Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pen Pals

Mamie Van Doren - one of the perfect beautiful women of the Fifties

Back in my Previous Life, aka prehistoric times, I used to be a teenager.  Yes, I too was once young.  

Back in those teenage years I was one of many Lonely Teenagers of the Fifties.  And being gay (known as 'queer' or 'homo' in the Eisenhower Fifties) I was doubly lonely.  So where did I seek friendship?  It was through pen pals.

I was a newspaper boy.  I loved that job.  I will have to write about my paperboy days in another blog.  Every day after school I would pick up my 60 or so Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspapers for my paper route from the Same Charles News Agency in downtown Downingtown (a suburban town of 5,000 thirty-seven miles west of Philadelphia).   I was 15 years old at the time.  The year was 1957, right smack dab in the Oh So Conservative Fifties.  

When I would pick up my allotment of Evening Bulletin newspapers I would also peruse the comic book and magazine display which was directly above where the newspapers were stacked.  I was a comic book whore.  I collected all the comic books.  In fact, most of the money I earned as a paperboy was spent on either comic books, candy or developing black and white pictures that I took with my $5.00 Kodak Brownie camera.  Yes sir ree, the Fifties were MY TIME.  I LOVED IT!

One day I spied a new teenage magazine.  It was called 'DIG.'  I flipped through it and was immediately drawn to the pen pal section.  Hey, here was something I could get into.  I always liked writing plus I liked to receive mail.  Hey, I would put my own ad in this magazine!  

I read over the other ads and tried to get the wording just right so I would catch the attention of the maximum number of potential pen pals.  I guess what I was hoping for was to find someone like myself.  Much like I'm doing now with this blog.  I was look for another me.  

I got my wording down and sent in my ad.  Then I anxiously awaited the publication of my ad.  For the next three months I would buy the new issue of Dig only to see that my ad wasn't in the magazine.  I remember how disappointed I was.  But then it happened.  The four month after I sent in my ad they published it!  

Oh excitement!  I still feel a rush of butterflies in my stomach to this day when I remember how thrilled I was when I saw my ad in print.  In the next week the letters started to pour in.  Wow!  How exciting.  I had my address as our family's post office box (P.O. Box 212, I still remember it to this day!)  

When my family and friends found out that I was receiving letters from pen pals they either mocked me or asked "Why? Don't you have any real friends?"  I remember very clearly my good friend Bill B. rarely missed a chance to make fun of me for having pen pals.  That hurt.  What really hurt was my great-aunt Grace asking my Mother "Why does Ronnie need pen pals?  Doesn't he have any friends?"  Well, actually I didn't have a whole lot of friends.  I always worked after school.  I was a paper boy from the time I was in the third grade.  At one time I had three jobs after school:  

  1. Paperboy - every night including Sunday morning
  2. Clean offices - every night
  3. Butcher market - I worked the front counter at the farmer's market on the weekends
I was a busy teenager.  I didn't have time to hang out at Guinta's, the local soda fountain which is what most 'yon teens' did during my high school years.  Not that I'm complaining, I'm not.  It's just that any money I had I earned.  I never received an allowance. I wasn't one of the Fortunate Sons like my classmate who liked to make fun of me for having pen pals.  Yes, I know he reads this blog but that is what happened.  Sorry Bill, the facts are the facts.

Just a Lonely Boy and his Cat 1958

So my big excitement was pen pals.  At one time I had sixty-eight pen pals.  I faithfully answered all the letters that I received every day.  Most of my pen pals were young girls.  I guess I was the Justin Beiber of my day because I was very popular with the girls.  I was sort of cute in a dorky kind of way in those days just like Justin is today.  Plus I had a nice smile, even if I did have one small tooth right in the front which I was always self conscious about (I got that fixed when I was an adult hence the toothy smiles of my later years.)  

Every now and then I would get a male pen pal.  Two that I remember clearly was Wolfgang.  He was my pen pal from Germany.  Somewhere I have a picture of him that I haven't scanned into my computer.  He wasn't cute.  

Toshio Obo 1958
I had another male pen pal, his name was Toshio Obo.   He was from Japan and very cute (although I'm not into Asians).  Toshiba would write to me partially in Japanese and English.  He sent me a very nice devil's head pin with diamonds in the yes as a gift.  I still have it.  I don't remember what we wrote about.  Mostly what we did that week.  Nothing earth-shattering (no pun intended considering the situation in Japan this past week).  

I had another pen pal in Wisconsin.  I think he was gay because he always wrote about how he wanted to be a woman's hair stylist.  I missed my gay card on that one too.  I never wanted to be a hairdresser so we had nothing in common and I stopped writing to him.  

Nancyi Jo Stoker 1958

I enjoyed my 'girlfriends".  I had a favorite.  Her name was Nancy Jo Stoker and she lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I wrote to her long after I discontinued writing to all my other pen pals when I left high school and joined the Army.  Sometime during my three years in the Army our correspondence dropped off too. I don't know who stopped writing first, the relationship just drifted apart.  Maybe someone will do a Google search and find her name in this blog posting and contact me.  That would be cool.  I always liked Nanci and wondered what she did with her life.

