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They Used To Be Called Pen Pals

June 27, 2011

Long ago and far away, when I was a young girl, I loved to write letters. This was a time when there were no computers, no cell phones, and… gasp… long distance telephone calls were very, very expensive. I wrote letters to friends in the city I had moved away from.  I wrote letters to my grandparents.  I wrote notes to classmates…. (antique style texting under the table) in class!  I also had three pen pals.

I don’t remember how I acquired these pen pals.  Debbi lived in Massachusetts and owned a horse.  I had a horse too, so we had lots to talk/write about.  We even exchanged black and white photos taken with our matching, Kodak instamatic cameras.

I also had two pen pals who lived in Japan.  I think I may have made these two friends through Girl Scouts while earning one of the badges that got sewn on my sash.  Both of their names started with T, but I don’t remember anything else about them, or what we wrote about to each other.  All three of those relationships slowly fizzled out.  When I went away to college, I wrote to my parents, my friends, my grandparents.  Eventually long distance got cheaper and I did more calling than writing.

Then along came blogging.  Suddenly I found myself with all kinds of new, far away friends.  At first, I thought it was very strange to be writing back and forth with people all over the world whom I had never met.  Then I realized, it was just like having lots of pen pals!

A few weeks ago, a long discussed and organized plan coalesced.  I reserved three hotel rooms.  I purchased my Amtrak ticket.  I took a day off of work.  We exchanged phone numbers.  At noon on Friday, as I sat in Union Station in downtown Chicago, my phone rang.  I looked at the caller ID: Jeanie.  When I answered, she told me her train was sitting totally still, somewhere in South Chicago. I told her I didn’t mind waiting.  There’s plenty of people watching to be done in Union station!  After clicking off, I realized that although I’ve been communicating with Jeanie for something like three years, I had never heard her voice!  I was a little surprised at how she sounded, though I hadn’t had any expectations about it.  When she walked in to the Great Hall I recognized her immediately.  Jeanie is not shy about using her smiling face on her blog, The Marmalade Gypsy. Of course she figured out who I was when I walked up to her with my arms open.

We set off for our hotel, checked in, stowed our bags, and headed back to the lobby. There was a crowd waiting near the elevator when we stepped off, but I knew immediately that the woman standing in the middle was Diana. Otherwise known as Oh! of This Writing Life.

From that time Friday afternoon until Sunday morning after breakfast, we were off and running. We were happy to go anywhere, eat anything, walk, sit, talk, shop and nobody had a single complaint.  What we did have, was fun.

When I stepped out of the car at the train station Friday morning at the very beginning of this adventure, my youngest daughter rolled down the car window and yelled to me, “I’m telling you Mom, you’re going to meet some 40 year old creep with bodies in his basement. Be careful!” I just laughed. I knew exactly what I was going to meet: old friends.

Three Amigas photo by Jeanie

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Good times in Chicago –

Shopping the Magnificent Mile

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Onion Rings and French Fries and Stained Glass! on Navy Pier

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After the Blues Festival in Grant Park

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Photo of the “Bloggies” by the friendly waiter in the Elephant and Castle Pub
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126 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2011 7:07 pm

    U won’t believe just today i was thinking of blogging resulting in friends and hopefully pen friends ! n if that happens ,then taking it further to all the pen friends can someday meeting up??n WOW…YOU ALREADY DID IT !! i love writing letters too n love pen pals !! CONGRATS on being freshly pressed n on ur new friends 🙂 🙂

    Thanks so much for the visit!

  2. June 27, 2011 7:23 pm

    I had a few pen pals as a child, from across the country and Canada. As fun as blogging is, nothing can beat the feeling of checking the mail to see if your latest response had arrived.
    The stamps used, art drawn on envelopes and fun surprises inside. I wish I still had some of them.

    I agree completely. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. June 27, 2011 7:25 pm

    I loved my pen pal! She was from Spain.

    I guess you should write to her again! Thanks for reading.

  4. June 27, 2011 7:28 pm

    Interesting way to think of bloging. Glad you and your new “pen pals” were able to meet and have a good time together.
    I collect and sometimes photograph old cameras, one of which is an old instamatic like the one pictured in your post.

    I have very fond memories of that, my first camera. I still have quite a few photos taken with it, as well. My finger appears in the corner of half of them!!

  5. June 27, 2011 7:37 pm

    awwww what a fantastic journey! I love this post! I am a huge fan of penpals, I had them too… and I miss letter writing something terrible. Blogging has been my reconnect to the life with a pen in my hand that I had come to miss terribly!

    Pen…. typewriter… keyboard – all the same in the name of communication! Thanks for visiting here.

  6. June 27, 2011 7:40 pm

    What a walk down memory lane! That camera and the concept of pen-pals. : ) So true that blogging is much like pen pal writing…just a high tech version of it.

    Yup! it’s a good thing. Thanks for dropping in!

  7. June 27, 2011 7:42 pm

    I’d forgotten all about pen pals – thanks for the reminder! Glad you had a nice time.

    Thanks very much!

  8. June 27, 2011 7:55 pm

    Beautiful. You made me smile. I had a dutch pen pal.

    Sweet!!

  9. June 27, 2011 7:57 pm

    I have made some the most wonderful friends through blogging, and have been lucky enough to transition that friendship to laughing poolside or chatting away in pubs over the years. My favorite pre-internet penpal was a former student teacher of mine. She was an assistant in my creative writing class my senior year of high school, and moved to Germany with her hubby right after. We wrote back and forth regularly for 2 years. She’d tell her tales of living in a new country, and I’d share stories of my new college life (I was going to the university she had attended, so she loved hearing my thoughts on all the profs!). We lost touch when she moved back to the states, ironically, and then reconnected again on Facebook years later.

    What a great story, with a happy ending! Thanks for sharing it.

