[Guest Post] A PenPal For Over 30 Years

Today’s guest blogger is LetterMo Community Member Heather Cunnah, a busy mum to 7 children, of which 5 still live at home. She blogs about cross stitching and her family on a regular basis and says that “I could never dream of the day that I was without these things. Letter writing and stitching is part of who I am!” You can find her on Twitter @xstitchchick.

I am now 44 years of age and from around the age of 10 years old I have always had penpals, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t. I started off by writing to friends in the area that we moved from in 1979 (see I am showing my age!) then I saw penpal adverts in weekly comics/magazines and it all started from there.

I used my pocket money to buy my stationery and stamps. In those days a first class postage stamp was around 15 pence. On my morning walk to school I passed the post box, which was very handy indeed as I could post my letters of a morning on the way to school! Returning home from school to find mail most days was fantastic.

A very dear friend of mine saw an advertisement in a magazine about an organisation that could match you up with a penpal abroad. Well imagine my excitement!! She gave me the page from the magazine (checking there were no hunky pop starts on the reverse side haha!). So I sent off for the information package and form to fill in. The organisation, which was called the International Youth Service (IYS) If I remember rightly, charged 40p for every pen-pal they matched you with.


I could choose the age and nationality of my penpal. Wow, amazing! My penpalling went on from there and every year or so I would use this service to find a new pen pal and I haven’t looked back since.

It was so exciting sending letters abroad and way back then (the “olden days”). I used aerogrammes to write to my penpals abroad. They were great for short and quick replies but since nothing was allowed to be enclosed in them they did restrict my letter writing. Have any of you heard of them or even used them?

aerogrammeThey were basically a sheet of airmail paper that once written on folded up a certain way then stuck together to make an envelope. When you bought the aerogramme the postage was included in the price which was why nothing was allowed to be enclosed. I used them for a short while then started using ‘proper’ paper and envelopes so I could add little extras in with my letters or over the envelope in stickers. I still do that today.

I still write to many of my penpals that I have had for years. It has been great growing up with them and watching each other’s family grow. I have even met a number of my penpals, one is now a very good friend via social media. Another penpal, from Australia, came and stayed in our house for a week as he was doing a tour around Europe. I still write and email him very often. He has “watched” my children grow up. He came to stay a few months after I had my first child so it is fantastic that he has met most of my family.

Some of my children are showing a great interest in penpals, particularly now as I start to get ready for LetterMo, and my youngest girls have a penpal or two each and are looking to expand their letter writing and picture drawing. I think it’s important they learn the art of letter writing and written communication.

This day and age it’s all about the computer and e-mail–both of which I do not let them use too often without supervision–plus letter writing is a great activity to do together. The children really enjoy coming home from school to find a letter or postcard waiting for them… I understand that feeling very well! It is like watching myself in a mirror.

I really take great pleasure in taking over the dining room table when I write my letters. I keep the letters I need to reply to in a folder which is in my “penpal basket”. That is where I keep all my stationery; these days itt’s getting harder and harder to find good quality paper at great prices. I know when I buy paper I always have to buy extra as my girls always pinch some off me!

Heather Letter Station

During my many years of penpalling I have met some brilliant people and I hope over the next 30 years I meet many more. I hope that we have all received many letters and cards during February and that we form lasting friendships.

3 Replies to “[Guest Post] A PenPal For Over 30 Years”

  1. I never learned to write letters when I was a child but developed writing later in my 20s. I am now loving writing to my pen friends. English is my 3rd language so it is a bit difficult but I keep trying and improving. Hope to have pen friends for life. Thank you for the post. Happy letter writing.

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  2. Yes, I remember that airmail stationery! Used it for several overseas pen pal exchanges throughout elementary and junior high school. While I’m still connected to my longest-term pen pal, we no longer exchange real mail; I’m willing enough, but all of my friends prefer email to handwriting or even typing/printing letters. That’s the main reason I joined Lettermo and two post card exchanges.

  3. Oh Heather – I so much enjoyed and related to that! And good to get a fellow British ‘voice!’ I’ve written letters for as long as I can remember – I’m 53! One of my first foreign penfriends was from Look and Learn magazine when I was 18. Some people I have been writing to for over 30 years. Now, with the internet, I do think it is easier to find new penfriends. I remember joining various organisations to find more: International Penfriends, I think one was called?

    Love your storage – I need to cut back on supplies so they fit like that!…

    Aerogrammes: yes! In fact I’ve just bought some second-hand, unused ones, from Ebay! Some are the decorated type – if you remember, they were more expensive than the plain ones. I’ll use them with extra postage if they’ve got a figure on, and add extra sheets up to the 10g. I thought they would add variety to my stationery. I was buying them at the Post Office until they stopped making them. They did help with cheaper postage. Those ‘fold and post’ pads are similar – where you are, in effect, writing on the inside of the envelope.

    Happy Lettermo!

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