My last picture of Nancy - sent to me while I was in the Army

After I got out of the Army I looked for my stash of comic books and Dig magazines.  Much to my distress I discovered that my Mother had burned all my comic books (many of which were of the 'Crypt Keeper' variety) and Dig magazines.  That was my Mom, deciding what I should read and not read.  As much as I love her, that is one reason I left home as soon as I could and why, when I got out of the Army I didn't live at home.  I needed my freedom.  I vowed to never again have anyone censor me or make decisions for how I live my life.  

The picture of the Dig magazine pictured on this blog was supplied by my good friend (and former boss) from my working days at Girard/Mellon Bank in Philadelphia, Bill P.  This 'Bill' appreciates the value of collection.  He has an extensive collection of Do-Woop 45's from the Fifties.  This Bill does not mock my predilection for pen pals or any other type of collections. He understands.  He has never mocked me.
Thank you Bill, I will always value your friendship to the end of my days.  Through our twenty-two years working together and now our continuing friendship in retirement you have made my life so much richer.

By the way, I only intended this posting to be a few paragraphs but I do seem to run on and on don't I?  Well, that's me.  Now you see why I like to write and why I love to blog.  I will do this until my fingers no longer can tap out the letters on my keyboard.  

I love the new friends I have made through my blogging.  I may be an old geezer now who talks too much of my past but I still have a very active life and I plan to keep writing about it.  Thanks for stopping by for the visit and reading about my life.  


Anonymous said...

You are the very definition of "the pleasure of his company". Your blog flows like a stream. (Mine flows like a glacier.) I continue to feel undeserving being on your blog roll, but still so very glad we 'met'.

nitewrit said...


Drat, I wrote this long comment and Blogger gives me . Sorry, can't complete my request when I sent it and wiped out my message.

Anyway, I basically said this statement, "I was 15 years old at the time. The year was 1957, right smack dab in the Oh So Conservative Fifties," doesn't compute, unless you took up your paper route again after i moved.

I took over your route just past Christmas, because you wanted to get the "Christmas Tips". I had to give it up when I moved from D-town. I moved right after ninth grade ended, just shy of my 15th birthday. The year was 1956. Since you are a few months younger than I, you couldn't have been 15 and it couldn't have been 1957, unless you started delivering again.

I remember "Dig Magazine". I had a few pen pals back in the day, but nothing like you. I worked at the Farmer's Market for a bit as well, but not at the front counter. I worked for a greengrocer as a salaried celery washer. I had to give that up when we moved, too.


Tiger Tsuki said...

Toshio was QUITE the hottie for the late 50's! And that was certainly a provocative photo to send to another guy at that time! Woof!

P.S. I am for lack of a better term, a "Rice Queen", and yet I married an Italian! Go figure! :)

Don Voth said...

I really like reading about your life! It's actually interesting. KEEP IT UP. (We all share some similar experiences!)

Vương Tử Trực said...

I didn't think you hard worked like that after school.
Have you ever met any of them in person?

Ron said...

Domani Dave,

Thank you very much for your generous comment! I am glad we 'met' too.

Ron said...


You're probably right with your dates. I remember ninth grade was when I stopped delivering papers. I think I began in fourth grade. One of the reasons was I thought I was too old to ride a bicycle, believe that or not!

Nathan said...

I love your posts Ron, don't worry about them being wordy!

Point #1, Toshio was a FOX.

Point #2: I love playing internet sleuth, tracking people down. I tried my best to track down Nancy Jo Stoker, all I could find was this:

I believe this was her high school and graduating class. She probably has a different name, location, etc.

Ron said...

Yes, I had a lot of jobs at the same time when I was a teenager. I also sold candy bars on the school bus and mowed lawns. Hey, I'm still working like right now at 69 year of age. I know no other way. That 's the way my Mother trained me. She said "None of my boys are going to be bums."

Ron said...


Very cool! So you looked up Nancy Jo Stoker? I would love to hear from her again. Maybe I'll do a little sleuthing myself. I also like to look people up.

Ron said...

An e-mail received from my friend Bill B. who used to mock me in high school because I had pen pals:Ron,

So, as I recall, the way you got back at me was to post my name and picture in Dig magazine. Am I recalling this correctly? Hah! One day I was swamped with letters from people I didn't even know. "What gives here? Oh, Tipton!!" And, I think you took those names that wrote to me and you wrote to them. I shared........see I wasn't all that bad.......

I may even have the magazine and letters somewhere. I think they may be in an old Amway box from when we were Amway distributors.


Ur-spo said...

oh but I miss writing letters; I used to write a lot of them
I had a long time pen pal from 1980 to 2000 or so; but then the internet apparently killed it.
I still save all the letters people wrote me - what a treasure.

Ron said...


I'm afraid letter writing is becoming a lost art. I too have saved many letters over the years. I also treasure them. Unfortunately, Bill threw out all of my pen pal letters. He said they were 'taking up too much room.' In actuality I think he was jealous. I wish I had those letters now.

pals24 said...

wow , you had nice penpals , lucky