  10. June 27, 2011 8:02 pm

    Great post! I’ve met up with friends that I’ve met online a few times now, and I’ve been glad that I did every time. Online relationships/friendships/etc. are just as real as real life ones. =D

    I definitely agree. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  11. June 27, 2011 8:02 pm

    I had pen pals in Germany, Canada, Ireland, and Italy when I was young. I’m still in occasional contact with the one in Germany, and the one from Canada and I recently came back into contact after 15 years and are writing weekly again, albeit now via e-mail.

    I, too, have met people all over the world thanks to the Internet, via forums and my blog. I’ve made a few friends this way. I recently met someone in Columbus, Ohio, with whom I’ve been corresponding for six years! Say what you will about how the Internet is affecting our attention spans — one clear benefit it brings is the ability to make friends from anywhere!

    You are right – it is definitely a wonderful benefit. I don’t have a problem with attention span, either!!

  12. Angie~Lah permalink
    June 27, 2011 8:11 pm

    I love this post! I remember the days before cell phones and the internet, too. A couple of my school friends and I had some international “pen pals”. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember their names. But you’re right, the people we communicate with on the net these days are a lot like the old pen pals we had way back. I have a lot of people I’ve bonded with over the net. It seems weird at first. I know some people who say that you can’t really be friends with people online, but that’s a bunch of hooey.

    Absolutely right – hooey all around! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  13. June 27, 2011 8:15 pm

    What a great post. My wife’s dad still writes her, she loves that and it’s so rare in this day and age.

    How lovely for her – she is very lucky.

  14. June 27, 2011 8:28 pm

    I love this post! I think it’s so cool that you got to meet your blogging pen pals! What a great story…thanks for sharing it and your photos. 🙂

    You are welcome! It was a great time, and a fun thing to share. Thanks for the visit.

  15. HL BISE permalink
    June 27, 2011 8:37 pm

    Great post about the friends we meet here on WordPress and the like! I enjoyed reading it. (Congrats on FP, too.)

    Thanks so much. This has been so much fun!

  16. June 27, 2011 8:41 pm

    Isn’t regular mail fun? And blogging allows us to receive that “real” mail several times a day. How great to celebrate a mini-reunion. Thank you for the pictures!

    My pleasure. Thanks for dropping in!!

  17. June 27, 2011 8:45 pm

    An East Coast friend and I recently set our 7 year old daughters (who have never met) up as pen pals. So far so good! Their letters are adorable, and it’s great to see them enjoying something that I loved as a kid. Great post!

    That is so sweet. Lucky for them. They will have many fond memories.

  18. June 27, 2011 8:47 pm

    Kerry, you couldn’t have said it better! Reading this was truly remembering our time together and the curiosity I know we all shared! Old friends, indeed. As a longtime letter-writer (and one who still likes the pen-on-paper form despite my plethora of e-mails), I can relate to so many elements of this. But of course, what I connect with most is the joy I had in meeting you and Diana face-to-face and loving every minute of our time together! Well said, my friend!

    Jeanie! It was a grand time. Can’t wait for a repeat!!

  19. June 27, 2011 8:47 pm

    My mother plays the part of your daughter, actually. She’s convinced that the people I talk to online are secretly trying to kill me. Ah well.

    Well as far as I can tell, I haven’t met any murderers yet!!

  20. June 27, 2011 8:54 pm

    I loved your post! I’m glad I’m not the only one who is not too afraid to venture into cyberspace. I had a pen pal when I was in high school, and we still write today some 30 years later. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Wow! That is very cool. Thanks for the congrats.

  21. June 27, 2011 8:56 pm

    I loved having a penpal! It seems like it was so long ago. Great post!

    I am glad it brought back fond memories! Thanks for the visit.

  22. June 27, 2011 9:03 pm

    delightful. Thanks for sharing. nd congrats on being FP’d

    Thanks very much!

  23. June 27, 2011 9:04 pm

    I had pen pals in Australia and France. I always hoped they would invite me to visit, but no…congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Thank you!!

  24. June 27, 2011 9:11 pm

    My pen pal was in Germany. A class there was learning English so some how our teacher and their teacher contacted each other and we were each given a pen pal. We wrote for years before losing touch. WOW thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    Haha! You are very welcome!

  25. June 27, 2011 9:12 pm

    sometimes i miss to have a pen pal. my pen pals are living in my city now, so we can just meet 🙂
    but there are a few substitutions for writing letters. we have wordpress to be in touch in people from all over the world! when i feel deep need to use a pen, which is each day, i write a journal …to myself 🙂

    Journaling is good! I do that too. Thanks for the visit!

  26. June 27, 2011 9:17 pm

    I love this post! It reminds me of when I was young and had so many pen pals. I couldn’t wait until the mail arrived each day. We have it so easy now with blogging and Facebook. But you are so right that back then, it was all letters. Thanks for bringing back this memory!

    I am so glad it brought back fond memories for you. Thanks for the visit!

  27. June 27, 2011 9:19 pm

    So many things to like here. “mental squint” – clever and catchy.

    The fact that you dig people watching and when not pressed for a schedule, welcome the opportunity.

    Your penpals and the fact that you take the time in your life to have them. I have a few as well – “met” through various blogs and/or websites based on common interests.

    One of mine is travel – domestic and international so I also appreciate your recounting the meeting and posting photos of your fun.

    Such great mini-adventures rolled into one event. Kudos!

    Thanks very much!!

  28. June 27, 2011 9:28 pm

    wonderful post! i had fun exchanging letters with pen pals from all over when i was in middle school (eons ago! LOL)..ah, memories, memories….

    It’s interesting, how something can just spark a memory you didn’t even realize was there. The brain is such a strange thing!

  29. June 27, 2011 9:28 pm

    Yes, those of us obsessed with pen pals in our youth have inevitably become bloggers. I actually just came back in contact with one of my Dutch pen pals a couple weeks ago… good memories! 🙂

    that’s great! Hope you can keep in touch with her.

  30. fireandair permalink
    June 27, 2011 9:37 pm

    Pen pals. I had one in Chicago, but I’ve never been a letter-writer. (Lefty, so longhand writing was always a chore for me. Thank dawg for keyboards!)

