Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Did You Ever Have A "Pen Pal?"

Long before the computer age, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, people would communicate with each other by writing letters and sending them through the U.S. Mail.  Often a person you corresponded with on a regular basis was called a "pen pal."

When I was in third grade, my teacher was Miss Kuter.  (Yes, it was pronounced "cuter" but she was such a beloved teacher that I don't remember anyone ever making fun of her name.)

Miss Kuter, bless her heart, was my very first pen pal, the first person I ever corresponded with via posted mail.

She was a wonderful, dedicated, long-time teacher, warm and loving toward her students, and on the last day of third grade, I remember telling her I wished she could be my teacher "forever" and that I would miss her as summer vacation began.

Our family lived in a residential part of our town in Illinois and Miss Kuter lived with her parents in a farming community about seven miles outside of our town.  In that day and age, I suppose she could have been labeled a "spinster" or even "old maid" as she was well into her forties (or perhaps even fifties) and had never been married.

She told me that if I had time during the summer (what did I have but time?), I could write to her and tell her what I was doing.  She gave me her mailing address, we said good-bye and I went home wondering how long I should wait to send her a letter. 

I don't remember specifically how long I did wait to write to her, but I can't imagine it was long or that my letter was full of stimulating information.  I'm sure my correspondence must have been fairly hum-drum and boring.

But write to her I did and almost immediately received a reply from her.  I was thrilled.  Her letters were full of things happening on her parents' farm and I remember folded inside her first return letter was a small sample of the wallpaper she was putting up in her bedroom.

I eagerly looked forward to her letters which always were so interesting (to me) and usually contained some little trinket that made me think her life was extremely interesting.  Once I even received a black and white glossy print of a picture of her father's herd of milk cows grazing in a pasture.

We wrote letters back and forth all that summer.  What a considerate, sweet person she was to take the time to correspond with a nine-year old girl.

Near the end of that summer, I was looking forward to seeing her in person when school started up again.

Then one evening as my mother was reading the local paper, she commented that there was a marriage announcement for Miss Kuter!

Unfortunately for me, this turned out to mean she didn't return to my elementary school as a teacher that fall, and I never saw her again.  It was also the end of our correspondence.

But I still will never forget how kind she was to take the time to be my "pen pal" for that summer of 1952.  I do believe that started me on the track of becoming a frequent letter writer, and probably prompted me to eventually become a blogger when the age of computers came on the scene. 

So thanks, Miss Kuter, for introducing me to the art of writing letters and being my pen pal.

25 comments:

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

That just warmed my heart! I had a penpal when I was little. She lived in Tennessee and we wrote back and forth for maybe a year or two. The writing just petered out and I haven't thought of her in ages! I wonder what she's doing now. -Jenn

Hill Top Post said...

Miss Kuter probably enjoyed getting your letters as much as you did hers. That she was getting married was such a nice surprise. I do hope she had a long and happy marriage. I did have a couple of pen pals over the years. I'll never forget the joy of finding one of their letters in our mailbox.

Sandra said...

This made me laugh what you said about dinosaurs. I have an Aunt who will not get a computer or a cell phone. She says she doesn't care if people call her a Dinosaur; living in the past. She will sit down and write you a hand written letter or note. She only has a hard line phone in her home. When we ask her or suggest to her that it is only because we care about her and want her to be able to reach out for help if need be; she refuses and feels these things steal her privacy. About the pen pal writing. I do think it would be nice for more people to stop and write a note now and then and send through the mail. I think the saddest part about computers is people not taking the time to write with pen. I know my writing has gone down hill since I don't write as much anymore.

Faith said...

back in the day..when the dinosaurs roamed was indeed a good time. I don't recall having a pen pal. So many social graces are going the way of the dinosaur.

Mama Pea said...

Thanks, Jenn, In later years, I had a couple of girl friends who moved away and we wrote letters back and forth for a while. But like your pen pal in Tennessee, gradually the correspondence petered out. A natural thing to happen, I suppose, especially when we're young.

