know people and see what things was like in other parts of the world. The letters were great, especially the really long ones, but it was even better to receive a photograph. You could finally put a face to the name. All this seems obsolete today, with email, texting, webcams, the Internet, message boards, social networks, and things like that. But back then, you had to rely on letters coming in your mailbox. Getting a postcard or tidbit fact about where they lived was cool, but getting pictures was the best of all.
Today we have ways to express ourselves on computers. There are emoticions with images that actually move. Back in the olden days, we used stickers! Then there are things like LOL, LMAO, J/K, KWIM, TMI, etc. In the world of pen palling, there was a language too. We had FB, which did not mean Facebook. It meant Friendship Book. An FB was a little booklet that got passed from pen pal to pen pal. When you received it, you added your name, address, interests, and what type of pen pals you were interested in writing to. When the booklet was filled up, the last person sent it back to whoever made it, or whoever it was made for. I did hundreds of these books and I still have some of them. There were others like Slams, Friendship Sheets, Crams, Lyrics Books, etc. Slams were fun. In a Slam Book, you signed your name or left your address on one page. Then each page of the book had questions for you to answer. Does this sound familiar? They do stuff like this on message boards, blogs, and sites like Facebook all the time. Just last night Rick was saying how it seemed so easy for me to post on Facebook, whereas he sometimes struggles with what to say. It is easy for me, simply because stuff like this goes way back to when I was writing to pen pals. There were also abbreviations for other stuff such as LLP, which stood for Long Letter Pals. Or A/A, meaning Answers All letters. Click here to see more. A lot of people think this stuff is all new for the computer age. Nope -- pen pals have been doing it for a long, long time!
I made a lot of friends through pen palling. Not only that, but many of them I met in person. I've gone to Disneyland with pen pals from Japan. I've traveled to NYC to see concerts and met up with pen pals there. I went on a cruise to Mexico with pen pals. And the best was when I spent the month of May in the years 1984 and 1985 in England with my friends, who all began as pen pals. Those were fun times. I'm glad I did those things because, as I got older, those opportunities knocked at my door less often. Lots of fun memories. The picture above is of some of my friends as we sat on the rocky beach in Brighton, England. I'm the one with the crazy perm and leg warmers on the right -- just screaming 80s there. My pen pal hobby gave me a lot of great friends and some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Sadly, I've lost touch with most of my pen pals over the years. Some I only hear from at Christmas. Facebook is cool because I've gotten in touch with a few friends there. I'm hoping through that, I can renew friendships that have slipped through the cracks and made my mailbox such a sad, empty place.