There’s always something special about a good find at a thrift store, but a recent trip to a particular second-hand shop lead me to the ultimate wanderlust treasure. Back in our neck of the woods of southeastern Connecticut, during one of the last weekends of summer, I decided to peel off Route 1 and check out the jam-packed antique store, Mine. With some time to kill and nothing specific on my mind, I’d see if there was anything worth scooping up for the shoebox apartment I now call home in Manhattan. Little did I know that this quick pit-stop was about to become a moment I’ll never forget.
Perusing the shop, I made my way into a back hall, and spotted a perfectly folded American flag. 50 stars, all cotton, made in Pennsylvania, roughly 9x6 feet, for $28… I’d hit the jackpot. The quality of this flag was incredibly more impressive than those at such markets like the Brooklyn Flea, considering the size for less than thirty bucks. I picked up that flag, and continued hunting. Making my way to the very back of the room, I came upon a large rectangular basket with upwards of 400 postcards. Growing up, my mom would frame vintage postcards of our hometown and places we’ve visited. I guess I subconsciously now have a thing for vintage postcards, so I took a scan through the stack. Diving right into the middle of the batch, I came across a card depicting a scene of swimmers jumping in the Harlam Springs in front of the Arrowhead Hotel (the one just below with the palm trees and mountain range in the distance). I think to myself, now anywhere with mountains and palm trees, I could get used to that.
After studying the image on the front, I flip it over to see the note. “Oh you winter weather!” it reads, sent from Riverside, California on November 14, 1911, to the local town of Norwich, Connecticut. Initially, I think how awesome, a card more than 100 years old is in such great condition and made such a cross-country trip back in the day; how long did it back then for a postcard to travel from coast-to-coast? Then examining the sendee, I nearly fall to the ground. As mentioned, the card was sent to Norwich, CT (where my father and his family grew up), and the card is addressed to Mr. Arthur Crowell at 102 Williams Street… Well Mr. Arthur Crowell of Williams Street in Norwich happened to be my great-great grandfather. I couldn’t believe what I was holding. A postcard sent to my great-great grandfather nearly 104 years ago, and it had stumbled into my hands… I was quite honestly speechless.
I immediately went through the entire basket of postcards hoping to find another one to Arthur. After 45 minutes of looking postcards from pastimes, I found 21 cards addressed to Arthur Crowell, and six to his son Frank Crowell (my great-grandfather). Cards sent from all over the US, Canada, the UK, Bermuda and beyond, between the years 1908 and 1914. Having trouble processing what had just happened, I shared my story with the employees who rang me out with the “Fate Rate” giving me something like a family discount (only on the cards, not the flag). I walked out of there with my heart pounding and a new long list of destinations to add to my bucketlist. Someday I’d like to stand where the photos in the cards are from, and think back to the people who were writing these historic men of my family lineage. A really blah afternoon turned into a super surreal moment I’ll remember forever, and one that proves these cards were meant to come back to someone in the family; I’m just lucky they made their was back to me. Check out a few of my favorites photographed below!