Whatever happened to …

… Air Mail?

Thanks to Sheila Stewart for this idea. I’m not sure that I would have ever dreamed this.

I went through a drawer today and found a pad of “airmail” writing paper.  Whatever happened to….?  Is it required anywhere now?

I don’t have any of the envelopes, but I remember having and using some in the past. 

Looks like you can still get the supplies: https://www.wellappointeddesk.com/2018/11/paper-review-life-airmail/

She was good enough to take a picture of this paper to share in the post.

My family actually had a great deal of use for Air Mail. In particular, my Aunt and Uncle were stationed overseas for the company that he worked with and telephone calls home were extremely expensive. So, my Mom corresponded with her sister via Air Mail. Air Mail was important because, while you could send it by Regular Mail, somehow it took longer. Slow boat?

As we know (or some many actually not know), you have to attach stamps to send the letter. The amount of postage was based upon the weight of the envelope and its contents. It made sense because sometimes you’d send photos and that would make the envelope heavier. One way to make the envelope lighter was to use this special Air Mail paper. It was thinner; I seem to remember that it was almost transparent, crunchy, and certainly lighter than a feather! As you’ll see from Sheila’s photo above, you could get special envelopes that had colouring on the outside to distinguish it from regular mail. I think it may have been the first practical use for French just in understanding what “Par Avion” actually meant.

The actual “how” it got there remains a mystery to me. Even in our little town, there were bags and bags of mail that we would see bundled up and then headed south, presumably to London where some sort of magic happened. From watching episodes of “Border Security”, I’m assuming the magic actually happened later at either Toronto or Vancouver. Then, it was transported to the foreign country where their own version of magic happened. I remember that Mom would be extra careful in printing the address to make sure there was no problem getting there. I suppose that you could spend extra to get a return receipt but for us we knew the letter got there by references to a previous letter.

The incoming letter was shared among all of us and it was a golden connection to a family that we might see once every couple of years. Thank goodness for the mail. For a while, I cut off the stamps and started a small collection but apparently they’re worthless when they’ve been used.

And, it could be expensive. There was a time a few years ago when I had written a series of Doors (external programs) that people could plug into their Wildcat! or PCBoard systems. They were free but for a couple of bucks, I would compile a special version with the host system’s name built into it and then mail them a diskette with the program. I had some people who had systems in Europe who wanted compiled versions. Rather than guess, I would go into the Post Office to have them weighed and postage applied. There wasn’t much profit for those ones!

I can’t remember the last time I have ever seen an Air Mail letter or parcel. My cousins now live in the United States and we stay in touch via Facebook. Around our house, we do have a couple of books of stamps but the only time we actually use them is to pay some bills or send Christmas and Birthday cards. We live in the country and still have delivery to our mailbox. Every now and again, there will be a letter but they’re not Air Mail. Most of the stuff is flyers and junk mail and fortunately, I walk right by our recycling boxes when headed back to the house. Most of these things don’t even have stamps on them anymore!

On this Sunday morning, how about some of your postal thoughts?

  • Do you remember sending or receiving Air Mail?
  • How much difference is there between regular letter paper and Air Mail paper? Is it worth the cost?
  • Why don’t stamps have value after they’re used? How do they know?
  • Where would you go to buy Air Mail paper locally?
  • Have you given up letter writing for email writing?
  • Is card mailing a thing of the past? Is this a sign?

How about you, dear reader? What are your thoughts. Please share them below.

And, thanks Sheila for the idea.

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    I remember my mom used to get letters via email when we were very young.

    From my memory the special thin blue air mail paper WAS the envelope. You wrote on the inside of the paper, then folded it over and sealed it upon itself with the fancy hatched border on the perimeter fold lines. The fact that it had no enclosure kept the weight down and allowed it to qualify to travel by air.

    As for stamps, I’m sure it’s been years since I put a stamp on anything. I remember when stamps tasted bad because they were made from the glue from dead horses. I remember buying stamps in bulk when I was In high school and university to send out mailings for my business. I remember being surprised a few years back to learn that they now sell stamps in rolls of self-adhesive label paper, no licking required. (How lazy!) (Now that I come to think of it, I think paper stamps originated as a way to simplify the process of actually “stamping“ letters for a receipt into the post office.)

    I still have the tiny birth announcement card/envelope my mom made when I was born with the two cent stamp that was required to mail it at the time.

    I’ve never been a stamp collector, but I think that some historically valuable stamps appreciate in part due to the way/location in which they were canceled?

    As for a letter writing (and card writing), yes, for all intents and purposes, I have given that up. Unless it is a very special occasion, there is very little reason to introduce a significant time delay, material expense, and extra cost in order to communicate at a distance. With the ability to speak synchronously around the world via video messaging (might I suggest we skip past phone calls these days as well), there has to be a pretty specific reason to deal with something via mail, snail or otherwise. I appreciate that there are those who pine for a return to the days of letters and the printed page (books, newspaper), but I honestly struggle with the notion. (I do have a box of stuff from that previous time that I will need to revisit at some point and see if it still “sparks joy.”)

    Ah, paper.

    Here’s one for some Sunday down the road …
    “What ever happened to cheques?”


  2. Thanks for writing on the topic, Doug. I remember the “crunchy” paper too, but it is not the type in this particular pad. We must have had various air mail writing supplies in our family home with my brother living in W. Africa for many years. I remember the paper one that folded and sealed into an envelope too, as Andrew mentioned. I think I received that type from my brother.

    I remember my parents steaming stamps off their mail if it looked as though it didn’t have the the postal stamp or lines across them to deter reuse 🙂 A book of stamps lasts a long time in my home. Like you, just a few birthday and Christmas cards get sent out. I guess it makes sense that “card” stores may be on their way out, but they also stocked a lot of gift and party items.

    I remember my kids learning how to address an envelope in elementary school. I wonder if that is done anymore.

    It is interesting to reflect on now… that “waiting on a letter” from a loved one far away…


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