Serendipity: Wish You Were Here

How’s this for serendipity: While visiting a vintage shop in San Jose, I stumbled across this postcard.

Mike Roberts iconic photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge

Postcard: Mike Roberts photograph of the iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge

The reverse side of postcard | Sunset, San Francisco Bay Bridge

To the average viewer, it’s unremarkable. The card is a reproduction of a photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Photographer Mike Roberts photographed the bridge multiple times in order to capture this shot. He published the photo in September 1959, five days before I was born.

My family moved to the US in November 1966, and a year later my father painted this oil on canvas. Dad died in 1969.

My dad Eric Milner’s oil painting, painted in 1969, two years before he died

Stumbling across the postcard literally stopped me in my tracks. My heart did that strange flutter as I tried to make sense of the photo. I realized at that moment that a small piece of unknown history grazed my fingertips. The postcard photo had been my father’s muse. I never knew.

Returning home with my friend Kelly, we jumped online and looked up Roberts and his work. From there I discovered this book

book cover Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: Mike Roberts | The Life and Times of America’s Postcard King | by Bob Roberts

Mike Roberts was working on a memoir when he died in 1989. According to his son, Bob:

…yellow Kodak boxes snoozed in my basement for twenty years. For reasons financial, literary, and personal it took twenty years to pull together the pieces of Wish You Were Here. The words and photos were rummaged from his early musings, classic transparencies, and drafts. The rest of the story springs from our family, his friends, media accounts, and those yellow boxes. Enjoy! – Bob Roberts, March 2015

A page from Robert’s book describing the photoshoot

Title page of Mike Roberts book purchased used online

Here’s one more bit of serendipity. While thumbing through my husband’s family photos, I came across this snapshot. Check out the art on the wall!

My husband Mike’s family gathered in front of a painting of the Bay Bridge, circa the 1960s | Mike is wearing the burgundy shirt, lower left

I’ve loved reading about Mike Roberts’ life and work. I appreciate his incredible artistry and his love of the humble postcard. Most of all, I’ll never tire of those serendipitous moments in time, when a daughter stumbles upon an old postcard, bringing forth a snapshot in time.

I wish you were here.

39 thoughts on “Serendipity: Wish You Were Here

  1. What an amazing story that this postcard is such a common thread running through your family! I love your Dad’s version and that it has a place of honour in your now-organized craft space :).

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  2. Yep I wish you were here too. That is a wonderful story – these are the hidden mysteries of life that I love to stumble upon – you are good at stumbling too – though no, no, you mustn’t do it in physical reality any more, only in the metaphorical serendipity sense ๐Ÿ™‚ That man who bore the name of your husband wove a little bit of magic just for you and your family – so special!! xoxo

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  3. Wow! I can imagine what a strange moment that must have been when you saw the postcard! Your Dad would no doubt have loved the fact that you found the card and the book too. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ So you get your artistic talent from your father I guess. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. Holy cats! That is quite the synchronicity. That bridge is a strand that is woven through your family on both sides. Wish you were here, too. Or at least closer so that we could visit when we are all vaccinated.

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  5. Oh I LOVE stories like this! Layer upon layer! I wonder how often we just miss the connection, because we were too busy to notice or didn’t ask or whatever. If you hadn’t seen the postcard, or gone there on another day, this story would not have happened. However, that didn’t happen because the card was right there on the top and you noticed it!
    I am glad you are keeping well, Alys. All is good here. I am madly gelli printing at the moment ~ it is my new love and my new passion!

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    • Anne, you are so right! I’m always delighted when this happens, and have learned to really appreciate the special moments of connection. I’m glad you are keepig well and I’m delighted to hear of yet another medium for you: gelli printing. I’ve seen at least one or two pieces on Instagram. You are prolific. Sending love you way. xo

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