Thursday, October 21, 2010

Before Facebook We Had Friendship Books or FBs

Example of a Friendship Book page - from the 
Friendship Book Facebook group

Friendship Books or "FBs" were a big part of my life back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These small to medium sized "books" were created by stapling pieces of paper together and including a "To" and "From" page which included an address. Once the book was filled, it would be returned to the pen pal it was intended for. It was common to make FBs for other pen pals. Kids who knew that particular pen pal would often write "ICR" on their page meaning, "I can return the friendship book - I'm pen pals with this person."

Each page would be a work of art and include the names of our favorite bands. We used colorful paints, markers, stickers and more to try and outdo the last pen pal's work. The more offbeat, the better. People would experiment with BINGO markers, tin foil, Saran wrap, you name it. I remember even burning the edges of paper with a candle and applying it to the page. By the way, this was all way before scrap booking became all the rage.

We all had nicknames from songs or bands -- for example I was "Sally Cinnamon" for a while. I stole the name from a Stone Roses song. There was a printing company that made these awesome address labels for us featuring a photo of our choice and typically friends would share the cost with a pen pal and include both of their addresses or just their names.

From the Facebook Friendship Book group

My high school boyfriend became fascinated with the Friendship Book scene and he too had labels made up and found himself a handful of pen pals. While most of our high school classmates were out getting wasted on a Friday night, we would sit at my parent's kitchen table with art supplies strewn everywhere and work on our week's worth of Friendship Books. My dad never understood what it was we were doing -- "You doing your art projects again, kids?" He'd say.

Friendship Books began as a way to meet new Gothic or new wave pen pals from all over the country who liked the same music.  Sadly, much like today's Facebook and teens - some of the pen pals were cruel and would spread rumors throughout the pen pal circuit. I remember getting prank calls and hurtful letters from pen pals I had confided in. It was devastating because the reason we all obviously turned to Friendship Books and pen pals was because we couldn't relate to the bullies at school who made fun of our Doc boots and all black. Now the pen pal you've bonded with is calling you a poseur or making fun of you for one reason or another. It was a bummer, but luckily I only experienced it with a few kids who were of course from my own tri-state area.

By the time I got to college, I began to fade out of the Friendship Book scene. Between school, work and partying, I no longer had time to keep up with my massive amount of pen pals and the Friendship Books. It was in college that I began meeting real-life friends who had common interests and didn't think my shoes or hair was strange at all.

14 comments:

MiMi said...

I don't remember these at all...maybe because I didn't have many friends...or friends that could WRITE. lol

trulymelanie said...

Wow - I have never heard of Friendship Books, but it reminds me of the Circle Journey book my sister and I send back and forth.

Marlene said...

Never saw anything like this when I was growing up. We had autograph books! LOL.

1950's_atomic_ranch_house said...

Nope, never heard of these either. They do this now with Altered Book, artists, but nothing like this back in the 80's.

I had a blank hardback book I'd draw in throughout High School, and friends would write in it sometimes, but never a FB.

ISRAEL CARRASCO said...

I don't recall friendship books but I just remember that kids before were more imaginative. Today, FBs would come as an application to your iphone.

Bossy Betty said...

We didn't have these and I am sorry! I dig this!

Copyboy said...

That is amazing! I never even knew a culture like this existed. I hope you feature these pages as an ongoing thing. I am fascinated by this Ms. Writer.

Riot Kitty said...

I never knew anyone who had one...too bad because they look awesome!

Babes Mami said...

They sound neat but I never heard of them!

Cheeseboy said...

Yep, I showed my wife this and she said she did indeed do these. Sometimes I am so glad I am a guy.

Andrew said...

Its curiuos the things we are oblivous to. Friendship Books? I guess some googling is in order.

Pat Tillett said...

Just one more reason I'm glad I'm not female. You guys had too many things on your plate...

good post Ally!

Kara said...

I had a huge pen pal circle in the late 1970s and through much of the 1980s, and I well remember swapping FBs and slams and ordering those photo labels from some place in Kansas. Good times.

ZantiMissKnit said...

I did these, too. I always felt bad when someone stopped writing to me after I sent a picture; I figured that I didn't look cool enough for them. The only time I encountered any real nastiness was when a couple of racist skinheads got a hold of some FBs, and one wrote to me. I told him that I wasn't down with the racist stuff, and then I got a couple of nasty letters. It didn't last long, though.

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