Hill Top Post - Even though I do a lot (most) of my correspondence on the computer now, it's still a little thrill to get a personal letter in the mail, isn't it? I always promise myself to sit down and handwrite more letters/notes . . . maybe this winter??

Mama Pea said...

Sandra - I know I find with a handwritten letter someone has sent me, I will sit down and reread it in odd moments and it always brings on warm feelings. Just not the same with an e-mail.

I can sympathize with your aunt. There are times when I'm ready to unplug and give up my computer, but today it would be very hard to keep functioning at the level we do without the computer. There are times when I wonder what we ever did without them. (Maybe those were better times? Slower and more deliberate.

Faith - Yep, technology has brought the bad with the good, that's for sure. And it's getting more and more difficult to retain some of those good, old-fashioned values and habits. But those of us who are old enough to remember life before computers should hang on to all the good memories and continue to use them to make more of the same!

Jennifer Jo said...

I had a penpal with a girl from elementary school for a while --- we learned (after becoming friends) that our mothers were in the same labor room with us!

Tracy H said...

Mama Pea, I have a handful of pen pals, that I found 24 years ago after advertising for them in a farm women newspaper. I was a new farmwife, pregnant with my first child! They have become treasured dear friends, we have gone through all the trials and tribulations of life together. I've met 2 of them and the others are on my bucket list! I have started writing to my best friends little girls who are 6 and 9, and they are very excited to receive letters from me! I just love the feeling a handwritten letter gives you when you open your mailbox!

Mama Pea said...

Jennifer Jo - Ummm, are you sure you weren't switched at birth? She could be you and you could be her!! ;o]

Tracy H - Oh, I remember those requests for pen pals from farm women in a farm newspaper!! (I even wrote to one once, but never received an answer. Must have picked the wrong person!) Meeting gals who have become friends through blogging has turned out to be my modern day version of pen pals. How very special that you are now writing to your best friend's little girls. There is simply nothing like getting a handwritten letter in the mailbox!

Michelle said...

Oh yes, I had pen pals AND wrote regularly to distant family (which was most of them). One aunt called me the family scribe. ๐Ÿ˜Š

When we lived on the farm in TX, a boy pen pal came by bus to visit (looking back I’m aghast that someone shipped their young adolescent to strangers in another state for a visit, but maybe our parents communicated). I ended up unimpressed, and my brother got him to pee on an electric fence. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

Blog pals are DEFINITELY my modern-day pen pals only better, because I seem to have more in common with them. Meeting them IRL is a highlight of my life! That said, I have a stack of cards beside my chair waiting to be written in and sent to various friends.

wisps of words said...

Oh what a precious memory........ Just delightful....

Never had a Pen Pal although I know of them. But at one time, I did find some women, to write back and forth with. Ones who still liked the idea, of "snail mail." This had to be after I had begun my Net Life. -smile- How else would I have found them?

It didn't last too long. Seems these people considered a short message, to be a "letter." I didn't of course. (Always was one, for lots of words.) Or else, they simply wrote things like; "The weather was warm... Etc." Again, not my idea of letter writing. -grin-

I even got real ink pens! And special paper. And... Talk about "over-doing it"... I made my own envelopes, out of flower illustrations, in an old book. Whole pages of such photos. Folded, to contain the letter.

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Mama Pea said...

Michelle - I, too, was a steady letter writer before computers. Now when I try to hand write a note or something longer, it feels like it takes for-EVER to say all I want to. And yet, getting a letter in the mail that is hand written is still very special. I grew up with a HUGE extended family and was close to many of my aunts and uncles. My dear Aunt Jeanette was the last of that whole generation and we corresponded regularly until she died. That was many years ago and to this day, I still am brought up short when I think of something I want to write to her or my mom. Maybe we should all do the U.S. Post Office a favor and try to write (and send!) more letters!

Goatldi said...

How sweet!

I have had multiple pen pals over the years. My cousin and I make a point to write letters still on occasion. We have been communicating since we were in elementary school and now we are Crones with kids and grandkids. We do message and phone also but both enjoy a bit of snail mail.

