90 Year-old Christmas Postcard has a lot to say, though some of it is made-up.
Updated: Dec 27, 2017
This postcard from my collection has more to say than just “Merry Christmas!” The fact that it’s 90 years old is just the beginning.
The image, with its cute “luck of the Irish” theme has cracks running through it - which I call character lines. It never mentions a nationality, but in 1920's New York City there was a strong Irish represented community. So, could a postcard with this kind of design have been aimed at that demographic?
The message on the back repeats the front - postcards were after all the tweets of their day.
My favorite part of this card is the postmark. Stamped “Grand Central Station2” this gives me enough to fashion a mental picture of how this card came to be. Here is the story I have written - see if it connects with you.
THE ANGEL OF GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
It was a mild winter’s day in New York City on December 21st, 1927. Holiday travelers and business people anticipated the season's first snow, which had yet to fall. From the window of her railcar Elizabeth watched the people in the small towns scurry home under the setting sun until her own view was blocked as the train entered the long tunnel to its destination. The last lurch of the rail car signified Elizabeth's arrival at Grand Central Terminal; another stop-over another city on her way to another sales training.
As a monument to the advance of rail transportation; one could easily feel swallowed up by the size and scope of the building. The Vanderbilt's never did anything on a small scale and the GCT was no exception. 44 platforms serving 67 tracks on 2 levels, both below ground. The limestone clad exterior leads to the main concourse inside where a mural of all the constellations of the zodiac as well as Orion were lit across the ceiling by 10 watt bulbs.
Elizabeth had waited in this cathedral of transportation more times than she could remember and no longer gawked at the spectacle, instead she liked to see new visitors become awestruck by the station’s many wonders. Her favorite pastime was waiting to see if the If the new arrivals would notice the ceiling display. If not, she would step in and say, "Excuse me. Have you seen the stars?" They would look at her quizzically, and then she would step back and say nothing, gesturing up with a velvet-gloved hand. Some would ignore her with suspicion, while most, especially those with children would swoon at the discovery.
When they would finally look down, Elizabeth would always be gone, but not really. Grand Central was so large that one only had to move 2 pillars away to blend in with more arrivals and departures. Elizabeth liked to watch the newcomers share their enlightenment with the next group until she had a running tally of heads locked on to the incandescent stars.
Only once did she need to alert a New York City patrolman to a pickpocket who culled three wallets and purse before being stopped. Elizabeth was determined to make sure her guilty pleasure wouldn't lead to a guilty plea, because she could surely be considered an accomplice to a more stealthy pickpocket. Her brief but frequent stops in Grand Central and the friendly games she played gave Elizabeth a sense of ownership, it always renewed her feeling of being part of something larger, something special.
Elizabeth felt a gentle tug on her skit, ”Merry Christmas!" An impish-faced little girl in a brown wool coat thrust a flower as high as her three and a half feet with arm outstretched would allow her. "Ohhh! Thank you." Elizabeth said cupping the stray flower that must have been separated from a much larger bunch. She sniffed the flower's delicate fragrance wondering where it could have come from as all the florists would have closed by now. Lost in the moment she said, "Sweetie, you remind me of my niece -" but the little girl was gone. Looking left and right then suddenly clutching for her purse... "Still there!" She sighed with relief. Elizabeth smiled inwardly at the tender irony,
Her stop-over was ending, indicated by the large train schedule flip-board above the ticket booths. The constant flipping and its accompanying "clicking" sound was essential to keep travelers moving forward and aware of any possible delays. Fifteen more minutes and Elizabeth would be on her way. She looked again for the little girl and then remembered that she wouldn't see her niece this Christmas. Maggie would be disappointed.
Elizabeth took one last look at one of the large ornate clocks over the information booth and headed for the steps to the lower concourse. She found a news stand that was still open and near the track for her train. "I need a Christmas card for my niece." Elizabeth spoke with gentle urgency. "Sorry ma'am, you'll need to find a stationer for that, I only have these post cards." He pointed to a long narrow box in between the late edition of the Herald Tribune and Vanity Fair. Elizabeth scrambled through the random pile until she found the perfect one. The lucky horseshoe with clover flourishes and cute four line poem would make Maggie smile, she thought. The faint sound of a conductor announcing, "All Aboard!” pushed Elizabeth to forego anything more that a simple holiday greeting. She handed it to man and said, "How much with a stamp for Watertown,CT?”
"No charge, ma'am. Let me mail it for you too, or you'll miss your train. There's a post office right next door." He was smiling with the card in one hand and waiving her off with the other.
Elizabeth paused before turning to step toward the ramp, and with a look of soft suspicion asked, “Why? "
"Consider it a gift from my brother who changes the bulbs in the constellation mural. He's seen you share his joy with the new arrivals…calls you the Angel of Grand Central."
"Last Call!" the conductor shouted.
"Merry Christmas!!!" said Elisabeth. Now beaming, she turned and ran, but with the wings she had been given, it felt less like running and more like something special.
FINAL NOTE: Thanks for reading this. I hope to write more stories to support the items I have found which often arrive in my hands with no back-story. In researching the ceiling of Grand Central (which I do recommend seeing) you may find both interesting and conflicting stories about its history. I can't post a link because no 2 sites i visited held corroborating stories!