A 25 cent Piece of History

March 2017

This Family Joke has been Running for Over 50 Years

In 1964, Scots-Canadian Craig McDonald received a 25cent birthday card from his very English mother-in-law, Evelyn (Cummings) Obergh. It was a ‘Purely Practical Greeting’ boasting a wee Scottish terrier in tartan kilt and tam and an 8-way folding option that suggested turning it inside out to return to the original sender. In the name of good thrifty Scottish frugality (‘Strictly Designed to Appeal to the Purse!”) and more than a wee douse of wry Scots humour, Craig’s wife Susan gave it to her brother Bob Obergh for his 17th birthday. In 1965, Bob gave the same card to their brother Jim Obergh and thus was born a family tradition that has lasted over
50 years.

“It was a bit of a joke at first,” says Jim. “We were always teasing Susan about marrying into a Scottish family. This card just fit that joke perfectly.”

Three times a year the card was sent between the siblings no matter where they lived, with names and dates added each time. From Thunder Bay (then Port Arthur and Fort William) to Ottawa to Burlington, the card made the journey back and forth and back again for each successive birthday, with two notable exceptions. The card dropped off the family radar in 1975 but was found in a letter drawer in 1977. Bob commemorates the occasion with a big “FOUND IT” scrawled in ballpoint pen.

The second time the tradition was broken was in 1982 when the McDonald family took their sailboat from Lake Superior down the eastern seaboard for a year in the Bahamas.

“We got our mail in postal drops then,” says Craig and Susan’s daughter, Jean. “I guess Bob didn’t want to chance it getting lost in the process.”

But while on dry land, Canada Post never lost the card once, which is impressive considering it made almost 150 journeys between the siblings during that time.

“It became like a game,” says Jim. “Everyone would wait for it on their birthday to see if it was going to show up.”

For 52 years, the card followed the lives of the Obergh children through marriage, childbirth, life and subsequent loss. Susan passed away in 2010 and the brothers kept the tradition going until the card, now tattered and fragile, made its final journey for Jim’s birthday on 2016 before Bob passed away last fall.

“Not bad for a 25 cent card,” says Jim with a wistful smile. “But if it was a game, I’m not sure whether I won or lost.”

No one is really certain what will happen to the card now. It might be passed down to the grandchildren to carry on the tradition or it might simply be retired to a shadow box frame and passed from home to home.

Either way, Susan, Jim and Bob certainly made thrifty work of Evelyn’s initial outlay of 25 cents. With 50 years of frugality and fun, that wee Scottish Terrier would be proud!

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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