My grandfather has a remarkable postcard collection. It’s fun to think of him living out in the middle of the countryside, at his father’s old water-powered mill that was wheezing its way out of existence, waiting for the mailman to come and deliver each of these. Or, more likely, someone climbed on the same horse that he and his sister rode to school in the mornings (uphill) and went in to town to collect the mail and the latest gossip.
This card was mailed in 1908. I find the couple in a clinch a bit surprising as I don’t think of Halloween as a time for romance, but perhaps the blonde was so startled by a lurking shadow that she simply leapt into the fellow’s arms — and a kiss ensued. (Or perhaps she cleverly lured the fellow to the pumpkin patch and then invented a lurking shadow.)
The card traveled from Camden, New Jersey, to Tylersport, Pennsylvania. It was mailed by his Cousin Violet Belz (click here to see the family, including my young grandfather on the far left, and that’s Violet on the far right, in the snazzy hat). Turning the card over, one will find the following inscription:
Tell Papa to cut you a pumpkin into a Halloween head like this.
If you were here to-night you would see a fine lot of masqueraders.
Lovingly, Cousin Violet
Seeing Cousin Violet’s name there reminds me of a graveyard story.
It was a bright and sunny day…. I was riding on a University of Pennsylvania bus with other students on a very fine tour of Camden with Camilo Jose Vergara, whose brilliant work documenting urban neighborhoods for more than 30 years can be seen at Invincible Cities. Our tour began at Walt Whitman’s house in downtown Camden to evoke the bustling, industrial Camden of his era. Throughout the day, we experienced many places that are no doubt haunted by ghosts of the past — abandoned, derelict places that were sad, atmospheric, and inspiring because you knew there were stories those sites could tell.
Camilo ended the tour at the Harleigh cemetery where Walt Whitman is buried in a rustic-inspired tomb of his own design, cut into a hillside. The bus pulled through the gated entryway and wound among the curving rural cemetery style roadways. I was talking to the friend sitting next to me and occasionally glancing idly out the window at the vast expanse of gravestones scattered across the green acres. Something drew my eye — we were passing a tall granite monument topped by a funerary urn — I glanced at the name on it. “Belz” I couldn’t quite make out the other words. But after I paid homage to Mr. Whitman, I raced back up the road and discovered that out of all the stones, in all of this cemetery, I happened to notice my cousins’ above all. There were Violet and the rest of her family — and in fact, I discovered someone we did not know existed — a boy who must have died at a young age and faded from family memory. I said hello to the ghosts, and returned to the bus, having had a nice family visit as a bonus to an excellent day.
Boo! Have a fun, and safe, Halloween!