Who remembers penfriend clubs? When I was young, children and many adults enjoyed communicating with penfriends in other countries.
Sometimes you found your penfriend through a school project. When I was in Primary School our city of Elizabeth, South Australia, became a sister city to Fremont, California and our school exchanged letters with students in schools over there. I don’t recall if I had a long-standing penfriend from that time but later on in my teens and twenties I had a lot.
Of course, there was no internet then but there was often a penfriend column in comics, women’s magazines and the Sunday papers. Through these sources, I also found out that there were clubs you could join for a small fee who would send you lists of potential new friends.
How exciting it was when the postman arrived and there was a fat letter, maybe with photos inside or perhaps a flimsy “Aerogramme” or a postcard. At Christmas, the cards would cover every surface in the living room.
I wrote to girls, and a few guys, in New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the UK mostly. I was interested in learning what it was like to live in their countries and I enjoyed writing about everyday life in Australia. My letters were nearly always long ones. I generally stopped when I had written as many pages as I could without having to buy an extra stamp, generally about five but I had large untidy handwriting. I always found it easier to communicate in writing than face to face as I was rather shy.
Mum also had penfriends and sometimes she and I would record a cassette tape to send to her Canadian penfriend who lived in Ontario near Niagara Falls. I would occasionally exchange cassettes with an American friend too. She took one of mine to the school where she was working as I think, a teacher’s aide, and told me that the teenagers in the class were most surprised to learn that Australians spoke English!
Eventually, we all lost touch. Letters became fewer as jobs, marriage and families took up more time. Perhaps the amount of time it took for the letters to travel across the world didn’t help either. Often by the time I got a reply to my letter I could not remember what I had said in it.
I did enjoy writing and receiving those letters though and perhaps that is why I enjoy blogging today.