During the 1950s, fifth and sixth graders received My Weekly Reader at school, which was a fun weekly educational classroom magazine. It began in 1928 as My Weekly Reader. Editions covered curriculum themes in the younger grade levels and news-based, current events and curriculum themed-issues in older grade levels.

You could send in jokes, which I did from time to time and some were published.

You could also sign up to become a penpal. I wrote letters to half a dozen girls, two of them overseas. My little 1957 diary reminds me of their names: Sharon from Morenci, Arizona; Nada Jean from Virginia, Idaho; Mary Louise from Hooper, Nebraska; Dixie from Downey, Idaho; Carol Jean from Hawkeye, Iowa; Anne from Douglas, Massachusetts; Joelle Muzy from Bourg en Bresse, Ain, France; and Erlinda Yapp from Cavite City, Philippines.

It took a long time for mail to get back and forth to the overseas pals. Joelle wrote in French, which my piano teacher, Elinor Chapler, would translate for me. I mentioned popcorn once and Joelle didn’t understand what that was, so Mom helped me get Jiffy-Pop ready to send to France.

Can you imagine what fascinating letters an 11-year-old farm girl from Iowa wrote in the 1950s? I remember keeping a chart of activities to make sure I told each one of them all my fascinating happenings, so I wouldn’t repeat the same thing in my next letter.

Visits to cousins or grandparents, going to church, piano lessons?

The two girls from Idaho must have enjoyed getting my letters. At least they stuck around the longest.

How delightful as a child to our rural mailbox and find a letter addressed just to me, with an interesting stamp (which had been licked to affix it), and an exotic postmark.

My earliest penpal was Grandma Leora Wilson. We both enjoyed writing letters, so our penpal-ness lasted for decades.


I was just reminded that these days I’ve got electronic penpals from all over. How I appreciate them!


  1. I remember My Weekly Reader! Looked forward to receiving every issue. Later, in middle school, we got Junior Scholastic. What I remember most about the latter paper was that they periodically had book sales, and I bought a lot of paperbacks through them to feed my craving for reading. In 6th grade, however, part of our reading curriculum was produced by Reader’s Digest, and I really enjoyed that, too. Two stories I recall in particular–“He Loved Me Truly,” about young Abe Lincoln and his mother (or was it step-mother?), and “I Fell XX,000 Feet and Lived,” about a British bomber crewman whose plane was hit and he fell, without a parachute, and lived to write about it!

  2. The Weekly Reader! I loved the Weekly Reader!! I remember reading about the St. Louis Arch being built and photosensitive eyeglasses. And what kid didn’t love Jiffy Pop???

  3. I remember My Weekly Reader, too, and later Highlights. I also remember the book sales vividly. I always bought as many as my parents would allow and it was so exciting on delivery day. I think I had one or two pen pals over the years who were not people I’d known and moved away from. Can’t recall anything about them, though. You sure took on a major project with so many!

  4. I remember The Weekly Reader and all the interesting stories. I don’t ever remember having penpals linked to it, but I did have a Japanese penpal through the local Rotary Club.

  5. I remember reading every issue of the Weekly Reader when it came. I still have one of my earliest books purchased through the book sales whenever they began. It’s the story of Harriet Tubman. I thought she was the bravest most heroic woman to ever live and my grandchildren now read it.

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