Monday, May 2, 2011


Back in the post WWII days of the 1940’s all of the neighborhood kids had some kind of collection. These were the days of shortages and rationing and frugality was how you got along back then.
When things wore out, you did without or repaired it.
Postage stamps were popular but matchbook covers were abundant and free for the picking up. Nearly everybody smoked back in those days and it was the time before you could flick your Bic…so, matchbooks were everywhere. 
The matchbooks were fun and abundant but soon I found out about the fascinating stories that were behind postage stamps.
 I became hooked on stamp collecting.
Through my own experience I found that postage stamp collecting proved to be interesting, entertaining and broadened my education. I learned the names and facts about all the presidents, historical events, fascinating information about legendary personalities and all. Some stamps commemorated and chronicled with their colorful and artistically designed depictions intriguing cultural incidents.  A new captivating world was about to open for me.
My challenge became where to find the stamps.
I remember rummaging through the storeroom of my dad’s drug store and cutting off postage stamps from all of the shipping cartons. I tore stamps from all of the discarded envelopes at his business plus I asked all of the family and friends to save their stamps for me.
Carefully I soaked the stamps free and pressed them flat and dry between the pages of the phone book.
An old Indian man that my dad took a liking to and hired as a handyman gave me a little ring notebook that he had carefully glued full of postage stamps from all over the world including many from Russia. I was thrilled at that treasure but always felt sorry for the old gentleman with his trembling hands.
His gift inspired me to dream of those distant lands and far away places where strange and interesting people lived. Some stamps had curious depictions of foreign leaders like Joe Stalin and Adolph Hitler, so my stamp collection brought the rest of the world a little closer to me.
After my initial interest was perked by that gift from the old Indian man I bought a stamp catalogue for 25¢ from H. E. Harris Co. This illustrated little publication was many things. First and foremost it documented and officially numbered each and every postage stamp ever issued by the United States government. In addition historical significance was described along with the date of printing.
The catalogue listed all the stamps for sale, new and used and offered a number of collector related items.
My first order was for a United States postage stamp map that included a few stamps for $1.00.  That map was wonderful.  Each state had a place for its own commemorative stamp. All the national parks likewise had places for mounting their appropriate stamp.  The border was for stamps of the presidents and famous Americans.
One day while riding my bicycle home I passed behind the Superior State College and I spotted, quite by accident, there in the discarded rubbish was a huge colorful world map. I had to have it. When I got it home I discovered that it was pre-WWI and the countries and borders listed were terribly out of date.  This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made me ink in the current borders, boundaries and names of countries and states…a real geography lesson.  My next project was to mount it on pressed board and make a wooden frame for wall mounting. My frugal woodworking shop teacher, Mr. Whitney, was less than thrilled because of the amount of materials that my project required. 
The map was nearly five feet long and three feet wide and I was thrilled!
You guessed it; the map was soon filled with postage stamps from all over the world. Part of my history lesson was a very colorful stamp set that depicted the flags of the thirteen overrun countries of WWII. The British Empire took on new proportions and the colonizers of African and Asia proudly touted their worldly possessions with colorful commemoratives.
You can see that the historical importance of those stamps perked my interest to read and study even more about those intriguing places and historical events of geographical significance.
This all broadened my historical horizons and perked my curiosity.