Officials solve mystery of old postcard

Postcard was found in Connecticut
March 3, 2008 8:03:25 AM PST
Officials now know who wrote a 50-year-old postcard that has intrigued Stratford residents, but they may never solve the mystery of how it arrived at town hall earlier this year. The cellophane-wrapped postcard, postmarked Aug. 14, 1957, showed up in January, more than 50 years after it was sent from East Sumner, Maine, to Stratford Town Manager Harry Flood, who died in 1966.

"Hi, Enjoying this rather fallish weather. It was 44 degrees yesterday. See you next week. Alice," it read.

Fairfield genealogist Melanie Marks did some sleuthing and concluded the postcard might have been sent to Flood by Alice Staples, the widow of an assistant town clerk at the time.

The two lived on the same street, had the same circle of friends and are buried a few feet apart in a Bridgeport ceremony.

But that wasn't the end of the story.

James Merrill, 85, grew up in East Sumner and was so intrigued that he sent a copy of a Connecticut Post story about Marks' conclusions to his daughter, Jan Merrill-Oldham, a preservationist librarian at Harvard University who lives in Cambridge, Mass.

She quickly recognized the handwriting on the postcard.

"It was the unmistakable handwriting of my mother Alice, and I just stared at it and couldn't believe the story was saying it was written by someone else," she said. "I called my father and teased him and said, 'Dad, don't you even know your own wife's handwriting?"'

He took a closer look and realized his wife of 64 years had, in fact, written the postcard.

"I felt pretty foolish when I realized it," Merrill said.

The Merrills vacationed in East Sumner every summer, and Alice, now 93, loved sending postcards to Flood and other friends, though she doesn't remember sending that particular one.

"I still have no idea where the postcard has been all these years, or why it showed up now," she said.

Postal officials doubt the postcard has been sitting in a post office for 50 years, but they say they may never know who sent it to town hall.

They said Flood probably saved the postcard and it somehow ended up in the hands of a collector or someone else who dropped it in the mail.

"We had two mysteries here and we've solved one of them, the identity of Alice," Marks said. "But where the postcard has been all this time, whether it was sitting in a post office drawer or in someone's attic, is just so much fun to speculate about. I don't think we'll ever solve that part of it."

The Merrills have had fun with the mystery as well.

"I just never imagined (Alice) would make it into the newspapers and create such a stir this late in our lives," James Merrill said. "When you live as long as we have and are married 64 years, you don't expect something this mysterious to happen."