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MailTribune.com
  • Mysterious postcard becomes window into past

    When a 74-year-old postcard arrived in Butte Falls last year, postal workers were unsure what to make of it, but a relative of the intended recipient lived not far away
  • The postcard's message is brief, written along its edge in fading pencil: "Arrived in Portland at 8 o'clock. Having a fine time. Be home sometime Sat. — Blanche."
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  • The postcard's message is brief, written along its edge in fading pencil: "Arrived in Portland at 8 o'clock. Having a fine time. Be home sometime Sat. — Blanche."
    But the writing on the postcard, addressed to Florence Marion of Butte Falls, isn't its defining characteristic. The date it was sent — and the date it finally arrived — all but redefine the term "snail mail."
    Postmarked from Portland: 12:30 p.m., Feb. 20, 1940.
    Arrived in Butte Falls: July 2013.
    Formally delivered to Florence Marion's great-grandson, Alan Marion of Phoenix: April 14, 2014.
    "To me, it's one of those things that must have been meant to be," says Marion, maintenance director at the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society. "For everything to fall in place and show up at my doorstep, so to speak. I'm thrilled to have this card."
    U.S. Postal Service worker Sunny Bryant had been working at the Butte Falls Post Office only a month when the World War II-era message arrived in July 2013. The front shows a boat with a handwritten inscription underneath: "Leaving Manilla Bay. Feb. 1906. Flying Homeward Pennant."
    The postmark left Bryant scratching her head.
    "I looked at it, and I'm like, 'What am I supposed to do with this?' " Bryant says.
    She began to ask around the small community, looking for a home for the long-delayed piece of mail.
    "I got little clues here and there, but nothing that I could go any further on," Bryant says.
    But she was determined to find a resting place for the piece of mail. Charleen Brown of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society helped. She had gone to the Butte Falls Post Office to deliver some books. Bryant approached Brown while she chatted with another RVGS member about genealogy.
    "She said, 'What do you think of this?' And she showed me this postcard," Brown says. "And I looked. I couldn't believe the postmark said 1940."
    Because of the postmark year, Brown knew the intended recipient would show up in the U.S. Census. She started digging on www.ancestry.com and tracked down Florence Marion's name.
    "Being that Butte Falls was actually probably 350 people in that day, I knew it had to be the right one," Brown says.
    She dug deeper. Then a light bulb flickered to life over her head. She knew an Alan Marion, an RVGS member, who had once told her of some relatives who lived in Butte Falls. He confirmed Florence Marion, his great-grandmother, was among them. Brown told him about the postcard and retrieved it for him.
    "Somebody's been looking over my shoulder here, and it must have been my great-grandmother," Marion says.
    He did not know Florence, or of her, until he started his research at the Jackson County Genealogy Library. She continued to live in Jackson County after her husband, John, died in 1935. She died in 1952. Both are buried in a cemetery in New Sharon, Iowa.
    Even less is known about the postcard's author.
    "We have not figured out the relationship Blanche may have had with Florence Marion," Alan Marion says.
    Why it had taken so long to be delivered remains a mystery. One possibility is that the postcard actually did make it to its address in an acceptable amount of time, was found years later in a drawer or attic, and was put back into the system a second time, USPS officials say. The "why" of the story may never be answered.
    "Obviously these kinds of situations are very rare," says Peter Hass, USPS spokesman. "It's really difficult to determine where it might have been for those many years. The good news is it did get delivered to a relative, at least."
    Better late than never.
    "I'm just happy it found a home," Bryant says.
    Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.
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