We asked readers to tell us about pen pals they found through the Monitor's Mail Bag column, which ran from 1929 to 1969. Here are some excerpts from a few of your responses.
Mailbag gave me a most wonderful friendship. I've learned history and language from the experience. We may read much about another culture, but actual contact and communication with those of another culture is best.
I visited my friend and his family members in France twice, and it meant so much because they treated me as one of their own. We dined on the Champs-Élysées and visited a château. The man of the family then visited us several times. He thoroughly enjoyed the tourist sites we took him to. I spoke French and German with him – German because during the Nazi occupation of France when he was a boy, he had been forced to learn German.
Once during World War II, he was working as a laborer for the Nazis on a farm north of Paris. Before the Normandy invasion, he was thrilled to see American planes in the sky over him. As a result, he loves the United States and considers our country France's best friend.
We have kept up our correspondence, and we share newspaper and magazine articles. Other friends, while traveling, have called on our French friends to say hello for us.
Henry G. Rutledge
Fair Oaks, Calif.
My Monitor pen pal, Wanda, was from Poland. She had a couple of children like I did, so I thought we might have something in common. We wrote for some years, and she came to the US to improve her English and earn money to send home.
When I visited her in Santa Rosa, Calif., she was a live-in caregiver for a woman who didn't speak, so she couldn't improve her English as much as she had planned. In the end, she went back to Poland. We have continued to correspond erratically. A friend who is Polish visited Wanda and her family in Poland when he visited his own family there.
I also had a pen pal from the Chicago area who had two small children. I still have the photo she sent, but we did not correspond for very long. It was still a neat opportunity.
Merry Ann Peterson