THESE KUTE KIDS ARE… Aviana Rodarte (2), Aniya Rodarte (5) & Amara Rodarte (11), enjoying a nice summer day. Brittany & Eric Rodarte from Hartford are the proud parents of these smiling sisters. Loving grandparents to this trio are Beverly Bloomer & Jeff Bryant of Decatur, MI and Jose & Mary Rodarte of Hartford.
Gift to a girl becomes the gift from a woman
By Angela Widdis Frances (Fran) Wooley, of Coloma, finds herself to be a real historian. The 94-year-old retired Whirlpool employee sees her postcards as documents of her family’s history and of everyday American life in the 20th century. The gift to the girl
RELISHING THE PAST… Frances (Fran) Wooley fondly recalls the years of enjoyment that her postcard and greeting card collection has given her. (TCR photo by Angela Widdis
The love of history was started when her late grandmother, Helena (Anderson) Froberg, started giving her birthday gifts from her own possessions. Money was tight in those times so one year, for her birthday, Fran was given her grandmother’s postcard and greeting card collection that she had started with cards that date back to 1905. Wooley stated that, “At the time I had no idea of the value.” As a young girl, Fran recalls that she played with the cards. She would spend hours sorting and resorting them until the album they once were contained in fell into disrepair. She reminisced that many of the cards in her collection were sent from relatives that would be written in Swedish and Norwegian so she, herself, could not read them. Little did she know that this gift would lead to a life-long pursuit to research her family’s genealogy. As the family stories told on the back and the photo or art on the front of these cards gave Fran many years of enjoyment as well as, glimpses into people and countries that she never knew. She became intrigued by the mystery of who these people were, where they came from, and the hope that she could find out more. In later years, Wooley was able to build a record of history by placing the cards in chronological order. Allowing her to trace her family history from Harnosand, Sweden to Chicago, IL, to the exact street addresses in Berrien County. The foresight of Fran to preserve these gems in archival sleeves has protected them from years of wear and tear. She would haul these cards back and forth from Coloma to Fort Myers, Florida, and would work on research and organize them by subject matter. Wooley has always been and continues to be willing to share her knowledge about postcard collecting or genealogy research. It is this passion that has led her to pursue ways that her collection can live on. The importance of the gift The history of the picture postcard is hard to pinpoint as the evolution of these greetings can be seen over the decades. Though it is true, the popularity of these correspondences is tied with the development of the postal service, the growth can also be traced to new printing capabilities and photography techniques of the times. One of the first introductions of the postcard was at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. It was here when the first commercially produced picture postcards were seen as Charles W. Goldsmith produced a novelty set of postcards depicting the pavilions and other interesting sections of the fair as a souvenir. During the 1900s the postcard became a method of fast communication as the postal service would run up to 12 times a day in larger cities and two times in rural communities. Someone could tell of their day’s events or about their travels and it would be in the hands of the recipient in just a few short days or in some cases hours. They are like the texting or tweets of more recent times; they tell more than just the words written, they tell of feelings, they shed light on what people value, and what they are proud of. They also developed into real photos that were taken of people and places and events that would portray life as it was. Postcards have always been a popular collectible. They were once kept in special albums that would be conversation pieces for people visiting one another. As the popularity of the postcard, then later the greeting card, would grow, so would the collection. Within a collection one could find a love-letter between two young people, memories of a voyage to a foreign country, or a photo of your hometown before the streets were paved. Now, they are collected by not only family historians, but people who have an interest in art, architecture, history, and much more. The gift from a woman Because many of Fran’s postcards captured scenes, places, and people that no longer exist – such as opulent buildings from a long-ago world’s fair or World War II-era – she has ended up preserving pieces of history with her expansive collection. As her ‘lifelong crusade’ for her families’ history has slowed down, Wooley wants to make sure her work is not lost to history. She has plans on sending some of her cards to be archived at the North Berrien Historical Society and to the Chicago Postcard Museum, where they will each be given the cards that are subject-specific to their interest. Fran said, “I recognized I had a responsibility to do something more than collect history, I need to share it with others that will want to share them with future generations.” Archiving the cards is important for preservation, and Fran realizes that not everyone one of her cards will find a home, but she is hopeful that the cards of interest will in fact be left to those who will appreciate the gift for all its historic,