You Know You’re in a Small Town When…

            You all have seen many lists of humorous endings to this phrase or it might be the ending to Upstate New York rather than Small Town. One of my favorite endings is: you go to pick up medicine at the pharmacy and there is a note on the bag that the clerk reads out loud to you: “Doc says it’s time for your yearly checkup.”

            My first article was about the Gilbertsville-Greene connection. Here’s another example of that connection that exemplifies small-town life. My brother, Ted Seaman, from Gilbertsville, taught math in the early 1960s in Greene. He was in the Army in post-war Japan in the late 1940s and wrote this article later for the Otsego Journal in Gilbertsville. This is for pure enjoyment, so sit back, have a cup of coffee and immerse yourself in this story and pretend it’s Greene.

     This story has two themes, one is that a small town has some advantages over a city, and the other, it is really nice to get mail from home when you are far away.

     It began when my army buddies started kidding me about the "Journal" which came weekly, usually several weeks delayed but that did not matter.  They loved to read the items about people:  "Fred Williams was in Utica on Sunday to call on his Aunt Minnie."  Then they would talk about it and ask me for details and make up all sorts of unlikely suggestions, as many buddies have been known to do.  At the time we were living in a Japanese school for martial arts and were assigned six to a room in an ornate dormitory building, and my five roommates happened to be all city boys.  Denver, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Chicago, and Gilbertsville, that was the list of hometowns.  One day the conversation turned to how many people lived in Gilbertsville, anyway, and I said maybe three or four hundred, and they hooted and hollered, so I said maybe that wasn't so many but at least I knew most of them.  More hooting and hollering, so I made a challenge:  I can get more Christmas cards than you five guys put together!

     My timing was good, it was early November, and the next time I was on pass I bought some very nice Japanese cards.  I think 200 of them, winter scenes and so forth, attractive and Oriental and I hoped appealing to my intended addressees.  Christianity was not widespread in Japan at that time, so perhaps these cards were especially done for the troops.  Anyway, I mentally went along each street in Gilbertsville and addressed a card to each person or family whom I knew me, then along each road out of the village and did the same thing until I ran out of roads.  There were not many cards left, and those went to relatives in other places.  Oh yes, I very carefully and clearly put my address on every envelope, partly because we still had the "franking" privilege and our mail went free if our rank and serial number appeared on the envelope, but mainly so that all those nice folks could put me on their Christmas Card lists.

     Each day a dozen or so cards would be on their way and before Thanksgiving my Christmas mailing was complete, and the next couple of weeks I occasionally reminded my buddies of the challenge.  They hadn't taken it seriously and had done nothing, even though I know city boys love mail just as much as country boys.

     Well, about the second week in December the cards started coming.  Every day more arrived, and of course I displayed them with flourish on my bunk at every opportunity.  Nearly everyone who got a card from me sent one back, and there were some from other people who knew me - as I recall I counted about 20 more received than sent.  Many had friendly notes, and altogether the card exchange that year was a great success for me.

     My friends continued to kid me about coming from a small town, but I like to think they saw it a little differently after that holiday season.  I was pleased to be remembered by so many friends and acquaintances, and it really helped to dispel some of the homesickness that everyone feels at such times.  And yes, I won the challenge, with more than twice as many cards as the five roommates got, all together. - Ted Seaman