Friday, March 19, 2010

Pen Pals

The 4th Sister of A little of this-n-that left a comment recently that reminded me of an event in my early years. Thanks 4th. I need all the memory jogs I can get.

I have had several pen pals through out my life. Somehow writing to strangers really interested me even from a young age. Perhaps it explains my love of blogging today.
I had a pen pal from Maine in the 5th grade. Her school had contacted our school and pen pals were matched up. We were both horse owners and were curious about each others state. At that time I lived in Key West at the opposite end of Route 1. It was fun but we lost touch eventually.

I did not pick up the pen again till I was a senior in high school. One of my friends was engaged to a Marine in boot camp. He told her that one his buddies had gotten a "Dear John' letter and really needed cheering up. Ah, touch my heart and you will find a pen in my hand.

I did my best to write amusing, chatty letters to this emotionally wounded Marine. I really wanted to make him smile. It was great fun and we exchanged pictures. I forgot to tell him I was engaged to my boyfriend in Ohio. Since I wasn't seeking a relationship I didn't think that was a necessary fact. I was just trying to be a friend. However, I did too good a job of cheering up and I ended up having to give him a watered down version of a Dear John myself as he got serious. Big help I was.

That cured me only briefly when I fell into the trap again. While I worked at the Answering Service after graduation, I had a room mate who also worked at the service. She was engaged to a fellow "doing time." He had gotten into a fight and ended up in the county jail. My roomie said her boyfriend had a friend, Herb, also in jail, who could really use some mail as no one came to see him.

Ah, that hit my old soft spot. So, I volunteered again. I mean, he insisted he was innocent and after all, he was safely behind bars and I believed all persons were good, they just needed a chance. Those slow nights at the answering service were perfect for writing and helped to while away the long , often very quiet hours.

This time however I explained carefully from the beginning that I was involved with someone. Seems my Marine fiasco had actually taught me a lesson. However he must have skipped over that part. Again, though I went for chatty and I hoped amusing, he went for serious or rather as I later learned, probably just plain horny. Then the thing I had never even thought about happened. He was released early.

His last letter before his release went from friendly to purely romantic. He was coming to look me up with roses in hand and love in his heart. Oh crap. A piece of paper in an envelope was a whole different matter than a live convict.

I was working the night shift at the answering service and our office was the only one in the building occupied in the evening. The knock on the door around ten o'clock startled me for it was too soon for my replacement. Thinking it might be my boyfriend Jack coming early to pick me up, I opened the door to see the grinning face of my pen pal.

He had been in prison for 18 months with out a woman. I was 19 and close enough to qualify. I tried for conversation but that ended when he grabbed me and planted a big wet one on me. I tried to pull away but his grip tightened and the grin slid from his face. The phones started ringing and I told him I had to answer them or my boss down the hall (actually no one was down the hall) would wonder what was wrong. He let me go but instead of getting the phones, I bolted.

I ran across the street to an all night diner to call my boss Pete and confessed I had abandoned my post. I also called Jack who came quickly. Pete and Jack stormed through the empty building but found nothing. My boss was not amused at my putting myself in a position that left the phones unattended. He also implied that I was pretty stupid in the first place to write to a prisoner. Jack agreed only a bit more diplomatically.
I did not file charges against Herb for I felt mostly responsible and he really hadn't hurt me. I went back to work that night and Jack stayed with me till the end of my shift when he drove me home. For the next week, Jack went to work with me and made sure I got home safely.

I guess that scared Herb off for I never heard from him again. It did cure me of the pen pal routine however.

Of course you could say that blogging is a form of "pen pal." Maybe I am not cured after all.

You ever have a really neat or maybe scary pen pal?


  1. I never had a pen pal. This story proves you are a born writer, though. And a good thing, too, with so many interesting life experiences to share. My adult self was somewhat shocked that you wrote to a man in jail, but my 19 year old self would have been right there for the same reasons.

  2. Yikes! Nope, haven't done that.

    When we first moved to Wisconsin, the phone # they gave us was apparently one that had belonged to a woman having an affair with a guy. He called almost every night. If one of my kids answered, he'd ask to speak to "your momma." I tried everything--I'd hang up on him, tell him he had the wrong #.... It was such a ridiculous situation...wouldn't you think that he would realize that my southern accent would have been a clue?!

