Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Magic of Mail Order

Isn't it a beauty?

I had saved forever!
It was mine!
It's not fair!
Maybe I should explain . . .
In the early sixties, exciting things came in the mail.
Okay, yes, they still do.
But somehow, getting stuff in the mail is just a bit more exciting when you are eight.
At least it was for me.
Probably because it didn't happen often.
Getting stuff, I mean.
Dad would stop at the post office and come out with the usual bushel basket of ranch mail.
Whereupon (good word) I would pounce.
“Dad! Is there anything for me?”
He would look at me, smile and say,” What's your name?”
“Sorry. Nope.”
I got smarter. Or at least more efficient.
“Dad! Is there anything for me? My name's Diane.”
But the answer seldom changed.
“Sorry. Nope.”
But when I was eight, I discovered that you could 'order' stuff.
Free stuff.
Lots and lots of it.
The back pages of literally every magazine had rows and rows of ads from companies who were just aching to mail it to you.
It was a whole new world.
I scoured every magazine, gleaning offers of free stuff.
I sent out dozens of requests.
And started receiving packages in the mail.
Games and puzzles.
It was like Christmas every time Dad went for the mail.
Now he no longer asked what my name was.
He simply handed me packages.
Then I discovered something else.
I should mention here that Dad always kept a stock of ice cream and ice cream treats in the freezer.
For special times.
We weren't allowed to eat them without permission, though.
But that was all right.
We received permission a lot.
I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with ordering stuff.
That part comes now . . .
The ice cream treats had wrappers.
Normally, we would simply throw them away when they had fulfilled their purpose.
Then I discovered that there were offers printed on them.
From 'Popsicle Pete'. Whoever that was.
Offers for 'free' stuff.
Okay, I realize that they weren't strictly free, being as you had to buy the ice cream.
But I digress . . .
If you collected 'X' number of wrappers, you could order 'Y'.
I studied the selection.
I made my choice.
I hoarded my wrappers.
Did you know that counting and re-counting doesn't magically create more wrappers?
Just FYI.
Eons later, I finally had enough.
I could order that super amazing, extra special . . . knife.
Just what every eight-year-old needs, right?
Oh it wasn't just any knife.
There was a picture of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on it.
And it cost me every one of my 14 wrappers.
It was to become the heart of my collection.
Of stuff.
I sent out my wrappers.
And waited.
And waited.
Finally, Dad handed me that extra special package.
I tore into the paper.
And triumphantly held up my knife.
Whereupon (Oooh. Twice in one post) Mom grabbed it.
“Diane! What are you doing with this?”
I stared at her. “It's mine. I ordered it.”
“You can't play with a knife!”
“I wasn't going to play with it!”
“What were you going to do with it?”
“Ummm . . . cut stuff?”
“Right. Your fingers, probably.” Mom carried my special treasure to the cupboard.
The one above the fridge.
The only one in the whole house that I couldn't get to.
“Mom! I bought that!”
“I know, dear,” she said. “And I will give it back to you. After you turn ten.”
I stared at her in disbelief. “Ten?!”
“Yes. By that time, you will be old enough to own a knife.”
That was forever!
I stared up at the cupboard.
Then at my Mom.
She couldn't possibly mean it.
“But . . . I bought it,” I said again.
Maybe it would have more impact this time.
“I know, dear,” Mom said.
“But . . .” I could think of nothing else to say.
That's when the tears started.
Even those failed to move her.
For years, my knife had its home in that cupboard.
Not to be discovered until we moved.
“Huh,” she said. “Look, Diane. Here's your knife.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” I said.
I took it from her and looked at it.
“Diane! Can I have the knife?” It was my little brother, Blair.
Age? Ten.
I handed it to him.
One should never have to wait for their fun.


  1. I'm trying to remember if I ever ordered something like that...

    Nope. Just books...

    1. But the thrill is the same! Getting something in the mail!!!

  2. Ha! Such a great story! I loved ordering free stuff too! :D

    1. Thank you! And thanks, too for visiting! I still love getting stuff in the mail. It's even more fun when its free!

  3. Aw...I feel so sorry for that little 8 year old Diane..but I can SO understand your Mom.

  4. I really enjoy reading your stories. This waas a very fun one. I can just imagine the fun of waiting for the mail. When my husband went on his mission; I checked the mailbox everyday for a letter. I had such joy when I received one. Then came children and their mission letters. Even today I love going to the mailbox.
    Thanks for the thoughts an blessing to you!

    1. Waiting for an email just doesn't compete! I love stuff in the mail!

  5. hi, great writing. i found you and your blog through She Writes. a fellow albertan. i would love for you to visit my blog and follow if you like it. i need all the support i can get:)

    ps - we farm southwest of Edmonton

    1. Thanks for visiting, Bev. I will definitely return the favour! We fellow Albertans have to stick together!

  6. Love this story and so remember that feeling of counting and counting something and hoping there'd be more. Are you still close to your brother?

    1. Very close. He is usually the first to respond to my blogs! Very encouraging!

  7. That's a nice looking little knife for 14 popsicle wrappers. I remember the things I "saved" for as more disappointing. You really didn't get to find out, though. What did Blair think?

    1. That was probably the best thing I ever got. Briefly. Blair was ecstatic. Sigh.

  8. Sorry, it looks like I'm the last to reply today. I ordered that same knife from Popsicle Pete. Don't tell Mom but I got mine when I was 7. And she didn't take it away from me.

  9. I thought I sent a comment but it looks to be empty.

  10. Oh Diane that story was so funny, thanks for leaving a smile on my face:)

    1. Thank you! I love your comments! You are always so positive!

  11. Aw your Mom wasn't fun.
    I would have let you keep it Eventually you would have tired looking at it and then I could have hid it. lol

    1. Exactly! I would have tired of it in about 2 days. That was my usual record!


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