Bad Postcards – My Ten Favorite Weird, Campy and Nostalgic Postcards
This prehistoric king with blood-stained teeth and sinister eyes is depicted on one of a few thousand mid-century postcards in a collection that I have been curating for the last 30 years. I seek out the tackiest, kitschiest ones that make you ask, “What were they thinking?”
I cherish these cards in a way that would be most understood by another collector. Why?
1) They satisfy my appetite for humor of the absurd.
2) I’ve been around on this planet since 1956 so I have a childhood connection to the images and the sensibilities of the era.
3) They are snapshots of this wonderful place called the United States during an era that we have, thankfully, progressed beyond (and that some would like to drag us back to).
I had never blogged and never followed blogs (except for a couple political ones, pre-election). I wasn’t enthusiastic at first, but coaxed myself to register with Tumblr and selected a postcard for the first post. After I hit the “publish” button, my world changed. I was barraged with ideas on how to showcase my treasure trove of bad.
Having a theatre background, I likened the blogging experience to running my own theatre. I had the comedy and the tickets were free but I needed the audience. I monitored my site traffic and was excited on the day that I had 23 visitors!
Seven weeks after launch, BAD POSTCARDS went viral. It began with a feature on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish. A dear friend who is very supportive of my postcard projects and now collaborates with me, emailed the Dish with a sample post — a postcard of a swimming pig named Ralph who lived at Aquarina Springs in San Marcos, Texas. In the next few days other sites followed suit, featuring other postcards from the blog. Later that week, British actor and comedian Stephen Fry, favorably tweeted BAD POSTCARDS. That day, over 26,000 visitors viewed the site. The audience continues to grow.
This postcard depicts some of my childhood nightmare material. I vividly remember having recurring dreams at four years old of being chased by a clown. When I finally figured out how to communicate this to my parents, they removed the oversized clown head poster from my bedroom wall. Quacky might have had the same effect on me. He looks as twisted as his balloon creations.
Everybody loves the animal postcards, especially the kitties and doggies, especially when they’re dressed like humans. Dressed animals are not exclusive to this period. They appear in all postcard eras. I often have the urge to go back in time and behind the scenes of these photo sessions.
If dressed animals aren’t your thing, how about the mutant variety? The oversized Jack Rabbit usually appears in a western setting. There’s also the classic Jackelope — a jack rabbit with antelope antlers.
Our obsessions with the largest, longest and fastest can be satisfied with postcards. My collection has a category called “Superlatives.” Here you’ll find the world’s largest bull, pheasant and pineapple and the world’s tallest cowboy (60 feet tall). This postcard shows the World’s Largest Cheese. It was intended for display at the Los Angeles County Fair. It says “Alice in Dairyland” on the woman’s sash. She looks like she’s in quite some land.
Say it with bathing beauties! It is said this way on a lot on mid-century postcards. Here is an allegory of the admission of Hawaii and Alaska to the Union. On the site, you’ll often see companies advertising their dull or manly products, spiced up with some bikini-clad pin-up cuties.
Exaggeration postcards were intentionally comic. Most common are fruits and vegetables and animals represented as oversized. Here is one of many fish postcards in the collection. Sometimes my caption will entice curious visitors. I titled this “DRIVIN’ WITH A BIG ONE.”
One of the greatest pleasures I derive from the site is when visitors comment on their childhood reminiscence of a place. Their memories embellish the posts and bring life to the postcards. One recent example is the postcard of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster, Massachusetts. This can also be filed under the category “Boring Scenery.”
I enjoy engaging followers by questioning their reactions to some of the images. This card advertises a line of brightly colored chainsaws with the help of a pair of lovely legs. I asked my female visitors what color they would choose for their first chainsaw and what they would cut first with it. One response: “I’d pick the dark blue chainsaw, and I’d cut our coffee table in half!”
There are so many other categories of BAD and not enough room to discuss them here. Check out BAD POSTCARDS. I post at least one image each day and there are many more to come.