Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A New World

Yesterday I mentioned Molly Lovejoy who is spending her junior year in Austria. My daughter Amy was in Berlin for her junior year...more than twenty years ago. How things have changed! In 1989 we wrote actual letters on paper, put them in envelopes and mailed them to Europe. Even if we wrote regularly, it took several days for the letters to be delivered, and several more days to receive a reply. We talked on the telephone every few months...only for short periods of time because it was expensive.

Today, with the Internet, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, we are almost instantly connected all over the world. Molly's daddy, Dave, told me how he tuned in to our new Ocracoke radio station, WOVV (90.1 on the dial), and skyped Molly so she could hear the broadcast of one of the Ocracoke Dolphins' basketball games. Dave even went over to the gymnasium and asked the announcer to send Molly a greeting!

Blanche tells the story of her uncle Elisha Ballance, an Ocracoke Island sailor in 1899. He was on a schooner crossing the bar at Ocracoke Inlet, on his way to the West Indies, when he looked back and saw a huge fire raging out of control in the village. But there was no turning back. The captain had cargo to deliver. It was not until months later that the schooner returned to Ocracoke and the sailor discovered that the large Ponzer Hotel (which sat where the NCCAT center [the old US Coast Guard building] is today) burned to the ground after the cook let a stewpot full of goose boil over and set the building on fire. Did I mention that times have changed?

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Sam Jones, Island Legend. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous11:13 AM

    Yes, Philip, I agree how times have changed. Some good and productive advances and others which will make one's head spin if taken the time to contemplate.

    One thing for sure, when families have children who study abroad, like my sister did years ago and your Amy and now Ocracoke's Molly, the new technological advances certainly allow parents a sense of "relief" when they can communicate to their child at just about any given moment, regardless of distance or time zone.

    Many years ago, people died and were buried long before the news got around to distant family members. Couples were married and babies born were practically toddlers before news arrived, unless by wire telegrams, carrier pigeon, pony express or other such method. Many times, people "passing through" were the carriers of news which was requested by people to spread to distant families and friends.

    It's really quite daunting to realize how far modern communication advances have come. Ironically, now man has created a monster of sorts and constant communication is sometimes truly a pest. I guess it's like life...we just need a "balance".

    Enough said....this NC mainlander is going to sign off the computer and enjoy the sunshine & blue skies on this breezy February morn.

  2. Anonymous11:36 AM

    My head is spinning at the thought that letters are considered not an added benefit to communication. Amy's hand written letters are special and if you saved them are treasured family documents, heirlooms of sorts; and achiveal documents worthy of a place in the local historical museum. As a testament of the impact and role that islanders play in world diplomacy!! With out a letter to hold in your hand to be reread and admiring the handwriting noticing the postage stamp the date the letter was cancelled with all of these minor elements that add up to the sum of its parts. A letter is far more personal then a yahoo electronic message. The Post Office use it or lose it.

  3. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Molly if you are reading this Please hand write a letter or two or three to add to the tradition of Islanders who travel abroad and mail a real letter with a fantastic stamp or two of proper postage. Perhaps the quaint shop you visit to purchase your note paper and waiting in line at the post office will give you an everyday experience of everyday life over there in Europe, that one will not get with an e-"mail"

  4. When I worked in Germany, my Dad saved every one of my letters. He died last year and my mom found those letters. She sent them to me in a treasure box. How lucky I am. Not only the words to read, the emotion in the hand writing and the blurred words when tears were pouring down onto the paper.

  5. Anonymous7:33 PM

    Our son is deployed in Iraq & we are so grateful for the opportunities to see him via Skype. And with email - facebook - etc whenever we are worried & really need to know he's ok, reassurance is only an e-message away. Of course, nothing replaces the mailed "care packages" with all his favorite foods - Valentine's cards & satin boxers with hearts on them (a family tradition - everybody gets a pair!) - long sentimental letters - etc, but there's something to be said for the "convenience" of today's means of communication.

  6. Anonymous9:39 PM

    I have my father's letters that he wrote to his sister during WWII. They are priceless. The new technology is nice - my brother is in Iraq and I love being able to Skype him, but those old letters are special.

  7. Anonymous4:37 AM

    Newspapers are folding and no longer in print. Handwriting a letter is too much of a stint? An e-mail is fleeting, and who is to say that e-mail will never be charged for. Now with broadband who knows how expensive these conveniences will be come once the public has allowed the postal service to wither away

  8. Anonymous8:37 AM

    Although I love the modern conveniences of email, etc, I grew up in a family with three postmasters, (grandfather, father & uncle) so letter writing was a natural activity. I wrote hundreds of letters to everyone. Also, thank you notes, sometimes I fear now a lost art in and of itself, were expected and written within days of receiving a gift.

    I have all of my grandparents love letters written to each other in the early 1920's. Addresses consisted of name, town and state. Sometimes a road or street name, but often times, not. Zip codes were not used.

    Although the envelopes have yellowed with age, I love tracing my fingers over the addresses and viewing the old 3 cent stamps. The romantic letters from my grandparents, who never sat together on the same side of the church during a service, reveal the quiet love they had for each other. Quite special!

    Yes, I still write letters, but I must confess I email more. I do send oodles of greeting cards and use a lot of stamps. Each card always includes a personal note. I just don't send a card with my signature only....guess it's because of my upbringing.

    Also, not only were my letters written in cursive ( yet possibly one day another lost art) my spelling was perfect. It was a sin to mail a letter with any word not correctly spelled!

    Attention to detail...that was so important way back when....It took a little extra effort, but the results were well worth it!