    I remember meeting up with people that I’ve known online — I called one person I knew in north Wales one time, and she was tickled that I had an American accent, even though she knew I would. 🙂

    Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to read and comment.

  31. June 27, 2011 9:39 pm

    What a lovely post! growing up I too had pen pals from around the world-there was a company that ran a list of people wanting pen pals- you submitted your details and they sent you a list of people to contact.. I had friends from Italy, Germany, the US… it was a great way to learn about other cultures and people!

    Oh yes – back in the day it was the best way to learn about other cultures.

  32. June 27, 2011 9:41 pm

    Never had a pen pal, but now I have many blog friends! Glad you had an enjoyable time together.
    Congrats on being FP!

    Thanks! FP was a nice surprise.

  33. June 27, 2011 10:13 pm

    Yes, it’s definitely true. I’ve also made a lot of new friends (and friends who love to write) through blogging, and it DOES feel just like having pen pals from all over the world.

    thanks for dropping in, Lynne.

  34. All County Insurance - Brea, California permalink
    June 27, 2011 10:18 pm

    Cool post!

    Some of my best friends to this day are ones that I had met through the internet back in the 90s.

    You three look like you had grown up together, your pictures make the friendship and the time spent together look so natural and happy.

    Cheers!
    Thanks! It felt like we had known each other forever…

  35. June 27, 2011 10:49 pm

    Well I’m very glad your daughter was wrong and that you didn’t end up in some perverts basement! Looks like you had a good time. 🙂
    Haha – me too!

  36. June 27, 2011 11:13 pm

    Luckily they don’t fit the serial killer profile! LOL! (I’m knowledgeable because helloooo I’m on Season 3 of Dexter!!) 🙂 I’ve had the same penpal in Germany since 1990. He was an exchange student in one of my college classes. We still talk monthly via email, and will someday hopefully meet again! Nice post!

    Wow! That is a long time pen pal. I hope you do get the chance to meet again. Thanks for visiting here!!

  37. fromsusanwithlove permalink
    June 27, 2011 11:19 pm

    That’s wonderful! I had penpals via Girl Scouts! I still write letters though! There’s something magical about opening your mailbox and seeing something other than bills and junkmail waiting for you. Looks like you ladies had a blast!

    Absolutely, on all counts!

  38. June 27, 2011 11:19 pm

    Great blog- I too remember childhood pen pals of old, and truth be told the modern version is way more fun. Thanks for sharing!

    thank you for taking the time to visit and comment. The modern version is very much fun, in a very different way!

  39. June 27, 2011 11:20 pm

    I had a penpal in Crete when I was in my pre-teens! I so loved it!!! An exotic faraway place for both of us! And what you said about blogging is spot on!!!! I love it for that reason and so many others!!! (one of the few upsides to all of our technology) Great FP!!! COngrats!!! All these exclaimation points are because of your joy!!! 🙂 AmberLena

    Thank you so much!! I appreciate your visit and comment.

  40. June 27, 2011 11:32 pm

    I think it’s fabulous you had a bloggy buddy meet up! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one blogger I call a friend and we had a wonderful time together. Look forward to reuniting and remaining long distance friends!

    I am happy for you! Have fun!

  41. June 28, 2011 12:35 am

    How fun! I never thought of blogging to be like pen pals, but you’re right, they are in a way. You are having a conversation with like-minded friends and learning a bit about them in the process. Hope you get to meet up with them again!

    Thanks very much!

  42. Kenny permalink
    June 28, 2011 12:42 am

    I had several foreign penpals, introduced through an organisation called the International Youth Service, which was based in Turku, Finland. Although I blog today, it doesn’t come close to letter wiriting (and receiving). Why? It’s probably too Immediate, too easy, too convenient, less personal. Waiting for the postman brought excitement, and disappoinment when he walked by carrying letters for others. But to hold and open an envelope that had travelled from another country was an irreplaceable pleasure.

    Wow, look at that stamp, so different! My penpal had taken the time to sit down with pen and paper and craft something meaningful for me. It would then be my turn to respond, lick and seal before walking to the postbox and taking delight from hearing it fall onto the other letters (none would be more important than mine), and the waiting would start all over again. Thanks for posting.

    I agree – letter writing and receiving was a very different kind of thrill. Blogging is better than nothing, however. I have also connected with A LOT more people this way. Thanks for the visit.

  43. Anonymous permalink
    June 28, 2011 12:44 am

    What a fun read! I also had a pen pal and we just recently found each other on facebook after almost 20 years. Thanks for sharing

    How wonderful! I am happy for you.

  44. June 28, 2011 12:48 am

    I had a lot of pen pals, too, most of them in Sweden, where I live, but a few in other countries as well. When I was 15, I started writing to a girl my age in Austria, we met for the first time about eight years later, and today we mostly keep in touch using Facebook or SMS.

    There was something special about writing letters, I just wouldn’t be able to find time for it today…

    Time is definitely an issue. Just driving to the post office is hard to squeeze in!

  45. June 28, 2011 12:59 am

    This is so cool! I just became snail mail pen pals with one of my blogging buddies! I’m glad the three of you had such a special time! 🙂

    Thank you very much!

  46. I like boys who wear glasses permalink
    June 28, 2011 1:04 am

    What a sweet and endearing post!

    I used to have pen pals: one was my cousin (we ALSO wrote about horses!) and I even had a pen ‘boyfriend’ at a point – aalllll the way in Portugal. Keeping the ‘romance’ alive was exhausting as it took at least a two weeks for letters to be send back and forth (his mediocre level of English didn’t help either :P). We even send each other mix tapes (!) 🙂 Believe it or not, the love didn’t survive despite 😉

    Who says that nowadays e-life gets us more detached from real people!? This is great proof it can also gain you new friends! 🙂

    I am happy this brought back fond memories. Thanks for the comment!

  47. Anna Marquès i Banqué permalink
    June 28, 2011 1:41 am

    Great story! I didn’t remember I had two pen pals! An Italian girl (Simonetta are you there?) and a Japanese boy whose name I don’t remember… I remember now the illusion and hapiness of every new letter received… THANK YOU!

