A Lost Art in a world of technology
by Sandy Lindsay
(photos by Jen O'Reilly)

August 28, 2016


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In today's world of high-speed internet, skype, email, instagram, twitter and all the other social media, the art of actually sitting down and putting thoughts to paper with the idea of mailing to another person has almost but all disappeared.

There was a time when people became what was known as 'pen pals' and wrote letters back and forth.  In the back of magazines, there were classified ads that also had a category 'Pen Pal Wanted'.  You could have the magazine post your name and age and a postal box to which replies could be made.

When Gladys (Dake) Diacur placed an ad in 1943, little did she know that it would result in a life-long friendship.

Pen Pals for 73 years

Gladys Diacur (L) and Jeannie O'Reilly

"I must have had 100 responses," says Diacur, "and I met approximately 11 of them but we never hit it off.  Then I met Jeannie O'Reilly and 73 years later we are still the best of friends."

For 73 years, from the time they were 12 and 13, the two women corresponded almost weekly, although one lived in Hamilton and the other in St. Catherines (ON), almost neighbouring communities.  "I have a letter that has a stamp of King George VI on it," says Diacur.

A letter dated 1948

O'Reilly lives in Southampton (now in Hampton Court) and, when she had her own home, Diacur drove from the city almost very summer to visit.   A stroke resulted in her not being able to drive any longer but, on Tuesday, August 23rd, she was driven by a friend and the two pen pals got together once again to reminisce over old times.

They laughed and talked about all the boys they had written about in their teens ... things that only teenage girls tell each other.

Each had kept all the letters but, unfortunately, a fire destroyed O'Reilly's copies.

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

Gladys Diacur (L) and Jeannie O'Reilly with copies of their letters from a bygone era

Letter writing is definitely becoming a lost art but, for a generation or two, it was the only means of communicating. 

Receiving a letter was a time of looking forward to hearing from a family member or an old friend.  It was a time when you could sit at the kitchen table and savour the thoughts that someone had taken the time to put on paper with only you in mind.

For Jeannie O'Reilly and Gladys Diacur, now both in their eighties, those days are gone too but they remember writing the letters as though it were yesterday and, for them, they've had a friendship to treasure and one that very few people will ever know ... all because of a little ad for a 'pen pal'.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016