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Recalling when postage stamps, American and foreign, was a favorite hobby

Bob Cox • Mar 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

In the mid-1950s, my father introduced me to a variety of collectibles: coins, comic books, postcards, Little Golden Books, an assortment of school textbooks, Weekly Readers, cardboard records, Classics Illustrated Comics and others.

All were special to me, but perhaps the most coveted one was purchasing and trading postage stamps, both American and foreign.

I am writing this article with input from my 1959 H.E. Harris Catalog. They sold anything imaginable to promote their 68 pages of merchandise measuring 4.5 inches by 7 inches. Mr. Harris himself quoted a brief introduction:

“Dear Friend, It is a pleasure to send you the latest edition of my new catalog. I hope that it will add something to your collection enjoyment, both as a valuable reference book and as a source of supply for your stamp and accessory needs.

“Whether you were just starting in this wonderful and fascinating postage stamp hobby or you are an accomplished collector, I hope, too, that you will give us the opportunity to get to know you and your stamp collection better.

“When you favor us in the mail with your patronage, two items for which you never pay are always included. One is our constant effort to give you prompt, courteous and efficient service always. The other is an unqualified money-back guarantee.

“Everything we sell is backed with this assurance: It is our pledge to satisfy you in every way. Our open, honest recognition of the facts that our position and growth depend wholly on your confidence and goodwill.

“I hope you will become one of our friends and customers by mail, and that we may look forward to the pleasures of serving you often in the months and years ahead as you continue in your enjoyment of stamp collecting.”

“A message for the whole family is about the world's most fascinating hobby. Why is stamp collecting – or, to use its scientific name, “philately” - pursued with such enthusiasm by so many millions of people? The principal reason is certainly that stamps provide a constant, unfailing source of recreation.

“As a boy,” writes Adlai Stevenson, “I collected stamps and dreamed of far-away places and strange peoples. No other hobby can give me such great satisfaction,” says Adolf Menjou. Stamp collecting offers education, pleasures, interest and, if you wish, profit. I recommend it to people of all ages.

“It is often said among stamp collectors that 'every stamp tells a story.' The collector roams the whole world from Abyssinia to Zanzibar, and from ‘the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli’ in the pages of his album.

“As your personal collection grows into an ever-expanding gallery of fascinating pictures and portraits from foreign lands, we believe that you too will find, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself, a lifelong stamp collector so well expressed it – that stamp collecting dispels boredom, enlarges our vision, broads our knowledge and in innumerable ways enriches our lives.”

I was attending Henry Johnson School in 1959. The sixth grade had two excellent teachers: Miss Boring and Miss Grubbs. The latter organized a stamp club, which met immediately after school. We called it the “Super Sticker Stamp Club,” I was selected president.

The venture turned out to be fantastic. It was in this same club that we obtained Pen Pals for overseas correspondence. This educational club would vividly go down in my memories; we owed it to Miss Grubbs and her brilliant imagination.

My dad collecting stamps and urged others to do so. To this day, I occasionally remove my stamp albums from my shelves for several hours of interrupted pleasure. Another Henry Johnson School student, Stanley Head, was as interested as I was. I recall meeting him at the John Sevier Hotel for an afternoon of trading stamps.

Another meeting with Stanley was at the Sevier Theatre on Spring Street. We went there to watch a movie, but eventually went to their upstairs loungeßß, which was usually unoccupied by readers. While on occasion, I open my stamp collection and spend quality time in it. Those were the days.

Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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