- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - To the people living in the early years of the 20th century, postcards were the equivalent of today’s text message.

The Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/1UcEMNj ) reports that they provided a simple way to send a greeting or short message, and they gave the receiver the gift of a photo or illustration to brighten their day - sort of like a text message with a photo attached.

Unlike text messages that are normally deleted and therefore lost to the world, postcards were often saved and stored. Now, all these years later, they provide a glimpse into a slower, simpler world - when traveling 10 miles took hours and communicating took days.

“Postcards were a craze in the early 1900s,” said Ryan Leichenauer, director of the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk. “Then they were used for communication. … now they are a memento.”

An exhibit featuring those early postcards and associated materials is on display at the museum at this time. The title, “Just A Note,” was taken from the first line of a message on one of the cards, Leichenauer said. The exhibit tells the story of how postcards were used in a almost every facet of life - including personal, business and social.

Many of the postcards featured photos of local scenes and buildings. The McMill Building, which originally housed the Federal Court House and Post Office, scenes of Norfolk Avenue, the original Norfolk High School building and Johnson Park are among the most popular Norfolk cards.

But not all of the cards featured photos. Some had drawings, decorations or characters and messages meant to entice people to town.

While the early cards were printed in black and white, cards printed later were often colorized, Leichenauer said. Some have the appearance of being hand painted.

Also in the early days, photos were often set off-center, which allowed room for the message on the front since the back was used just for the mailing and return addresses.

Later cards provided space on the back for the message, although writers often filled in the margins and other blank areas, since postcards didn’t provide much space for text.

And while the the messages were often lighthearted and entertaining, some were somber, such as this message from a woman to her children:

“Dear Kids. Had to hear from you. You ought to travel this way. This is a lonesome town. It’s not home sweet home.”

Lots of love,

Clara”

Clara was in Norfolk when she wrote the card, and “the kids” were in Stanton.

Another card with a happier tone said:

“Hello Bess.

How are you and everybody? We are way out here in the bushes and getting so fat you won’t know us. This is a lovely place. Wish you were here.”

Prior to World War I, many postcards were printed in Europe — especially Germany, Leichenauer said. After the war, companies in the states began producing them.

In fact, one of the country’s most well-known greeting card companies began by as a postcard company in Norfolk.

Joyce, William and Rollie Hall operated their business here before moving to Kansas City and opening what would become Hallmark Cards.

Many of those postcards had scenes from Norfolk, and many still exist and are popular among collectors.

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Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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