Wish You Were Here

By Hannah Wallace January 31, 2005

Bob Blalock is on the hunt for mint-condition postcards-rare black & white photos (or "RP's" in collectors' parlance, short for "real photographs") preferred over hand-tinted cards, thank you. But not just any postcards. The Bradenton attorney primarily collects images of every business along 14th Street, "from the First Presbyterian Church all the way down to the Ringling Museum," he says.

Since Blalock started his collection 15 years ago with a handful of cards inherited from his mother, he's amassed about 1,200 Bradenton-themed postcards. "My mother's family [the Greens of Wyman, Green and Blalock, longtime local insurance and real estate professionals] moved to Bradenton from Marietta, Ga. in 1907," Blalock explains. "Before they moved here, my grandfather took a trip around the state, and sent back several postcards. Eventually, my mother gave them to me."

Blalock started talking to people about his newfound passion and soon they started sending him cards. Then a few years ago, "along came eBay." Now, he buys postcards from as far as Canada, Hawaii and England, from people who vacationed in Bradenton or were sent cards from Bradenton vacationers.

"I have paid $100 for a postcard," Blalock says. "I once lost a postcard of the Trail Drive-In even after bidding $100."

A Manatee County native, Blalock is an estate-planning attorney who has practiced law in Bradenton since 1963. He is chairman of the firm of Blalock, Walters, Held & Johnson, P.A. A member of the Manatee Historical Society, he plans to someday donate his postcards to either that organization or the South Florida Museum or historical library.

One of his very favorites: a postcard of what is now 15th Street, formerly called Prospect Avenue. "My grandparents lived on Prospect Avenue, and my grandfather had one of the first enclosed automobiles in Bradenton," he says. "The card shows him turning into his driveway."

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