Some postcards are art. This is one of those cards. It is lovely, composed, and hints at a story all by itself. Are the man and woman a couple? Married? Father and daughter? Mother and son? Cousins? Traveling companions as part of a tour group?

The front of the postcard says, “The Telescope in the Lookout Tower” “Grand Canyon, Arizona” The back notes that this is a hand-colored postcard, with spaces clearly labeled for address and message. Postcards were authorized by an act of Congress, defining and delineating space for the address and space for the message. When the first postcards were authorized in the US, no message was allowed by Act of Congress on the address side of the card. No hyperbole here. That’s why the back of this card says “THIS SPACE FOR ADDRESS” and “THIS SPACE FOR MESSAGE”.

Transcribed as written with no corrections:

The writer says, “Dear Viola. Just a few lines to let you know that I am on the way yet. I will write to you when we get to Los Angeles, the trip is great and the sight to see hear, All the hills and Mtn. are wonderful to see. By, by Carl must be lonesome by know. Ha, Ha, Monica” Sent to Mrs. Viola Streight of Bloomfield, Iowa.

I wonder if Carl was the boyfriend, who couldn’t quite propose and whose love, Monica, left him to ponder, while she traveled?

And now, without trying, I’ve arrived at yet another woman who is remarkable in a time when women weren’t all that free to be remarkable. Mary Colter is recognized as the architect and interior designer of many buildings at the Grand Canyon. She traveled the Southwest, visiting Pueblos and ruins, incorporating those design elements in her buildings. This building was designed to blend with the irregular edge of the Grand Canyon itself.

Lookout Tower was built in 1914. Agnes Laut’s book, quoted in another post was published in 1913. I wonder if their paths crossed – two adventurous women traveling the Southwest, both appreciating and exploring. Perhaps when I finish reading Agnes’ book, I may find her commenting on either Mary Colter or Lookout Studio.

The photo for this postcard was taken by the Fred Harvey Company, which hired Mary to design and decorate a number of buildings along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. The Fred Harvey Company ran hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions along the line. The Grand Canyon was an epic stop on the way to the coast. Lookout Studio, where this tower is located was intended to provide visitors with a view into and across the Grand Canyon from the very edge. The telescope allowed visitors to look deep into the canyon without the inconveniences of actually trekking into its depths.

An article, written by Kate Nelson, in New Mexico Magazine, September 2013, describes Mary Colter as, “A chain smoker who appreciated her whiskey, she could cuss out a bellhop one day, a carpenter the next.”  Another woman I love.

As a last note on Mary Colter, she was a schoolteacher in Minnesota, before lending her mind to many great buildings in Arizona and elsewhere in the Southwest.

I would like to have a cocktail party with these badass women; Mary Colter, Agnes Laut, the Wenrich women, their friend Rita, Nell of motorcycle side car fame, Mrs. Walther, who broke all precedent becoming the first lady president of the Phoenix Motel Association, or Mrs. Boeres, who sued her husband in 1920 for half the family business. I’d love to meet the men who knew, worked with, married and courted these women. I am certain they all had incredible trials and tribulations, the insecurities that we all have, but in the end – they persevered. And, along the way, tiny clues in these cards open windows into their lives.

Here’s to more adventures with the wild women of Arizona!


Share this post:

Sherry Dewane is very much an Angeleno, living in Los Angeles, but her roots are firmly planted in rural Wisconsin. Years living in Montana and travels throughout the American West shape her worldview. Sherry’s imagination, love of the outdoors, Midwest work ethic and love of reading were nurtured on an iconic lake in the woods, where she enjoyed her early childhood. She spent the first 11 years of her life on English Lake, in rural Wisconsin, exploring woods, fields and the lake, endlessly walking, swimming, ice skating, water-skiing and enjoying the seasons, reading and writing.


  • Josh

    I wonder if she left her Carl (husband/boy friend) where she was from to travel, to see that who she is writing to? The man to her right looks like someone who may have worked at this tower. His hat and possible program or guide in his pocket? He looks like a bellman, elevator operator, sort of fellow.

    • Sherry Dewane

      Hi Josh – thanks so much for reading!! And further for setting up such a beautiful website!! I kept trying to figure out that guy and the thing in the pocket. I bet you are correct – he was the bellman, or something!

      Best, Sherry

  • Diana

    Love the western style romance of these posts!! The wild west must have been an astonishing sight!!

    • Sherry Dewane

      Dear Diana – as always, thank you for reading and commenting. I am going to write a full response on the front page of the blog shortly. You’ve reminded me of a conversation I had yesterday. Enjoy your weekend! Best, Sherry

  • Lena

    I enjoy and love your way of participating in the scenes you are sharing and so make them come alive again – just as it was when the photo was shot. It comes alive because of your questions and your wonderings about it – which makes me look and wonder and step out of time for a timeless moment. Your work is that of an artist and I’d like to thank you for extending the past into the now and the future and creating continual beauty and life.

    • Sherry Dewane

      Dear Lena – first, thank you so much for reading! Second, thank you for the kind words. I’ve always wanted to write in exactly the way you’ve described. I feel like there are little moments in time, frozen, in these cards. I enjoy it so much. Thank you, Sherry

  • Joan

    Dear Sherry,
    Your writing is excellent only surpassed by your imagination .
    The interpretation of the card and the writer stirs many thoughts.
    I imagine that I could meet some of these people and what would I say? Hmmm

    • Sherry Dewane

      Dear Joan – yes, perhaps this would be a great Halloween event in Arizona. Dress up as the Wild Women of the West!!

      Who knew?! I certainly took Arizona history in school and I wish they had talked about this stuff!!

      Best, Sherry


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *