It all started at age 12 when his parents took him on a vacation from Calgary to Austria - the family’s homeland. Without any encouragement from his parents, wee Willie decided to send postcards back to his family and friends in Calgary. That was 43 years ago. Today Postcard Willie sends photos to over 300 family and friends from around the world, sometimes as many as 25 in one day. To date, he estimates he has sent several thousands of postcards from over 50 different countries. Yes Postcard Willie is well travelled.
Depending on the length of the trip, Postcard Willie can send as many as 300 postcards on single trip costing him $500+ in cards and postage. One day while on our Ireland golf trip, Willie found time to find, write and send 12 cards in the hour between the end of the day’s round and getting on the bus back to the hotel.
“Everyone loves to get postcards; some love the images, some the stamps he says. They call it ‘happy mail. People often tell me they keep them for many years.” Needless-to-say, many of the postcards end up on fridges and he estimates that half of the recipients have several shoeboxes full of Willie’s postcards.
Willie doesn’t just buy any postcard either. He looks specifically for cards with lots of information about the place (city, province, country), maybe with some history. He also looks for postcards that relate to each person’s specific interests (for example, if a buddy likes beer he will look for a postcard of a local pub or brew; for another person who likes churches, he will send them a church postcard.
In one case, he knew a person really liked tea so he found a postcard about tea and put it in an envelope with a few local tea bags and mailed to his friend. He also makes a point of sending postcards to people he knows whose homeland he is visiting. And he likes to use postcards as a thank you to people who have travelled with him and his wife. Willie prides himself on being creative with his postcard selections.
Over the years, many of his family and friends have also taken up the habit of also sending postcards when travelling. Some, in fun, even send cards to Willie from exotic tourist places like Canmore and Banff, just a few kilometers from Calgary his hometown.
Over the years, Postcard Willie has some interesting observations and recommendations:
- The most expensive stamps are in Austria, where it takes 1.75 euros to send a postcard (over $2.25 CDN).
- The slowest postal service is in India where it can take a couple of months for a postcard to get to Canada.
- He recommends to always dating your postcard so recipients can tell how long it has taken to get to them.
He also likes to research the stamps that are available and if possible make sure people get new stamps or stamps that have some significant meaning, as many of his recipients have become stamp collectors.
He also buys postcards for himself as they often have images the average photographer could never capture. His personal collection is well over two thousand postcards.
Flying out of Frankfurt Airport so often (it is his jumping off point for European adventures), Postcard Willie is on a first name basis with Reinhard the shopkeeper at his favourite postcard kiosk that he has been frequenting for over 20 years. He is often greeted with “Back again? Why don’t you move here?” The same is true at the Munich Train Station where he is also a frequent buyer.
In 2007 and 2008, Willie was working in India and so was sending lots of postcards home to his wife in Calgary. One day when he was picking up his mail at the supermail box in the community of Panorama Hills he noticed a guy loitering around the boxes. When he opened his mailbox the man he approached him asking “are you the guy who sends all the postcards from India?” Turns out he was the postal carrier for the area and his family was from India. Long story short, he and Willie became friends, with Postcard Willie taking things to his family in India and bringing back things from India to Calgary - including a bolt of fabric, which was used to make a shirt and pants for Postcard Willie.
Over the years, Postcard Willie estimates he has mailed over 10,000 cards to family and friends. His motto is “if they have a postcard, I will find it.”
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By Richard White, October 11, 2014