Postcard Returns Home – 60 Years Later

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This is the story of a humble postcard’s journey from Hermiston to The Dalles to Coeur d’Alene to Florida – and likely many parts unknown – before arriving back in Hermiston 60 years later.

Oh yeah – and Frank Harkenrider’s involved.

I don’t know the complete history of this remarkable postcard – I only came upon it toward the back end of its story. Who knows how many other cities and states it has called home. I discovered it a few months ago when I was on eBay and innocently typed in the word “Hermiston” in the search bar.

Old city hall postcard
The postcard shows the old Hermiston City Hall on Main Street.

I’m not sure what I had in mind when I typed the word in; I was just curious to see if any Hermiston-related items were up for bid or sale. Most of the items that came up were copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Weir of Hermiston.” But a few postcards of Hermiston also popped up. Two caught my eye.

The first featured a color photo of Hermiston’s Main Street looking east. It was likely taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The second was a black-and-white photo of the old Hermiston City Hall, now home to the Knot Doctor. I bought both of them for around $15 total – each from a different seller. The individual selling the city hall postcard lives in Florida.

A week or so later, the Main Street postcard arrived. A day or two after that, the city hall postcard showed up.

The Main Street postcard was unused, but when I turned over the city hall postcard I saw that it had a note on the back and was postmarked Sept. 19, 1953 out of The Dalles. Hmm. I hadn’t anticipated this. I looked at the written note (this is where Harkenrider comes into the story) and it reads, in part:

“Saw Geo & Frank Harkenrider & Nesse.” I surmised Geo to be George Harkenrider, Frank’s dad, who would become Hermiston’s mayor two years after the postcard was written. Frank followed in his father’s footsteps when he was first elected mayor in 1990. No clue who Nesse is.

The postcard goes onto to say the writers “Stopped to watch the Indians fish – got some good movies there” and ends with “Stopped here for lunch at some place, in hotel. Love L & G.”

It appears L & G bought the postcard in Hermiston during a quick visit before traveling on to The Dalles where the

Postcard back
The back of the postcard references “Geo & Frank Harkenrider.”

postcard was written and mailed (they misspelled The Dalles as “The Dales, Ore.” at the top of the postcard). Its destination was to Mr. W.D.K. Grindstaff, 193 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

That was September 1953. What became of the postcard during the ensuing 60 years is a mystery. Postcards are considered ephemera – printed material that is not intended to be retained or preserved, but we know the Grindstaffs didn’t throw away the postcard. But it somehow left their possession and ended up in Florida. I did correspond with the woman who sold me the postcard and she indicated she got it at an estate sale in Florida. How it got there is anyone’s guess.

Frank Postcard
Frank Harkenrider, holding the postcard, stands in front of the Knot Doctor, former home of the Hermiston City Hall.

When I showed it recently to Frank Harkenrider, the 86-year-old former mayor and current city council member laughed his high-pitched cackle of a laugh, then got serious as his eyes squinted at the writing on the back of the postcard.

“Who the hell is L & G?” he asked. Then, when he saw it was postmarked in 1953, he began reciting the history of Hermiston from his childhood to present day.

The postcard has had an interesting life. Many people collect postcards – maybe this postcard was part of someone’s collection at one time or another. It’s now in my modest collection of two.

And so it’s story – and ephemeral life – continues.