Friday, April 4, 2014

Pen Pals - LBC topic

Pen pals. The name  says it all.  There was a company called The International Youth Service in Turku, Finland that hooked up willing folks between the ages of 10 and 20 so they could write letters to each other, develop friendships.  Learn about other cultures.

I availed myself of this service and had several pen pals - one in particular that lasted a long time.

Dieter and I met through IYS my freshman year of high school - 1963. My mind being a steel trap for useless information - I still remember his initial address - Filserstrasse 11, Balingen Germany. We traded letters pretty much on a monthly basis until Dieter entered the army 6 or so years later. We lost touch after that save for a few holiday cards. All in all it was a pleasant experience that lasted about 20 years or so. I distinctly recall the anticipation every 4 or 5 weeks when I expected a letter and when the mail arrived, his leters immediately stood out because of the light blue ultrathin paper he used. On occasion the letters were a single page that folded into an envelope. We discussed everything from music, sports and even politics a bit.

Flash forward to the early 2000s - I am now in Texas working at RadioShack. One morning my email  notification goes off (the Dudley Do Right them at that time  )
and what do I see?  an email asking if I am the same Chuck McConvey  that used to live in Hayward, CA.  It was Dieter - he had found me. via the Internet - somewhat ironic and the Internet was ultimately responsible for the IYS shutting down in  2008.

We traded a few emails and caught up.  Dieter was a judge in Germany at that time.  He'd actually been on a vacation to the SF Bay Area and looked up my old address. Catching up was fun.  Although we have not been in contact since that time, it was a great time and I still consider him a friend.

These days email has supplanted writing skills for many folks but frankly IMHO emailing does not make up for the things a letter brings to the table.  I miss writing them.  I miss the initial stages of Lynn's and my relationship when she was still attending BYU and we wrote back and forth.

 When she passed away last February, one of  the cards I received included a lengthy note from one of Lynn's 2 best friends - Donna.  Donna shared some wonderful recollections of her and Lynn and they were so much more meaningful because she  sent them n that card, handwritten and signed.

Don't get me wrong - I love being email pals with folks too.  The LBC has opened up some vistas that way in places like India, Ireland  and others.

That's my take n this week's topic. Check out the other LBC folk for a different take on the matter.


  1. Yes, Shackman: How we from bonds. In many many ways. Though mine have never included a Dieter (insert smiley).

    Where I slightly differ from your and many others' point of view: A private email is just as valid as a letter. Minus the handwriting. Emails I send are all written in the same spirit as I'd write a letter. Only arriving faster in someone's post aka in-box and without a stamp from the other side of the world. The heart can be in any written word. Method of transport immaterial. Though, yes, Shackman, having just received an "old fashioned" missive from my mother (she doesn't do email) was lovely. How I will miss that familiar handwriting one day.


    1. Sorry, got so sidetracked by one strand of thought, completely forgot the other: Namely, as Ramana stated, that we can make friends via blogs. It's true. My posts are mainly baits. An opening. A glimpse. The real conversation, exchange, and getting to know each other happening in the comments boxes. Friendships can be forged many ways.


    2. I agree generally but sometimes something handwritten is a better option. But if not for email and the Internet I'd never have met you, Ramana, GM and many others. My only other point is simply that many folks do not speak as they write and might in fact seem entirely different if face-to-face.

  2. While I would agree about the handwritten letters Shackman, I have a problem with that the last four years. I developed a slipped disc in the neck which resulted in ulnar palsy in my right hand and I find it quite difficult to write. I had to practice a great deal to get my signature right for checks etc! I am therefore stuck with typed communications.

    Like you, a friend and I reestablished contact because I saw his name on a forwarded mail. Unlike your story, he was a flesh and blood friend who I had lost touch with and today we meet often and exchange phone calls almost on a daily basis.

    I had a bundle of old letters that Urmeela and I had exchanged before our marriage and subsequently when I was on a very long tour while she stayed at her home. U had kept them along with our photographs and when I discovered them, I just could not bear to go back and read them. I took them to the garden and set fire to the whole lot.

  3. My problem with handwritten letters is simply lousy handwriting Ramana - and like you age has left me with issues - as well as a job that requires 8-10 hours a day of typing - can you say carpal tunnel syndrome :-)

    It's not likely a story like yours will be repeated with me as I can truthfully say I am in contact with all of the flesh-and-blood friends that really matter to me. I am lucky that way -

  4. Well, the debate rages on I see... :)

    Certainly email is a form of communication but far different from hand written communication in my opinion. Email is instant gratification where as something hand written is steeped in anticipation, one of the defining emotions of human nature. For me the difference between the two forms of communication conjurers up the old cliché of, "Stop and smell the roses". I recently wrote of the lost art of writing love letters and I am just too old school I suppose to ever see how the two mediums could ever be referred to as equals.

    When I get an email thanking me for a gift I may have given someone I am appreciative of their response. When I get a card with a hand written note for the same thing, it says volumes more about what they think about me and my gift to them.

    And as for the real topic of this post, sad to say I never had a pen pal. :)

  5. Scratchy pens and blotty ink gave me a dislike of letter writing long hand. The keyboard certainly helped and brought people into my world big time. I have met about 400 bloggers (face to face in real time) from as far away as Utah, Newfoundland and India with the remainder from across Ireland and the UK. It has been an interesting journey.

  6. I kind of miss the old snail mail. I love getting actual hand written letters.

  7. You have written a wonderful post Chuck, i.e. typed. A wonderful part of your life that brought joy to those of us lucky enough to share it.

    Hopefully the pain of your loss eases a little each day. You are in my prayers.

    blessings ~ maxi