    Maybe he was just a crank caller and there never was a girlfriend. I don't know. Just know that it was creepy.

  3. I only had one pen pal. I was probably 12, and she was a girl in Lebanon. We too lost touch.

    I can empathize with your soft heart. I'm just the kind who would have taken on the guy in the slammer, never thinking he might be horny. Us soft hearts are always out to 'help.'

  4. When in grade school I had a pen pal in The Netherlands, but we eventually stopped, don't really remember why. Like you it was through our schools.

  5. You'd better be careful, Patti... One of those horny bloggers may come to your door with a big grin and flowers in hands..... Ya think?????? ha ha

    I've heard of women getting involved with guys in prison. Sounds scary!!!!!

    I did a little pen-paling also when I was young. I've always loved to write --so I agree---this must be why I love blogging so much.

  6. I started writing pen pals about the fifth grade. So cool to have ones in other countries I thought. In high school my best friend and I started writing soldiers, probably not the best idea in the world. This was during the beginning of the Vietnam era. Nothing ever came of it, but when I think back it was just stupid!

    God bless and have a fabulous Friday!!!

  7. Olga,
    Yeah, our 19 year old selves weren't known for our good sense. We trusted more and thought less about consequences. Somehow that is not a bad thing.

    Wow, that could have been really bad. Evidently who ever he had an affair with had kids. Probably thought you were faking the accent.

    I think it was so cool for you to have someone from another country.
    Yep, we soft hearts seldom think anyone is toxic. Glad to meet another one.

    I am envious of those of you who had a pen pal from another country,
    Wonder if these days, they match kids up to email or texting through the schools. Something about composing an actual letter though and learning about a stranger was fun.

    Gee, do ya think it is possible? I do believe it set us up for later in life feeling free to put ourselves out there and to communicate freely.

    Fifth grade seemed to be the popular age for the schools to set up the pen pals.
    Possibly not a good idea to write soldiers but when you think you are brightening up the day of a lonely man far from home, it definitely did some good. I'm sure they thought so also.

  8. I use to work nights at an answering service, so I can imagine how much that frightened you! Thank goodness you were clever enough to say someone else was at work with you so you could get out of there! Not being much of a writer, I never had a pen pal. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

  9. WOW you really had a way with men the prisoner, the stalking cop,...waiting for next installment...

    I remember when I entered the workforce as a single pharmacist, I soon learned the percentage of leering DOMs (dirty old men) could smell out a single girl miles away. I was so glad I had a prescription counter/window or other barrier between them and me.

    These were the days when the men's prophylactics were kept behind the RX counter. When I had night duty the gentlemen would come in, see me and leave to purchase elsewhere. It did not embarrass me but sure did them. The DOMs however tried to embarrass me; I would get even by lecturing them on the advantages and features of each brand, making sure I did not recommend any particular one. I knew if i did the DOMs would ask me how I knew in a wicked tone of voice.

    Never quite understood why men's personal items were kept off display, but women's needs were in full blown view. Sure was glad when Wal-Mart and other chains put them in the regular lineup of products in personal care sections.

  10. I had a neat one for a few years; a girl from Hamburg, Germany, named Christa.

    Then I, too, wrote to a convict (through a program started by a group we belonged to), and got scared to death when he started talking about us having a life together after he got out. He knew I was married! I cut him off quickly and he finally quit writing.

  11. Did I hear you right? You F O R G O T to tell him about your boyfriend in Ohio? I see from your story, you are still in denial about this situation.
    Oh, no! A guy doing time…please say it isn’t so. And, he skipped that part about you having a boyfriend…really? Who would of Thunk?
    Yikes…this post is getting more stressful with each passing paragraph. I don’t know if I can finish it.
    Whew…I am finally to the end and you are okay – thank you!
    I can only try to imagine the stress a innocent 19 year old went through. I am proud of Jack, and good for him.
    Herb…I hope he found someone.
    And, Arkansas Patti she must have been a track star.
    You never cease to surprise me

  12. Oh my, just don't give yuor address on the internet. what a good pen pal I find you indeed, you have the most wonderful stories.

  13. What happened with Herb was just a delayed incident..(initially supposed to be the Marine). I had a penpal too ..however we had met once. She was my neighbours niece. We wrote quite a few letters to each other until we became adolescents & began to bore each other;) Shucks..I should've written to a guy instead. Now I remember she had a brother:(

    But I couldnt help laugh imagining you running out on Herb waiting with roses!

