Don Hill: Pick a card, any card

By Don Hill

Guest columnist

Card or cash? It is getting to be more cards than cash these days.

Anyway, that started me thinking about cards. You see how my old mind skips around.

Well, let’s see a little history. I knew you wanted some. Seems playing cards dates to the ninth century in China. Mostly woodblock printed. I have some that I brought back from Korea that are thin wood covered with rice paper. I also have some Japanese Christmas cards printed with wooden blocks.

Now during the 18th century when things were very formal, the calling card was popular. The card would have your name and title, if you had one, printed on it. You would present your card at the door and place it in a silver tray. The butler (you know, like the one you have) would deliver it to the master or lady of the house. A coded system of folding a corner of the card meant various things.

The calling card developed into the business card. One way to get business is to let people know you are in business. It is used for introduction and for follow-up. “Here’s my card, give me a call.”

Of course, greeting cards also can be traced back to ancient China, but it really got going here in the U.S. with Hallmark back around 1880. Now, you not only have Christmas, Valentine’s and birthday cards, you can get one for all most any occasion, including getting divorced.

Let’s not forget the report card. You remember, the one with all A’s, or was it was the one where you carefully changed the F to a B? And I still have my “TS” card from my military days. It’s punched full of holes. In case you weren’t in service, the TS card was used when you had a gripe or a complaint. The person you were complaining to would say, “Give me your TS card and I’ll punch it for you.” I won’t tell you all of it, but the initials stood for Tough ….!

Did you save your baseball cards? Check them out. You might retire early. I wonder if my Rickey Henderson 1980 is worth anything. How about your Pokémon cards? I’m sure you have some. Do you belong to an organization? If so, you probably have their membership card. For some, the dreaded draft card was sometimes burnt.

Now back in my day, there were the penny postcards. Yes, that’s what they cost. They were a blank card with the stamp printed on them. You addressed them on that side and wrote your message on the other. It was simple, but of course, the mailman and anyone else could read your message. I think you can still get them but not for a penny anymore.

How about getting your fortune told? You can do it right here in good old Seymour with Tarot cards. They date back forever. Maybe the 15th century in Italy would be a starting place. Usually, 78 cards will give you a general idea of your future. Probably when she turned my first card, she would say, “Oh dear!”

Why not give your friends a gift card instead of getting them something they don’t need or want? Let them buy whatever. Hopefully, they will do the same for you. Besides, you don’t need to spend a lot on wrapping.

Now, the wonderful plastic credit card. Nice and easy. Maybe too easy. It all started with Western Union coming out with a metal card in 1914. Banker John Biggins came out with a card that was good within two blocks of his bank in 1946. Then came Diners Card in 1950, 1958 American Express, 1985 Discover, etc. The magnetic strip was added in 1960. So much for buying stuff you don’t need.

Nowadays, we must have a dozen or so in our billfolds or purses. Insurance, driver’s license, etc. You can come up with many more. And I suppose all of those will be loaded onto your phone and carrying cards will be obsolete. I’m too old to keep up on such things. Just put me in the obsolete category, as well.

So since my neighbor, Joan, suggested I do a column on cards, there it is.

Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and a longtime volunteer for Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. Send comments to [email protected].