Penpals for 50 years
A friendship between penpals has withstood the test of both time and distance. Linda Taylor (nee Siney) from Amble has been corresponding with Helen Moore (nee Strykajlo) in Australia for 50 years.
What started out as a few tentative ‘getting-to-know-you’ letters sent via airmail three or four times a year, has blossomed into a full scale friendship, with the two women now emailing each other two or three times a week.
“It started when I was at Red Row Primary School. My class teacher Hilda Taylor took part in an exchange with Miss Owen, a teacher from Sydney. She came to us for two years,” explained Linda.
“Hilda came back in 1962 with a list of Australian girls who wanted to be penpals. I picked Helen’s name out of a hat and we’ve been writing to each other ever since.”
“I still have her first letter – that was really an exchange of family, friends and information, but since then we’ve shared each other’s lives. We’ve been through all the stages – letters, phonecalls, faxes to emails now. We haven’t Skyped yet – that could be the next step! When we first started to write, it cost me 6d to send a letter. Helen’s were 10d to send a “bluey” (airmail). We had to find that money, so we probably only wrote once every three months or so.”
The two friends have met on several occasions over the last fifty years. Helen has visited Northumberland twice while Linda has been to Australia five times, most recently to see Helen’s youngest daughter getting married on April 21st this year.
“We have shared each other’s lives. My mother died when I was 14 – I still have the sympathy card from Helen and her family. I’ve got a bag full of her letters, and her first Christmas card.
“I was one of eight – in my house you had to share everything, but when the postman came and brought a letter from Helen, that letter was mine!
“We’ve been through marriages, divorces, kids and grandkids – Helen’s a true friend. There’s not much we don’t talk about.”