  14. Jewels,
    Did not know that you worked for one also.
    See ya for lunch or rather, tea for you.

    Obviously the displays were designed by men.
    All though I can see where condoms could be an easy shoplift if left out. A little harder to walk out with a box of tampax under your shirt.

    Ah, thanks for not leaving me alone out here. I think that falls under the "No good deed goes unpunished" catagory.

    See kenju's comment, those convicts do over look the parts about being involved. Poor ole Jack is for another post. He made the strangest offer I have ever gotten. I really cn pick em. That night, Jack was a prince.

    Linda Starr,
    Thanks, I will be careful of that. A trusting nature can get you in a heap of trouble.

    Writing to a guy definately makes it more interesting.
    Poor Herb, he really was only toting one rose however.Guess prison pay isn't so good.
    It was his not taking "no" for an answer that got me hot footing it.

  15. I don't remember having a pen pal, but I did write air mail letters to someone...not family. I felt very grown up using the onion skin paper and, I think writing Por Avion on the envelope. It may have been printed on there for all I can remember about it.

    You were super lucky to be able to get away from your convict pen pal. I won't tell you how goofy that was, because you already know now. I'm glad he didn't hurt you.

  16. never had a pen pal
    but always wished to have one

  17. Never had a pen pal, never wanted one. I know one woman here in our town, the age of one of our daughters, started writing to men in prison, through her church group. She ended up marrying him. What he was in for I never knew. I had heard his first wife and children were killed in a car accident, so perhaps it was his fault and he had to serve some time, I don't know. Happy week-end, our sun has now disappeared, looks like it might rain.

  18. No. I never have had a Pen Pal....The closest thing to it is Blogging and I do email some to a number of bloggers who have become friends---long distance ones, it's true, but still, friends. I must admit, I don't think I ever would have written to anyone in prison, at 19, or 29 or, well....ever. And I think it is exactly for the reasons you talk about in this post. You are a lot braver than I ever was or could be, I think. And,
    you certainly have had a lot of fadcinating experiences in your life, Patti....And I'm so glad you share them with all of us!

  19. Amber Star
    I do remember onion skin paper though my parents didn't think my letters deserved the expense and nothing I had to say couldn't wait. Only when my brother was statiioned in Englend was the onion skin brought out.

    Thank you so much for stopping by.The whole concept has pretty much disappeared with all our electronics. Emails have replaced the carefully thought out letter and snail mail.

    Sure glad it turned out OK for her. Sometimes a good woman can turn a man around and some of them actually are innocent.

    Oh to be 19 and naive again. I used to trust anyone now I am jaded by my experience and those we read about. Not sure it is an improvement.

  20. Oh, dear!! How horrible!! The only pen pals I've ever had were people I I guess that doesn't qualify...So glad you were so quick on your feet...Really scary! Love you, Janine XO

  21. I can't wait to hear Jack's offer.

  22. Send me a cake with a metal file and a rope cleverly concealed in it... and I'll bring you flowers! Actually, if I could cross this vast stretch of water, I'd gladly bring you flowers anyway and a hug to go with them! Thanks for brightening our lives with your wonderful blog and memories.
    Peter, Laura, and Ginger the cat

  23. Patti, what a scary adventure! I had an almost similar experience. A couple of years ago I wrote to a prisoner in Bangkok. A boy of 23 who was in prison for smuggling drugs. Nevertheless he was released and wanted to come to Holland and marry me and when I said that this was out of the question he wanted me to adopt him as my son. I told him not to come to Holland and I threatened him to call the police as soon as he stood on my doorstep. He still sent some letters, but my sister answered them, telling that I had moved to an old people's home and was not able to write anymore. After that he wrote once more, but the letter was returned.

  24. Sniffles and Smiles,
    Good thing he wasn't serious about hurting me for I am sure he could have caught me if he had tried. My running must have shocked him.

    Look to Mondays post.

    Aw, you always say the nicest things. Thanks.

    Reader Wil,
    Somehow, perhaps with too much time on their hands, they let their imaginations make more of a situation. That was scary for you and good thinking on your sisters behalf. Sometimes you just can't be nice.