Wednesday Ephemera #2: Bolivar, New York Postcard (1908)

Above image: Bolivar, New York postcard circa 1908. Found in Glendale, California, 2008.

Welcome to the second installment of Wednesday Ephemera!

What is “Wednesday Ephemera” you ask? Well, it is a weekly Show and Tell of sorts, a place where I can share pieces from my collection of paper ephemera. Click here to read my introduction to this segment, posted on June 27th.

Tonight I want to share with you a postcard from the town of Bolivar, New York (located in Allegany County, western New York, USA). My two closest friends were born and raised in the small town of Bolivar (35.9 square miles in total and a population of 2,189 according to the 2010 census), migrating to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue “the dream”, as many others from small towns do when they come of age. So imagine my excitement when we found a Bolivar postcard while rummaging through stacks of postcard bins at the Vintage Paper Fair in 2008, depicting a Bolivar from a century before.

Above: The front of the postcard shows a view of Main Street in Bolivar, New York

As “the heart of the Allegany Oil Field” the Bolivar-Richburg area rose to significance during the oil boom era of the late 1800s. During the brief initial oil boom of the 1880’s it was purportedly the wealthiest locale, per capita, in the United States. By the early 1900s the initial boom, with its economic and population impacts, had significantly faded, but secondary oil recovery techniques applied to the oil fields (starting around 1920) drastically rejuvenated the industry in the area.  —Wikipedia

This postcard was sent July 10, 1908 (104 years and a day ago) at 6:00PM. The handwriting on the back reads:

Dear Lelia: Received your card was pleased to hear from you. When are you coming over? Are you enjoying your vacation? I suppose you hada fine time while away. We gave up our trip for this summer. Marna is getting better and will be able to be around some I hope. Come over and I will give you a piece of my face. With Love S.M.T.

Now a story that personally connects me to contemporary Main Street, Bolivar: A year after obtaining the postcard above, we all made the trek back to Bolivar to reunite with family and friends. It was my first visit and I was anxious to experience the town that I had only seen in black and white postcards. My first night out was quite frankly nothing less than debaucherous, and I found myself having an unfortunate run in with a (non functioning ) flashing roadside marquee sign stationed outside the local Main Street bar. Both the combination of my compromised state of mind and my poor vision had me tripping in the night over one of its protruding metal legs. I am a clumsy person in all forms of consciousness, so I didn’t think much about the fumble until I noticed blood running down my leg and into my left shoe. Not much action was taken that night to mend the wound, so by the time I presented myself to Bolivar’s Urgent Care, it was too late to receive stitches to my leg. It humors me, in hindsight, to think that the small town of Bolivar has gifted me both a postcard and a scar. (The postcard even faces the direction in which the bar and its marquee sign is located today). Whether I like it or not, I will always have a token to remind me of that place, even after the postcard has faded or been misplaced.

Above: Gina vs. the flashing roadside marquee, Cuba Lake, New York, July 2009

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