    You are very welcome!

  48. June 28, 2011 1:54 am

    There was a time when I had lots of pen pals all over the world. I was lucky enough to meet several of them. I remember a Russian love song played on a guitar and sung for me in my living room and a lecture about Chinese language in the middle of the night.

    I remember two awsome visits to British Columbia, sharing Indian food with Bostonians and eating smores on a Nantucket beach.

    Times have changed, I don’t travel that much anymore, but messages travel much faster. One of my dearest friends lives 9 time zones away, we have been writing to each other daily for a few years. I haven’t met her in person yet, but I hope, one day, I will.

    ahhhhhhhhh….. fond memories!

  49. rach permalink
    June 28, 2011 2:15 am

    I still love writing “snail mail” even though I use the Internet and cell phones to communicate, I know my friends and family still enjoy the occasional letter in the mail.

    Keep writing it down, on paper 🙂

    Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  50. anonnickus permalink
    June 28, 2011 2:19 am

    Bravo. For doing the meeting and for the post. Life hasn’t really changed then. What was of value then still has value now. Great example. Terrific post.

    Thanks for stopping in and taking the time to comment. And you are so right. Friends are friends are friends.

  51. June 28, 2011 3:42 am

    Great story!

    thank you!

  52. edebock permalink
    June 28, 2011 3:57 am

    How fun! I have a couple of blogging pals I’d love to meet too. Perhaps we’ll have to follow your lead.

    I highly recommend it. Good luck!

  53. odorunara permalink
    June 28, 2011 4:33 am

    Having met some very good friends via the internet and kept in touch with friends from language school and grad school via blogging, meeting people on the internet is not longer what it was 10 years ago. Glad you all had a great time!

    Thanks!!

  54. June 28, 2011 5:23 am

    I enjoyed reading your story.

    My teenaged son is a pen pal with his grandmother. It is nice to pass this tradition on to the younger generation, plus it is a highlight of my mother-in-law’s day when she receives his letter.

    I like how you relate pen pals and bloggers. Nice idea!

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.
    Thank you! Your son will treasure those letters for the rest of his life! That is wonderful.

  55. June 28, 2011 5:31 am

    I had penpals as a kid growing up. Some into my 20s. While I’ve lost touch with the majority of them, I still keep in touch with two of them… one who I met when I was something like 10 years old, and another who I met when I was around 21. Although we’re in touch via Facebook and email, just to be old school, we will still occasionally write to each other via snail mail.

    Good memories!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  56. June 28, 2011 5:55 am

    I never had the chance to make pen pals before but what you have gained from blogging is absolutely a gift. 🙂

    It is indeed – I wish the same for you.

  57. June 28, 2011 6:03 am

    Great, endearing and fun post.
    Ten or eleven years ago, I was involved in something known as “Mail Art”. Rubber Stampers who make cards and paper art love this, which is what I was doing at the time. What I got in the mail ranged from stunning to embarrassingly juvenile, but I saved it all in a giant folder. 3-D and multi-layered little works of art on paper cards, with decorated envelopes. I would go with a theme, based on a new rubber stamp, like Trains. Go 3-D and make tracks, a cotton puff of smoke, textures, like bird gravel for sand. Or Asian, with a beautiful Japanese woman, colored as if with enamel, rafia-grass wrapped sticks adhered with colored wires. Gorgeous stuff. And brief letters.

    When Spetember 11th hit, my regional Post Office was contaminated by ricin or whatever was in the Tom Dasheal letter, which passed through our PO system. Sending mail became a paranoid thing; I kept a 5 gallon bucket outside my door, and wore latex gloves to go through all the junk mail and dumped it instead of bringing it inside. I stopped the Mail Art then. Bummer. But the blogging does have the same emotional feel of connection. Just without the paper.

    Your first paragraph sounds great! The second one is a nightmare!! How awful and sad. At least there is blogging, which should be safe……

  58. June 28, 2011 6:04 am

    Great post! Made me remember years ago when the internet didn’t exist and writing letters was a normal thing to do!

    Ah, yes. Back in the day, as my kids are fond of saying! Thanks for stopping by.

  59. June 28, 2011 6:10 am

    Great memories of writing to pen pals and the anticipation of receiving replies! What a lovely idea of the three of you getting together. I also remember sending off for things advertised on the back of cereal boxes. You know (or maybe you’re not old enough) 10 box tops plus 25 cents. I loved getting something in the mail addressed to me. This was all before direct mail had a chance to inure us of all that stuff in our mailboxes.

    I do indeed remember. I also remember when the prize in Cracker Jack was a real prize!! And I sure know what you mean about junk mail! grrrrrrrrr!!!

  60. June 28, 2011 6:11 am

    Who would have thoughts our ‘pen-pals’ of the past would one day be our ‘followers’ in the future, I loved this story….RaeDi

    Haha – you are right! I never thought about the followers part. Pretty funny. Thanks for stopping!

  61. June 28, 2011 6:29 am

    That’s one interesting story! I had a pen pal when I was a kid, around a decade ago, but it didn’t last. I’ve met a few people from recent chatting on the internet, in person. Anyway, I loved your story! It must’ve been really thrilling to finally meet your friends.

    It was indeed. Thanks so much for your kind words.

  62. June 28, 2011 6:35 am

    This was such a great post, and I am glad y’all had such a great time. Pen pals are wonderful (I especially love snail mail), whether it’s letters, email, blogging, etc, it’s great to make friends that are so great.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Yeah, friends!!!

  63. June 28, 2011 6:49 am

    I have totally forgotten about the term pen pal until I saw this post…

    haha! Well there you go! It will start turning up everywhere you look, now.

  64. Francesca permalink
    June 28, 2011 7:05 am

    I, too, spent many a day (night) writing to my dozens of pen pals across the globe. Funny that I was just thinking about this very topic today…

    It’s funny how coincidences happen! Thanks for stopping by.

