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Sadly, letter writing is a lost art

November 09, 2002

The last time I saw Roy Redlich was in 1967. I was 12 years old

and visiting my hometown of Chicago on my way back from attending my

brother's wedding in New York.

I had left Chicago four years earlier, at age 8, after my father

had taken a job offer in Los Angeles. With encouragement from my

mother, Roy and I began to correspond on a regular basis.

Each letter was received with great excitement, as though it was a

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priceless gift. The letters from Roy were not hard to spot among the

rest of the mail -- each one had kid scrawl where a neatly printed

address and return address should have been. And in the corner of

each letter was a 5-cent stamp.

In 1965, I made an appearance on the TV show "Art Linkletter's

House Party." I was one of those kids Linkletter lined up to

interview and hoped would say something outrageous. I'm pleased to

note that I did not disappoint him.

It was a national TV program, and Roy saw me all the way in

Chicago. Right after that, he wrote a letter to tell me what a crack

up I was. "What a dope!" is more accurate.

I wrote back to tell him how a limousine picked me up right in

front of school as all the kids were arriving to go to class, how

they took us to a big lunch at a nice restaurant and how we got a

zillion toys after the show.

Roy wrote back to tell me about his brother Carl and his dog

"Tippy" and all the other stuff that was going on in Hyde Park, the

neighborhood I'd left behind.

Roy and I stopped corresponding not long after our reunion in

1967. By that time, I had the letter writing bug and continued to

write letters to anyone I thought might reply.

A couple of years ago, I used a free online search to try to find

Roy. I even wrote to all of the Roy Redlich's on the list that came

up, but I did not get a reply.

Some time after college, I'm not sure when, I all but stopped

writing letters. And I'm trying hard to recall, but I don't think

either of our kids, 9 and 12, have ever written anything but a "thank

you" note, and not enough of those.

I know that in school they are still teaching the proper placement

of the address, return address and stamp, but I don't know what good

that does, since we don't write many letters any more.

Heck, we don't even use the mail to pay bills any more. That's

something else we do online.

A few days ago, a lady told me that when her mother passed away,

she discovered that her mom had kept all of their correspondence over

a period of decades, creating what was a very valuable family

history.

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