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Postcards tell stories of Capitola

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Capitola Museum volunteer Niels Kisling arranges postcards in a new exhibit curated by Frank Perry showing Capitola depicted in postcards through time. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

CAPITOLA >> For anyone who has visited this seaside resort or bought a postcard to savor the memories, the new exhibit at the Capitola Historical Museum opening Saturday is worth a visit.

“Postmarked Capitola: A History Through Postcards” was five months in the making by museum curator Frank Perry, who has been thinking about such an exhibit for 20 years.

“I finally got to do it,” he said. “I had a lot of fun.”

Perry, who collects postcards of lighthouses, combed through hundreds of postcards in the museum’s collection and several private collections to create a time line to illustrate how Capitola has attracted visitors for more than a century.

He calls the decade from 1904 to 1914 the heyday for postcards with 1 billion sent through the mail.

Congress lowered postcard postage to a penny, more people were traveling and the telephone was not yet in wide use, making postcards the Facebook or Twitter of that era.

Some mail was delivered twice a day, Perry said, so a postcard mailed in Capitola in the morning could reach Oakland in the evening.

Part of the exhibit explains how secret messages can be hidden in stamps. Another shows how postcards were used to deliver draft notices, tax bills, bank receipts and even a musical recording. Yet another shows how early printers doctored photos, removing people, adding a glider in the sky, to enhance the postcard image.

During his research, Perry found 75 percent of postcards were sent by women.

He became intrigued by the stories they told — “like looking at someone’s diary,” he said.

Here’s one from July 10, 1903: “Am anxious to go north, but don’t know just what I’ll do yet. Go to Big Trees today & have picnic in Dell tomorrow — whence the Mysterious Box is opened. Many thanks for my share of contents, but I am a little suspicious. Haha, with love, Gertrude.”

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Capitola Museum volunteer Niels Kisling arranges postcards in a new exhibit curated by Frank Perry showing Capitola depicted in postcards over more than a century. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

A card from 1907 with a photo of Hotel Capitola, a grand four-story structure with 160 rooms right at the beach, informed the recipient, “This is the hotel I’m not staying at” without any explanation.

“Too bad it’s not still there,” said Perry of the hotel, which burned in 1929. “It was a real landmark.”

One of the rare postcards sent by a man is addressed to Miss Mamie Hedstrom in San Francisco. Postmarked July 21, 1903, Chas writes, “There is no fun here since you have left,” adding, “If you come out here now, we will have some real fun when that other young man is gone — ha!”

Whether Chas and Mamie did get together is impossible to know, but it’s possible. After all, she did save the postcard.

Perhaps Mamie’s descendants will visit the museum and Perry will find out how that story ends.

For him, that’s part of the fun.

IF YOU GO

What: New exhibit, ‘Postmarked Capitola: A History Through Postcards,’ curated by Frank Perry runs through December.

Where: Capitola Historical Museum, 410 Capitola Ave., next to City Hall.

Opening reception: Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21, with refreshments.

Regular hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Where to park: City lot, 426 Capitola Ave., Capitola.

Admission: Free- donations welcome

Details: http://www.cityofcapitola.org/capitola-museum

Link to original article: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/business/20150319/postcards-tell-stories-of-capitola

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