‘Pen friends I’d had for years reacted coldly when I moved to email’

Aug 01, 2019
Pamela had been handwriting her letters to friends overseas, but made the switch to email when the technology became available. Source: Getty Images

Before emails I wrote up to 12 pen friend letters every week and posted them to the other side of the world. I had looked in various American craft magazines for women with likeminded interests as mine that were looking for pen pals. I loved cooking, folk art and writing plus I wanted to know about their family lives, most of us had grandchildren. I had travelled to America a few years before this and was already writing to a few people. Also, my niece had lived in Canada for a while after she married so I wrote to her mother-in-law. I had met a family from Germany and an English couple on a bus tour in America and was corresponding with them as well. I sent a few requests to the women I thought might be interested in an Australian pen pal and was pleasantly surprised when I had replies within weeks.

One lady already had been to Australia so knew my area. I tried to keep each letter different to the next, but then realised no one knew any of the others so most were the same vein, I just put in a few personal bits relating to that person.

They soaked up anything Australian. Most knew nothing of this country and thought kangaroos hopped down all our streets. I started buying little souvenirs at Christmas that were light enough to post, as overseas postage was (and still is) very expensive. I sent photos of craft projects and family events and looked forward to my mail when my friends sent their replies. Some also sent me souvenirs.

When the chance came for a trip to North America again, I had the good fortune of meeting up with four of my pen friends, two in Canada and the others in America. All in different areas of course. Two of these ladies invited us to stay in their homes. My husband and I had a wonderful trip.

As the years passed my husband had a work computer. I’d received some of the other ladies’ email addresses and he printed off emails and bought them home for me to read. This was my first time experiencing the new technology so I took myself off to have computer lessons and have never looked back. I joined a few online craft sites after I got my own computer and met some wonderful women whom I still keep in touch with on Facebook.

Unfortunately some of my pen friends didn’t want to embrace emails so over time I stopped writing and I’ve lost these friends. Emails are easier, I thought, why would anyone want to send ‘snail mail’ anymore? Life was busy and luckily when I discovered Facebook a lot of my pen friends joined as well, including my German friend. She and her family stayed with us in 2000. Through her I met another of her Australian pen friends and we now keep in touch and have met up a few times even though we live in different states. The English lady whom we met with her husband in America stayed with us the following year and I have seen her in London since.

Perhaps there is a more personal touch to be had by handwriting and I admit I’m sorry to have lost touch with a few of the ladies, but the rewards of email have far outweighed any doubts and guilt I’ve felt by ending my handwriting. I still keep in touch with my special friends online.

Do you have a pen friend? How did you meet and are you still handwriting your letters?

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