My parents belonged to the Independent Order of Foresters. I never really knew what it was at the time, I think I discovered years later that it was their insurance company, but what was neat about this company was the magazine they sent out each month. A magazine which had a section titled "Pen Pals". Children would submit their name, address, and age, asking for pen pals.
Times were different back then, I suppose. I can't imagine parents letting their kids post their name and address in any magazine (I don't think I would have in the 80's). Too many weirdos in the world. Not that they didn't exist back then, they just didn't have the resources they do now.
I responded to several ads, but never got any responses back. So I decided to place my own ad.
What I didn't realize was that it would take a year to post.
My ad said I was 13. By the time it posted, I was nearly 15. But I got lots of responses – and I mean LOTS – from kids that were nearly two years younger than me.
I definitely kept the ones that were closer to my own age. Of the others, I gave my sister first pick (since most were her age). But I was determined to respond to every one (because I hated not being notified of all those I had written in the past). Of the leftovers, I decided to play "match maker", sending suggestions to one reject to write to another reject (because they seemed to have the same likes). Whether or not they wrote each other, I never knew. But it was the thought that counted, right?
I believe I chose close to 20 pen pals from that ad. I only remember 9 (Pam-St. Cloud Minnesota; Ron-Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada; Steve-Seattle, Washington; Carl-San Francisco, California; Linda-Faversham, Kent, England; Mandy-London, England; Helen-Sri Lanka/Australia; Mary-Colorado; & Howard-Phoenix, Arizona). I met four in person (Steve, Carl, Mary, & Howard). In fact, two of my pen pals wrote each other and ended up getting married (Mary & Howard, I was at their wedding, but they later divorced – always felt bad about that).
One has passed (Ron – and that was tough because he was my favorite and I always regretted not meeting him) and I keep in touch with one (Helen) via Christmas Cards. It's sad to think I had all these neat friends from all over and have lost touch with them. I kind of hope that someday they'll find me on Facebook, but that hasn't happened yet.
I don't write letters anymore (well, except for my yearly Christmas letter, but that doesn't really count) and I rarely e-mail. It's a shame how much changes when you grow older.
Did you have any pen pals? Do you still keep in touch?