  65. June 28, 2011 7:18 am

    I love having pen pals. I LOVE writing letters! But it is getting harder to find people that really love to take the time and write to one another. It’s kind of upsetting 😦 This story is great, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves to write letters out there! There really is something beautiful about pulling out a pen and spending a little time to record your thoughts and send them off. An especially to receive a little something in your mail. It’s so nice to see a handwritten note!

    You are so right. I have lots of saved letters from important people in my life. Thanks for stopping by.

  66. June 28, 2011 7:18 am

    Nice article. It remind me of the days whenever I see my older sister ‘scouts’ potential friends in the newspaper classified ads for pen pals. There was a joy of excitement anticipating a reply from a stranger.

    Now, facebook has spoiled that excitement… hehehe… 🙂

    Oh well!

  67. June 28, 2011 7:33 am

    Very enjoyable post — thanks for letting us tag along on your trip — great photos and trip highlights! I’m sure it won’t be the last time you get together — the camaradarie between the three of you was evident. Good times!

    I’m a letter writer (and blogger) with several pen pals. Sometimes I combine the best of both worlds by printing off my posts and mailing them (with personal letters) to friends (mostly elderly) who aren’t “computerized.” It’s a fun way to merge past and present.

    Thanks again for the entertaining read!

    You are very welcome, thanks for stopping in to comment! You are write, another plan for meeting is in the works. Can’t wait!

  68. Anonymous permalink
    June 28, 2011 7:34 am

    Congrats on FP. I so enjoyed reading your story. I think I had about 30 pen pals at one time in the 80’s. It was such fun. I still have three, and have met two of them.

    I’ve also met seven friends made online. We’ve met in the home towns of three; London, LA and Cincinnati. Amazing trips and good times.

    Recently I’ve discovered mail swaps and mail art swaps online where you find each other online but write real snail mail letters! Such fun again. I LOVE to write with pen and paper most of all.

    Thanks for sharing!

    You are welcome! Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, snail mail!!

  69. June 28, 2011 7:39 am

    This is so great! It’s so wonderful you all met up!

    Thanks!!

  70. June 28, 2011 7:52 am

    Awesome. I’ve been telling my friends that I’m going to bring back pen pals and old fashioned letter writing but they just look at me with disgust in their eyes. They don’t understand but I’m glad there are those out there who haven’t forgotten the joy of letter writing. I gotta wallet full of stamps and starting tomorrow Operation Pen Pal will commence.
    Good for you!! I wish you luck in your endeavor. Go Pen Pals!!

  71. June 28, 2011 7:54 am

    i never have a pen-pal…sounds great to have at least one..

    You’ll never know until you try!!

  72. June 28, 2011 7:56 am

    I was thinking about penpals just yesterday, because last week I finished a workshop on writing, through letters! Great that you’ve met up with your friends, and obviously enjoyed yourself a ton 🙂

    A workshop on writing through letters sounds wonderful! What a great idea. Thanks for stopping in.

  73. rbs permalink
    June 28, 2011 7:58 am

    I am so impressed with your bravado or is it bravadA? I am also impressed with the number of “pen pals” you have acquired through your blog. I have a few faithful followers – mostly old friends, but have met 3 or 4 fellow bloggies – one who lives close enough that we could meet without a ride on Amtrak or booking a hotel. What fun is that?

    I love meeting “mature” bloggers – even though I’m sure I out-age you 3 amigas. I’m happy I found you through Freshly Pressed. WAY 2 GO!

    Yes, I guess it would be bravada! Thanks for finding your way here, and taking the time to comment. Meeting your “close” bloggies must have been fun. I don’t have any that close!

  74. June 28, 2011 8:00 am

    Wow, Pen Pals. Talk about something that has disappeared! Great post!

    Thanks! Yes – it is amazing how technology is changing our world so very quickly.

  75. dogear6 permalink
    June 28, 2011 8:16 am

    I loved your post and reblogged it. Thanks so much for putting into words why I enjoy my Internet friends so much.

    Nancy
    http://dogear6.com/

    Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you find the same enjoyment in internet friends!

  76. June 28, 2011 8:52 am

    The girl scouts also had me write to a pen pal–someone who lived all the way in Austria. Because I was so very flighty, that was more off than on and lasted less than a year. I wasn’t very good at communicating. I’m better now, but don’t get me near a phone. Hate phones. Yes…I’m strange.

    I’m also learning how much fun it is to meet new friends on this internet world. Still, your daughter does have a point…be careful. :o)

    thanks, I will be careful!

  77. June 28, 2011 8:57 am

    What a great post! Made me think of my childhood pen pal from England and my sister’s pen pal from Sweden. Wonder what they’re up to today? And an in-person meeting with your new “blog pals”? Bold move with obviously gratifying results.

    Maybe you can find them through Facebook? Yes, it was a great meeting which we plan to repeat, maybe with more joining in – who knows!?

  78. June 28, 2011 9:22 am

    its very interesting to have pen pals. now a days every thing has brought to our finger tips. but this makes us sluggish. the most interesting part is, some times we have to wait for weeks to get the reply. hope that you enjoy the reunion with the long time pen pals.
    Here please check my blog as well, and give me your comments. it is just away from your finger tips. now we don’t have to wait for weeks, months to get the reply. i recently started my blog. give your recommendations to my writings which may not be familiar topics but at least check my writing style. your comments would be very important for my growth.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting! Good luck with your blog.

  79. June 28, 2011 11:07 am

    I don’t think I ever had a pen pal as a kid. I always wanted one, but didn’t know how to manifest one.

    My writing desire came to fruition when I went away for 9 months to volunteer, and was on a $3 a day budget, and had to share phone and computer time with 11 other people in one house. We were just a couple of years shy of everyone having their own digital camera (one guy in our house had one, but everyone else had film cameras) and laptop to keep them company through the vast trek across the Canadian landscape to oft-far-away towns that is Katimavik.

    Writing and receiving letters was incredible, and I’m so thankful for them still. I kept every single one, and even photo copied the sizeable number I sent to one of my friend’s so that I can one day write a book about it.