Joyce F said...

I have had pen pals since I was in 6th or 7th grade. In fact still write to two of my pals from that time period though we don't write as often. I've had 30 or 40 pals at a time and still have 25. Some only write about once a month but with a couple both of us start the next letter when we finish one. We get irritated when the post office takes longer than three days to go from Kansas to NY or vice versa. Some of us use e-mail to let the other person know that a letter is coming. Most of the family members I wrote to have passed on now but some of my pals are closer than I was to some family. I've always said reading blogs is like reading a letter from a pal.

Mama Pea said...

Goatldi - So great that you and your cousin have kept up your relationship over so many years. Sadly, I have cousins I haven't spoken to in years. The miles and different lives and my failure to keep in touch shouldn't be an excuse. Kudos to you!

Joyce F - Wow, I think you win the prize for having had (present and past) the most pen pals of anyone I've heard of. I agree that reading blogs does substitute for letters from pen pals. I still miss the written word via snail mail though.

Debby said...

Pen Pals was my hobby! I had a guy pen pal from Germany. We kept in touch for a couple of years after HS and when he mentioned he wanted to come out to California to meet me, I freaked. I never wrote to him again.

I had one in Kenosha Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Anaheim Ca.

I also was a pen pal with my favorite cousin who lived in Indiana.

Mama Pea said...

Debby - Omigosh, do you ever wonder what would have happened if you'd given the okay for your pen pal from Germany to come visit you? I'm betting you broke his heart. ;o}

My dad's side of the family all lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin!

Rain said...

That's a nice story! I had a few pen pals when I was in grade school. Mainly because our family moved provinces so that's how I kept in touch with my friends. Our school had a "pen pal program" and we chose to write to kids in other countries. I can't for the life of me remember who I was pen pals with and where they lived!

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

That's so great! I had another child as a kid, don't remember who, but enjoyed it!

Mama Pea said...

Rain - One summer our family rented a cottage on a lake for our summer vacation and there was a girl next door that I became friends with. At the end of the week we exchanged addresses and were going to become pen pals. I wrote to her but never got a letter back. I was crushed. Don't ever remember a pen pal program in school being offered.

Nancy - Kids being kids, I suppose for many it was hard to be disciplined enough to remain a good pen pal for long. But sometimes the relationship turned out very satisfying. For a while!

Lynne said...

What a wonderful memory! At that age I bet you felt pretty special. I still write letters. I still write to my sister and use to write a lot to my best friend ,but she has since past away, as we get older that's what happens. I do have another friend in New Jersey that I write to also. I've always enjoyed writing letters. That was a treasure you shared! ox

Mama Pea said...

Lynne - Yes, it is a good, good memory from my childhood. Miss Kuter was so kind to make me feel special and I can still remember getting those letters from her in our mailbox. Good for you for taking the time to still write letters that people get in their mailboxes. It's a special thrill, isn't it?

Lynne said...

Yes it is. Now a days we get so involved with our computers, which is good also, sometimes I think people forget how to write letter. take care!!

Susan said...

What a wonderful story! I had a teacher very much like your Miss Kuter. She was my second grade teacher - Mrs. Rook. She was tall, had gray hair and was rather severe looking. But she had a heart of gold and was very kind to me. I still have a postcard she sent me from her summer vacation. I had a penpal in England when I was a girl. It was so exciting to get the envelopes with the foreign stamps!

Anonymous said...

After getting addicted to the internet as a teen (AOL) and my parents disconnecting the service, I kept in touch with my online friends through mail. There was a guy from England that kept in touch with me the longest. I did some searching and I think he is happily married and an executive at a bank's headquarters in Hong Kong. Pretty sure it was him so I sent him a postcard but didn't write my address. I figured he would know who I was and he would reach out to me. I've always had bad timing and of course the postcard went out during the beginning of the HK protests. Never heard back from him, hope he is doing well. Our lives are on completely different trajectories - one an executive and one homeless...