A postcard of the Beck Hotel in its original location facing Main Street at the SE corner of Harlem Road (left). In the 1930s the building was moved backwards and turned to face Harlem Road to make room for the Socony Gas Station . A 2014 renovation of the building showed glimpses of the building’s past (right).
As the great great granddaughter of Michael Snyder, the first Post Master of Snyder, NY, the subject of communication seems like an obvious blog topic for me. As someone who has inherited boxes and boxes of old letters and post cards, it’s actually something I think about a lot, so bear with me on this one.
In our age of instant communication it seems bizarre to imagine a world that moved much slower…a world where answers weren’t immediate and people relied on patience and faith to survive. The unknown was a much bigger place back then and yet our ancestors seemed to manage, even thrive in their snail mail world. Take it from someone who panics if she can’t track her kids’ phones just to make sure they safely arrived back at college … those mothers must have had nerves of steel! Imagine not being able to send a text or make a phone call to ask a question. Imagine not being able to set up a last minute dinner date or business meeting. Imagine not being able to tell your spouse what you forgot to put on the grocery list or to call and check on your mother after surgery. Our Amherst ancestors had no landlines, no mobile phones and no internet. What they did have was vision, perseverance and an ample sense of humor.
Feb 24 1909 – Snyder. I will write to all of you that barring accidents and setbacks I will come to your house early Friday morning about 9 o’clock. Very nice sleighing isn’t it? I suppose you wish there wouldn’t be sleighing if I repeat last Sunday’s performance don’t you? Ha ha. I am sawing wood for exercise nowadays. From your dull cousin H.E.L. (Herman E. Landel)
So, as part of our Bicentennial celebration, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at our ancestor’s forms of communication and try to compare them to ours. Is communication one of those things that has changed so much that we have no common ground, or is it a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same?” People are people after all, right?
Landel Bros – Williamsville
Dear Sir- I haven’t hired out yet so I will come out to see you the first part of next week to see whether we can make bargain. From Henry Ronicker (Henry Ronicker is best known for his men’ store on Main Street in the Village of Williamsville)
In the 1800s and 1900s the people of Amherst had to rely on three fundamental forms of communication – post cards, letters and word of mouth. To put these things in a modern context, post cards would be like our text messages…just a few quick lines to get the point across. They only take a few minutes to send and because of that, people tend to send way more than they probably should. Plus, many post cards had pictures of the writer’s own home or portrait on the back…like a twentieth century selfie! Letters, on the other hand would be the equivalent of email…. a little more formal, a little bit more detailed and capable of much greater length. I wonder if twentieth century teenagers made fun of their parents for writing letters instead of post cards the way mine make fun of me for writing emails instead of texts? Word of mouth is definitely the grandfather of social media…if there is something you want people to know, you make it public and wait for someone to repeat (or retweet) it. “Old man Landel’s cow just gave birth to a two headed calf,” someone says at the mercantile. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t go nineteenth century viral!
Dec 22, 1910 – Clarence 7pm
Dear Cousin – Well I suppose you are waiting breathlessly for xmas as to give her the present. I was in Sunday, had a dandy time, stayed overnight. Took the morning train home. How about the Hutchin Hose Ball? I expect to go. I suppose you are tearing off sleigh rides now. Some sleighs and snow-banks are out here now.
(Note: Not only did people have to write post cards from Clarence to Amherst, they also took the train back and forth…and how about that Hucthin Hose Ball reference!)
So what do you think? Are we more like our forefathers than you might have expected? Is history just repeating itself with better technology and larger expectations? You will have to come to your own conclusions. For me, I will leave you with a glimpse into everyday life in twentieth century Amherst – courtesy of the post card!
July 27, 1910 – Charlie – I have three girls and can’t string any of them. What do you think of it? J.S.
August 3, 1910 – How’s the boy today? Suppose you did a little driving yesterday. Was a fine day. I didn’t feel very well, was home in the afternoon and evening. Went to church in the morning. Saturday I took a ride on the motor – went about 40 miles. Alvin
October 17, 1910 – Hello Charles, did you have a good time yesterday? If convenient for you, would like to have you and Arthur come over Wednesday. We have sent word to Herman. What do you think of Tonawanda? A.H.B.
Nov 9, 1910 – Rather sorry election day. I suppose you walked up and pulled down the lever. I didn’t – have to. I was out your way Sunday but there was no light hanging out. You must have been sleeping. We came to Transit for a young lady. Went to Harris Hill Church (with a gray flannel shirt on). I’ll tell you about it – she was a dandy. I have great heart trouble right now. Is the brick pavement open yet?
Jan 31 1910 – Well this is Sunday evening 9:45. You ought to have been to the sleigh ride. We had a fine time and such joy. I got home at 5:30am & only got an hour’s sleep – felt like xxx the next day. (As pictured, my ancestors frequently went on sleigh rides at the Hedstrom estate on Main Street and Getzville Road)
***Do you have old post cards to share? Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so everyone can enjoy them!