    I’m currently waiting on my first correspondence from my new vegan pen pal, as part of the Vegan Pen Pals Project started by a group based in New York. I’m tickled that Canadian mail will start moving again (not to say that I agree with decisions made on either side – just that I love and miss mail).

    I think there’s still hope for the written word, though I love that blogging brings people together so concretely.

    Good luck with your new Pen Pal!!

  80. June 28, 2011 11:24 am

    Wow! Your post made me teary eyed! I’ve met one of my best friends through the internet almost ten years ago. I know what you’re talking about. I have several people I talk to onlne, but never met. Your story inspire me to want to meet some of them in the future.

    I loved reading this post very much, thank you 🙂

    Much love and friendship!

    Well I hope you do meet them! Friends are a great thing!!! Thanks for visiting.

  81. June 28, 2011 12:12 pm

    I never had a pen pal, but I had a boyfriend that went to another school. I would write him a letter every day and then when I saw him on the weekend, I would give him all my letters from the week that I wrote to him. Teen love, it is silly, but we loved reading our letters to each other. Kids don’t get that joy because they write text messages today. Your meeting with your blog friends sounds like great fun.

    What a sweet story! So many fond memories. Thanks for stopping in.

  82. June 28, 2011 12:50 pm

    I remember back then when the first time my family moved away from my hometown where almost all of my big family were there, I exchanged letters with my cousins. There’s nothing important to talk about in the letters. But that’s the only way to be in touch with them as cellphones, computers and internet are somewhat not so popular at that time.

    And I also remembered the last time my cousin sent me a letter (still in handwriting). I don’t really care on it, and that was the last letter I’ve ever received until this moment.

    Now I miss those letters.

    Thanks so much for the visit and the comment. It has brought back fond memories for many people!

  83. atikah212 permalink
    June 28, 2011 1:33 pm

    I wish I have a pen pal..but is be friend with random peoples frm facebook can be considered as “pen pal”? … I seldom writing letters rather than formal letters which was sent for formal matter.. as a teenager, I don’t think my friends would really care about these pen pals thing..but I really love it. And one thing that I wish I could have is the vinyl player..I only see it on TV..and theres a place in my country which sell antique stuff(the price is so expensive!!) btw, I love this blog! and I love you too! ❤ Thank you for sharing!

    thanks so much for your visit and comment. I hope you can get your vinyl player some day. My son has the one I used long ago!

  84. miilee permalink
    June 28, 2011 1:41 pm

    I never check out the posts that come on the WordPress dashboard. But I myself used to have penpals in what seems like another lifetime… So the title kinda made me want to click… it’s an awesome post! It must be amazing, meeting the people you’ve known for ages!
    I used to enjoy writing letters to two friends I’d made when I was a kid! and I totally miss them now! I’m gonna try to find the addresses of the two pen pals I had and see if I can resume that adorable old habit! Thanks for the post!
    So pleased this was an inspiration for you! Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment.

  85. June 28, 2011 1:45 pm

    Dear Qugrainne,

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. Letter writing had something special to it, more than just writing – the colour of the paper, the flower or whatever went along with the letter, the special stamp, something fun written on the envelope. But it took sooooo long!

    Yet, I agree – blogging allows to get to know so many people in the world which one would never have met most probably 20 years ago. I am writing this to you from Germany and it is fun to see your great pictures from Chicago and getting to know you:-)

    Peace and smiles

    Ginger
    Thanks so much, Ginger. I’ve heard so many great stories about pen pals! It’s brought back many fond memories for me. I appreciate your comment.

  86. June 28, 2011 2:01 pm

    What a lovely post. Me and my best friend are keen letter writers since we both went to separate universities. I really hope I can make some good friends like you have over blogging.

    I am sure you will, with a little time and effort. Thanks so much for stopping in and reading.

  87. June 28, 2011 2:07 pm

    You’ve remembered me about my pen pals from 4th grade (now I’m first year in college). I’ve talked with a girl from USA and one from Finland.

    Great time. Now I think I’m going to search for those letters and try to contact them again. 😀 Thanks.

    That’s great! Have fun. Thanks so much for stopping in and reading.

  88. June 28, 2011 2:45 pm

    I still love writing letters. I write letters and cards to loads of my friends. They don’t normally reply.

    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. Well, shame on them!!! I guess they don’t know what they are missing.

  89. June 28, 2011 2:47 pm

    writing letters is an art in itself.. 😀 you made me miss that art.

    Congrats for being on FP! 😀

    Thanks so much !

  90. June 28, 2011 2:52 pm

    I also have many pen pals when i was a child. But has lost touch now what a pity~~
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. Maybe you can track them down through Facebook…..

  91. June 28, 2011 2:53 pm

    I also had many pen pals when i was a child. But has lost touch now what a pity~~

    thanks for stopping in to comment!

  92. June 28, 2011 3:20 pm

    Lately I have been thinking about the exact same thing: how much communcation channells have changed since I was a kid. I had lots of penpals back then and loved getting letters from all over the world. (I was living in a very, very small village of about 240 inhabitants ewith absolutely nothing spectacular to do – at least for teenagers too young to drive and being the only teenager around.) I’ve lost many of them over the years, like you did. Gladly I was able to find them (or they found me) again via facebook, at least some of them and it’s great to see how our lives have turned out, where they are now and what they do. It was kind of getting to know the grown-up version of a kid I used to play with. Something like that. Liked it a lot. I also got to meet three of them and although I was worried how it all would turn out, if we would like each other in persona, too, it was always like meeting old friends, as you said. Loved that post!

    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. I’m glad to meet you!

  93. June 28, 2011 3:37 pm

    This is quite an interesting post. Even I have a few bloggers that I would love to meet in person, but it’s quite fascinating, how sometimes u know more about your blogger friends than friends u meet everyday in real life.

    AH
    http://ahechoes.wordpress.com/
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. You are quite right!

