Since this is the last official Postcard Wednesday of 2012, I was feeling some pressure to find the perfect postcard. Should we look at all the not-terribly-amusing 1910s in-jokes? Or the many postcards sent from hospitals, detailing aches and pains and illnesses? After all, it would be hard to top the driving turkeys, or the Mystery of the Missing Skirt. So I thought, “Well, I’ll try to figure out Olive and Norman’s story, and hopefully it will be interesting.” Olive and Norman came through! (WordPress did not, though, and has decided to put all the images at the top of the page this week. Sorry about that!)
Both of these cards were sent in 1910 to Miss Olive Feltner from “Norman.” The Rockville Baptist Church card, sent in July, went to Bluemont, Virginia from an unknown location (the stamp is hand-canceled). The Montgomery County National Bank card was sent in September from Bluemont, Va. to Olive, “c/o HW Bush,” in Charleston, West Virginia.
Norman’s handwriting mystified me at first, particularly the place name that appears on both cards. I also misread Olive’s name as Feltuer – and if you ever thought the census records were bound to bring you some records no matter what name you type, you’d be wrong! No Olive Feltuer to be found. But, in a highly satisfying intersection of clues and records, all the various names, dates and places on the cards started coming together once I found a 1912 marriage record for Olive Feltner and Norman B. Robertson in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Here are Norman’s messages:
“July 25, 1910. Dear Olive: Am back at Mt. Weather and glad of it, too. Am very hot at home, but I had a nice time. This card pictures the place where I went to church yesterday. Hope we will go together some day. Am going to write tomorrow. Have a headache tonight. Am expecting a letter. Yours, Norman”
“Mt Weather, Sept 21, 1910. Dear Olive: Will not write a letter this week. Will meet you Sunday next. Don’t care how you get there just you be there, that’s all. Your niece Norma has been very ill for the past week and is not much better at present. Mrs. K. want you badly, so does Norman”
Olive Feltner was born in 1889 in Chapel, Virginia. She was one of seven children, including older sisters Lilly (who married John Kelley) and Dolly (who married Herman W. Bush of West Virginia). Norman B. Robertson (1885-1975) was born in Montgomery County, and grew up outside Rockville; his father, Hezekiah Robertson, was a farmer. The 1910 census has Olive at home in Chapel with her parents, and Norman appears twice: once at home, and once as an employee at the government meteorological station, Mount Weather, Bluemont, Virginia. How did Olive and Norman meet? The household next to the weather station is that of John and Lilly Feltner Kelley, including their daughter Norma. Olive probably spent time with both her older married sisters, Mrs. Kelley in Bluemont and Mrs. Bush in Charles Town. The postcards must have been purchased by Norman on trips home; in July he mentions how hot it is in Rockville, and that he attended the Baptist Church the day before.
That dry paragraph does not express the glee I felt when all the pieces – Norman! HW Bush! Mrs. K and Norma! That mysterious, can-it-possibly-say-“Mt. Weather” scribble! – fell into place. Yes, there’s a good reason I chose this field. All this lovely background information from two little messages!
Ah, at any rate… in 1912, Olive and Norman were married; in 1918, they moved to a newly built house in D.C. on 44th Street, NW. Norman began working for the DC Water Department – where several of his brothers already were employed – in 1911, and continued to work there through 1940 at least. After that, I lose Olive and Norman; they don’t appear to have had any children, I was unable to find obituaries for either of them, and we don’t know who donated these two cards to our library; they probably came from an antique dealer or collector. Since the cards’ main function at MCHS is to illustrate Rockville buildings, no one had worried about Olive and Norman until now.
Though I often praise the info you can find in the census, and it was certainly helpful this time, the information path runs both ways. The census search website suggested both the 1910 Norman Robertsons to me, but could not confirm that the 25 year old in Rockville and the 24 year old at Mt. Weather were the same guy (after all, you are only supposed to be in the census once!) – but the postcards, which connect him to Rockville and Bluemont, give the clue that they’re both our Norman. If I was really researching Norman and Olive (rather than simply satisfying my curiosity), these pieces of ephemera – saved for a totally different reason – would make a nice piece of the puzzle. The lesson here: Never discount the usefulness of a message scrawled on a postcard.