…And we’re back! Since I’ve just returned from a short trip to Minneapolis, for the American Association of Museums annual meeting, I thought a vacation souvenir would be appropriate for May’s postcard entry.

When you live here, it can be easy to forget that Montgomery County is a destination for tourists and business travelers. (Sorry, Conference & Visitors Bureau!) Many of the cards in our collections were acquired, written and mailed by out-of-town visitors. Some depict local ‘sights,’ such as the Cabin John Bridge or the Naval Hospital; others advertise hotels, motels and restaurants. I like this card because it simply shows downtown Damascus, circa 1950.

This Silvercraft card was published by C.H. Ruth of Washington, D.C.  In the 1940s-60s, Mr. (?) Ruth published a wide variety of postcards – both black and white and color – from up and down the east coast. “Main Street, Damascus, Md.” is part of a series; we have similar cards showing other everyday buildings and scenes in Damascus and Gaithersburg. Shown here, if I am reading the tiny signs correctly, are Whitesell Pharmacy and the Damascus Feed Food Store. Main Street consists of the downtown-Damascus section of Route 108. I think this brick building is still standing, next to the Druid Theatre (now a drug store). . . any Damascus residents want to confirm or deny?

The card is postmarked 1952 and addressed to Mrs. Mary Mark of Cleveland, Ohio. The message reads: “4-9-52. Hello – you never know where you will hear from us from next, do you? Was going to call you Tuesday but didn’t get around to it. Mildred lives about a mile from here. Nice place. We will probably be back sometime Sat. Pretty warm down here, wind is pretty strong and chilly, too. Don’t know if we’ll go on to Washington or not. See you one of these days. Love, Ellen & Bob.” The identities of the senders and receiver (and Mildred, for that matter) are now unknown. Presumably Ellen and Bob were in Damascus visiting Mildred, and sent a quick report to their friend Mary, who may or may not live “back home” (maybe Mary’s a neighbor; maybe all four were college friends. . . so many possibilities!).

So if we don’t know who these people are, what’s the point? We acquired this postcard largely because of the documentary aspect of the photograph on the front. However, the message on the back serves as a reminder of the ordinary, everyday (and I mean that in the most positive sense) lives that have been, and are being, lived in Montgomery County. Sure, we often focus on Big Names, Major Events and Famous Buildings (relatively speaking), but in the broader sense, the county’s history is much more about, say, college friends getting back together for a quick visit and maybe some sightseeing in D.C. (Yes, I am enamored of my college-friend theory.) Damascus may not feature any Famous Buildings, but it is, as Ellen sums up, a “nice place,” worthy of a souvenir postcard or two.

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