  94. June 28, 2011 4:00 pm

    You bought back many memories of my penpals from Holland, Italy, Haiti for me too. I remember there was a sort of guide book (from Turku, Finland) where you could choose a penpal from any country you liked! It all seemed so exciting in those days choosing a country and name of a person to start up the penpal friendship. My penpals lasted for quite some years but we have all since lost contact Iand I have moved to Europe to live from Australia. Cannot agree more with all the blogging we have it has modernized our penpal relationships making things so much easier but I miss receiving those long letters in the mail and collecting those beautiful stamps on the envelopes. Thank you, great blog!
    Thanks so much! I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. You are absolutely right, though… letters in the mail are still a treat!

  95. Anonymous permalink
    June 28, 2011 4:43 pm

    I’ve just been writing about pen pals – being a No.1 Blondie fan from way back – and how innocent it all felt when fanzines were a community – letters and profiles typed on paper and not screen. Enjoyed your blog too!
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. Yes, I remember fan clubs too. Another one of those “back in the day” things!

  96. June 28, 2011 5:04 pm

    What a great post! I’ve had so many experiences like this and have made lifelong friends through writing and blogging and good old-fashioned penpal letter writing. So glad to hear that you met up with ‘old friends’ on your trip.
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. I’m glad to meet you!

  97. June 28, 2011 5:07 pm

    Oh sorry, one more question–is the header image for your blog from Colonial Cemetery in Savannah?

    Yes! Lovely visit a few years ago.

  98. June 28, 2011 5:08 pm

    Great article. We set up a penpal site, http://www.britishpenpals.co.uk , over 10 years ago now and have lots of members who have met up with each other. Not only that many have ended up getting married. Our first marriage was back in 2001 with a girl in Chicago marrying a guy in the US Air Force and they had a little girl at the end of 2002. It’s fascinating reading some of the stories we get sent by members of the site about how they met their penpal. 🙂
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! What a lovely story you told!

  99. June 28, 2011 5:21 pm

    I met my pen pal through an exchange offered in a teen magazine. It was exciting to receive letters from California, a place so far from my east coast home that I could only imagine. Today with modern technology, I could zoom in and see her neighborhood and house. Cool but scary…

    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. Those google earth views make me dizzy and give me the creeps a little! I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Glad to hear from you.

  100. maryjane47 permalink
    June 28, 2011 5:37 pm

    Oh, such fun!

    My ‘internet girlfriends’ and I did the exact same thing last summer and we’re on again this fall…. it’s so much fun meeting up and talking in person since it adds another dimension to the relationship. I’m somehow closer to my internet friends than some of my real life friends.

    Good for you! And do it again!
    Thanks! We do plan on meeting again in Jan or Feb next year. The internet is amazing, isn’t it, for making connections?

  101. June 28, 2011 6:16 pm

    Pictures and letters : divine cocktail.
    Thanks a lot for this lovely memories.
    . I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. Thanks so much for stopping in and reading

  102. June 28, 2011 6:16 pm

    Aww..penpals.
    And how lovely meeting up..

    It was indeed. Thanks for visiting!

  103. June 28, 2011 6:18 pm

    That would never happen to me, I just blog for myself. It’s great for you, though. Great to hear you enjoyed the blues festival. I did, too.

    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I probably saw you there!

  104. June 28, 2011 6:40 pm

    Blogging & Twitter have both done this to me and when I’ve tried to tell people it was a natural progression folks look at me like I was a bit nuts! This is one of the natural progression point I think people overlook! I had and met a pen pal in Volgograd Russia when I was in college… not too different to meet blogging buddies & tweeps now!

    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. I don’t think I have met a single person on Twitter, though. Too many tweets for me!!

  105. June 28, 2011 7:12 pm

    What a nice post! I had a French pen pal when I was a younger. She had the most interesting handwriting. I loved the way she wrote the number 7 with the line through the middle. It was the first time I saw such a thing. She also used this really fluid ink pen, not a ballpoint, and she wrote on really thin blue paper that was almost like tissue paper.

    I tried through my blog to get my readers to do a post card experiment with me where we would exchange mailing addresses and send post cards to one another, but, alas, it didn’t work out. I didn’t have enough people interested. *sigh*
    Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. I have read so many wonderful stories about pen pals! Writing this post brought up many fond memories for me, too. I’m glad to meet you!

  106. June 28, 2011 7:36 pm

    My BFF is a true pen pal–an inveterate writer of notes, (occasional) letters, and postcards. Zillions of postcards. This has been wonderful as she has lived everywhere & I’ve been in the same place for a quarter-century…I love the fact that you were able to connect with OH and Jeannie face-to-face. You all look like you are having a marvelous time–and of course, you are 😀 The best part of blogging is the relationships that develop & if we keep up the correspondence they become even more precious, to the point where I sometimes find myself walking around thinking “Oh, so-and-so would LOVE that!” or “Wouldn’t X get a kick out of this” forgetting completely that I know them only through the wonders of technology…

    Wonderful post. Thank you.
    Thanks so much for stopping in – lovely to hear from you as always. You know Oh don’t you? It’s become a rather small world in many ways! … maybe you can make the next bloggie convention!

  107. janachantel permalink
    June 28, 2011 11:18 pm

    I have to agree blogging is like pen paling! I myself have met some pretty cool and unique people through blogging. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the country/world! I’m glad that your experience went really well and that you had lots of fun!

    I’ll appreciate it if you checked out my blog http://janachantel1.wordpress.com/ it’s about me trying to become a successful published author.

    Will do! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  108. June 29, 2011 2:46 am

    I think it’s great that you made your virtual world real. What better to connect people than shared thoughts through writing. Bravo!

    You are absolutely right! Thanks for dropping by.

  109. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2011 5:18 am

    Kerry,
    You are amazing. What a great way to meet friends, and what a great trip to Chicago. Your writing again brings the story to life.
    Don

    thanks, Don. I appreciate that you took the time to stop, read, and comment. You are a pal!!

  110. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2011 6:37 am

    How fun to meet the people behind the kind thoughts and words. Great idea.

    Thanks!

