Located in downtown Salt Lake City is one of the world’s greatest rare bookstores.
Since its founding in 1997, Ken Sanders Rare Books has built itself a burgeoning reputation - and a cult-like following - among professional and amateur antiquarians alike.
It was here in 2016, on a late Wednesday afternoon, when I unexpectedly uncovered a new appreciation for the past.
Postcards from the Past
While browsing through the store’s expansive Beat collection, I came across an old chestnut filing cabinet with drawer after drawer of antique postcards.
Turning over the cards - to my surprise - I found that many of them had been previously used.
Scanning the stamps I saw dates: 1907, 1921, 1935…
And I found myself enthralled, as I began to read through these long lost messages.
Finding Love in Lost Moments
There was the the beautiful prose of a past generation…
“I feel tonight that I have had a fine devotional experience being in this little church and looking up at the majesty of the Teton Mountains...Have thought of you so many times.
- Love Aileen" (July 17, 1954)
The musings of an old grandfather from 1953…
“They call this the Windy City. Right now it is 5 below zero, so I call it the Cold City... Love to All. - Grandpa" (Dec. 18, 1953)
And the profound and powerful poetry found in the most abbreviated of exchanges…
"Well here we are in the place I always wanted to see. Love, Dad" (July 6, 1968)
"We are watching the waves of the boundless ocean. - Lula" (1914)
And then there were the mysteries, the cards with cryptic exchanges that managed to both say so much, but also leave so much unsaid.
"My Dear Ellen, I presume you think I have forgotten you, but Ellen...I will always remain your true friend. - M" (March 18, 1909)
A New Home for Old Exchanges
Over the course of six months, and several dozen trips back to Ken Sanders Rare Books, I managed to manually flip through, review, and read over 50,000 postcards.
Turning over each card, I would eagerly digest and dissect the dialogue, stacking and saving the cards that seemed too good to be lost to time.
In the end, I would fill up several photo albums full of old used postcards, organizing them not by date or topic, but arbitrarily by how poignant and powerful the messages were to me.
And ever since, when I find myself walking down a dusty aisle of an old used bookstore, or digging through a box at an antique shop, if I come across a stack of old postcards, I can’t help but pause, pick them up, and take a look.
Because life is all about moments; a million little moments.
And to someone, these moments mattered.
Whether it was announcing the birth of a new child, checking in with an old friend, or a simple hello from a far off land, every one of these moments mattered to someone.
And while they may be gone, the moment doesn’t have to be.
So I pick them up, one by one, and bring them home.
It is a symbolic gesture for sure, but it’s a simple act against the fact that life is a tide that only pulls in one direction.
That there is love to be found in these lost moments, if we just turn them over and look.
About the Author
Seth is the Founder and CEO of Kanahoma, a San Diego-based education marketing agency. Operating at the intersection of beautiful brand creative and effective direct response marketing, Kanahoma partners with colleges and universities, education technology and service providers, as well as K-12 organizations.
You can learn more about Kanahoma at www.Kanahoma.com.