The Venus Fly Trap that led me to Postage Stamps that led me to My Filipina Wife!
My Life Dictated By Postage Stamps
I was a just a young boy, likely around 10 or 11 years old, when my grandfather gave me his stamp collection. Why he gave it to me I would never come to fully understand, as he had a youngest unmarried son, my uncle, that was just out of school. Looking back, giving it to my uncle at that time would have made much more sense and I’ve always asked myself, why me? I wasn’t the oldest grandchild, nor probably the brightest, but it could have had something to do with the fact that I was already involved in the 1960’s booming mail-order business, where I was curiously on a trial basis with postage stamps. He might have seen it as the perfect thing to keep a growing kid like me out of trouble. It also might have been that my grandfather sized me up as being a somewhat meticulous child… today I believe they call it anal retentiveness. Looking back, I’d like to say he was a rather insightful individual, but in all actuality, he just made a lucky assessment.
These seeds were packaged for resale where I could sell them to friends and family. I then went door-to-door and tried my luck as a seeds salesman. I quickly learned, after selling the obligatory first dozen packs of flower seeds to mostly a few aunts and uncles, gardening in suburbia was just not going to be a trend-setting proposition. Not many people seemed interested in growing sweet corn or watermelons in-between their above-ground pools and patios. I inevitably failed as a salesment and out of curiosity, I turned my eye on postage stamps. I could get bargain deals (low value stamps) for a cheap price. I could also recieve packets of stamps for my viewing pleasure, keep the ones I liked, and send payment and the unlucky stamps back to the Mystic Stamp Company. Maybe I could trade them at school?
Every time I received a new packet of stamps from the Mystic Stamp Company, I would rush to my room to open it and examine my new treasures carefully – again and again – the way a young lad would, with a mixture of awe and reverance and pleasure. It wasn’t until my grandfather gave me his accumulation that got me really got excited. He had been collecting (accumulating) stamps for years but never really cataloged many of them. Most of them were just loose stamps that completely filled two cigar boxes and a couple dozen or so country envelopes. Because my grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe, he had a circle of friends in Chicago that would give him their envelopes mailed from the homeland – Mgyar (Hungary), Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Germany – were just a few of the countries that sourced his accumulation. He had spent some years just sorting all his stamps by country and would put them in envelopes, but not many stamps found their way into his old album. Once I became armed with many, many stamps, stamp hinges, stamp tongs, and some miscellaneous stamp collecting pharapanalia, which included a magnifying glass, I became a philatelist.
I learned more about the Lewis & Clark Expedition- that famous first North American continental crossing to reach the Pacific Ocean – than I did in school. I also learned about the many complexities of pre and post WWII Europe. Whenever I had time growing up, I would spend a few hours sorting through my stamps and studying their history. It was tedious back in those days as the school library was the only place to go for information… if I could even find any information at all as many times I found a dead end. But that never deterred me to learn more as there were many more stamps to direct my attention to. I eventually saved up enough money, and with a little help from my mother, purchased the classic Harris “Standard World Stamp Album” – a two album set which would help me bide my time cataloging my stamps while I continued through high school. When I graduated, I put my stamps aside as my odyssey would continue, only this time in person. I must confess though that in addition to stamps, Gilligan’s Island TV show had a little something to do with it all (My Enchantment). I travelled from Illinois to Florida and set up a place to short-stay. I then reached out farther and landed in Key West. A little over a year later I returned back home. After a short time working, I saved up enough money to buy a motorcycle, and this time I headed west. I was abruptly halted and taken back by the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It wasn’t exactly the trail that Lewis and Clark blazed, but then they didn’t have a motorcycle and Freeways either. After three months, the money ran out and I found myself back home, but by now my desire to travel had become a true affliction. The cure was simple… in order to fulfill my destiny, I did the only thing I could do without having any money… I joined the Navy and my travels continued far and wide. Through my working years I would occasionally spend time with my collection, re-acquainting myself with my early passion into philately. I would sometimes collect really cool stamps along the way while still sorting through and cataloging grandfathers accumulation, although it would not be until my later years when I would become re-focused on the very thing that incited me to begin my journey in life. I always knew that someday I would need them again, but for a different reason. Today, I enjoy spending time sorting and identifying stamps with a icy cocktail and some good music… Classic Rock of course. Philately is not only my hobby, it is my therapy.