  111. June 29, 2011 12:39 pm

    Great blog and what a great idea, you mentioning pen pals takes me back to my childhood….how things have changed and its not until you sit down and think about how much your life is ruled by mobile phones and the internet !

    It’s amazing, isn’t it!? Thanks for stopping and commenting.

  112. June 29, 2011 5:31 pm

    I had forgotten all about pen pals. Never really thought of current day blog friends in that late. What a great idea. Congrats on Freshly pressed.

    Thanks!

  113. July 1, 2011 11:00 pm

    Well I like your blog and especially this post. When I saw it I made it into one of my favourites pages to safe into my laptop and later on (today) to start the reading. I guess it caught my and attention because of the pen-pal situation. I missed those old good days of traditional writing letters, I’m still that kind of person, but with the twist of online. Before I read it I thought maybe the post is a little bit like mine, but I’m glad that is not at all, yours make more sense and to the point. Mine was about an online thing and I compare it with a pen-pal, but it is far away to be or maybe not, who knows. Anyway I like yours and I like mine too. This blogging thing is fun.
    Thank you. Yes – blogging is a lot of fun!

  114. July 2, 2011 3:29 am

    Great post – I love hearing about internet friendships developing into offline ones.

    I’m another of the old pen pall fans. I often wonder what happened to the girl I used to write to.

    Thanks! So many people have fond memories of pen pals.

  115. July 4, 2011 12:14 am

    There’s nothing quite like getting a real, paper letter. The fact that it’s much harder to send makes it so much more valuable than a ten-second email.

    Great post; thanks for sharing.

    -GD
    Visit my writing blog at https://shelleddreams.wordpress.com/

    Thanks! Will do.

  116. Maggie permalink
    July 4, 2011 1:12 am

    How wonderful that you and your online friends got together. My college group does the same every summer and it’s the most fun. I live about an hour from Chicago in southwestern lower Michigan, right across the lake. I’ve been in Chicago many, many times. Looks like you gals had fun. When I was still teaching many of my students had pen pals and it was a great experience for them.
    Good to connect with you.

    Chicago is very entertaining! Thanks for visiting me here!!

  117. July 4, 2011 3:24 am

    This is great. I love the idea, and I love that you did it. I would have agreed with your daughter before hand and advised strongly against it. I love that I would have been wrong!

    She was very happy to be wrong, too! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  118. realanonymousgirl2011 permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:30 am

    Aw what a great story! And I love Chicago! Its too bad people don’t have penpals all over the country and world anymore. I always thought it was wonderful getting letters and learning about other people’s life and culture. I don’t even think people do that through email.

    Oh, I think people do talk through email… maybe you should try it! I know I talk with lots of people through email, just like I used to send letters through USPS. Thanks for stopping by.

  119. Alan King permalink
    July 5, 2011 3:20 am

    My pen pal were girlfriends I had in high school. (We all went to different schools. One I met online; another I met through my cousin when he recognized a friend from school in a mall food court.) Disclaimer: I didn’t date these women simultaneously. I dated one for a while, and met the other some time after the first relationship fell through. The reason why the girl from the first relationship and I didn’t see each other much was because I didn’t have a driver’s license. When I got it, I didn’t have my own car then. The situation with the girl from the second relationship was that her parents didn’t know what to make of me. They were strict at first, and eventually warmed up to me. During the warming period, we spoke on the phone some, but mostly wrote each other letters about our families, the things we liked, how we couldn’t wait to see each other.

    I’m not in touch with them anymore, but reading this post conjured those memories that had me smiling while I read. You’re very brave for meeting people you corresponded with online. I can’t say that your daughter’s words of caution didn’t echo in my head (“…you’re going to meet some 40 year old creep with bodies in his basement. Be careful!”)

    When I remembered I took that same risk with the woman from the first relationship, those years ago, I smiled at your words: “I knew exactly what I was going to meet”. Having wrote each other frequently, the details of our letters made our first meeting feel like a reunion.

    Thanks for this post!

    And thanks for stopping in! I am so happy that it brought back fond memories for you.

  120. July 5, 2011 7:08 pm

    This post really makes me smile 🙂 Because I’ve “known” all of you quite a while, I’m so excited you had the opportunity to meet for real.

    I was fortunate enough to meet Jeanie in person too -she is just as delightful as her blog 🙂

    Set aside some time around February, 2012, Becca. You must attend the next bloggie event!!

  121. July 6, 2011 2:11 pm

    I remember we had pen pals in elementary school. I believe it was in the third grade. I don’t remember it being a long-lived experiment but my pen pal and I did exchange a few letters and over time the idea of a pen pal has become romanticized as one of my nostalgic memories.

    I love the old Peanuts strips where Charlie Brown attempts to write to his pen pal with a real pen, ink smudging everywhere and getting the paper horribly messy. Always made me smile.

    On some days I miss writing letters and often swear I will go back to doing so. I wrote a lot of letters to friends from high school when we parted ways and all went to different states for college. And the summer that my girlfriend (now my wife) and I were separated (both went home for the summer from college) we wrote each other letters every day. We even sent extra letters so that we would have a letter to read on Sunday and one on Tuesday because there was no way to mail something and have it arrive on Tuesday. Those were the days.

    So glad you had a good time spending some face to face time with pals that you had only previously had the online experience with. Looks like you had a nice time.

    Hi Carl… it was a good time. Jeanie is coming to Milwaukee next week, so we have another meetup planned! The internet is an amazing tool.
    I do miss letter writing… but getting stamps, getting to the post office, etc. has always been a challenge for me (don’t be expecting a birthday card – I buy them and never mail them). I do write long emails to family and friends to take the place of that pen on paper, so I at least communicate! In fact, I owe you an email!!
    Well thanks for dropping by – you’ve been very busy, and I appreciate the visit.

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Trackbacks

  1. They Used To Be Called Pen Pals (via …A Mental Squint) « my life in photos – 365 challenge
  2. They Used To Be Called Pen Pals (via …A Mental Squint) | blank universe
  3. They Used to Be Called Pen Pals…. (on the other blog) « Kerry Lee
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