POSTCARDS FROM THE PAST
By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
These pictures and illustrations are telling remnants of the mindset and mood of Americans during World War I and World War II.
They are in a unique collection of at least 100 postcards assembled by Robert Bull of La Grande. The postcards are part of a collection Bull put together titled: "A Journey Back In Time By Remembering The Way It Was: Humorous and Serious Patriotic Postcards.''
Bull assembled the collection because he wants to keep the pulse of the past alive.
"I want to help people remember the way it was. Times were different then. It was a different world,'' said Bull, who grew up in La Grande and was a child during World War II.
Bull's collection consists of images from postcards he owns that have been scanned into a computer. The images have been retouched so that creases and tears are not visible. It thus appears they have evaded Father Time's corrosive hand the way a stealth bomber today avoids radar detection.
None of the cards look humorously at combat, but there are plenty of postcards which make light of military life during the world wars. One shows a private talking to a general on a military base. The private innocently asks the general:
"Say, Buddy, how do I get an outfit like yours?''
Another shows a private peeling a kitchen full of potatoes. He is shown saying "Potatoes were my favorite dish before I joined the Army.''
The postcard humor is never dark or satirical.
"There is positive humor; they had to keep the morale up,'' Bull said.
There are also poignant postcards, such as one sent to mothers with sons in the military during WWII. They were known as Blue Star Mothers. One postcard for such mothers reads, in part Â—
"I see a Mother sitting at home,
In her window a star of blue.
Her only son has gone to war,
Perhaps that Mother is you?
....Your son is fighting for freedom and right,
Go to it boys with all your might.''
There are also romantic cards in Bull's collection, such as Live Wire Lov-O-Grams. These were sent by women who had husbands or boyfriends in the Navy.
Close examination of the cards also reveals illuminating things about the attitude of the times. For example, a postcard of the Army base at Fort Lewis, Wash., contains the words: "Passed by censor, Wash. D.C."
These words are indicative of the lengths that were taken by the military and American citizens to keep the enemy from knowing what was happening during the world wars. It is one reason why Bull wants to add a postcard which lists the phrase "Loose lips sink ships.'' The phrase was popular Â— and taken seriously Â— in the United States during the war years.
"People didn't talk (about military information). They were afraid of spies,'' Bull said.
Bull started collecting postcards early last summer after his interest was piqued by two postcards he purchased in Milton-Freewater. He is far from a newcomer to restoring and collecting historic treasures. Earlier this year he put out a new book "$WEET DREAM$: The La Grande Sugar Factory And The Men and Businesses Supporting It In Union County.''
The work, published by the Union County Historical Society, is a revision, based on on a 37-page booklet published in 1898 about La Grande's old sugar factory.
Bull considers his postcard collection far from complete. He is on the lookout for things such as postcards about Rosie the Riviter, the fictitious character who symbolized women who worked on the home front during World War II. Bull wants to have the important role played by women during the war recognized in his collection.
He does not plan to publish his collection of postcards. However, anyone who would like to obtain a copy of any of his postcards can contact him at 963-4598.
People who look closely will find that the postcards reflect more than the mood and humor of the world war eras.
"They reflect what a different generation was thinking,'' Bull said.