Postcards from the past: Dick Symmes and Dick Murray find a picture-perfect way to celebrate their birthplace

By Sandi Goldfarb

Dick Symmes and Dick Murray have built a lifetime of memories, one postcard at a time. The Swampscott natives, who each celebrated their 91st birthday last summer, have been close friends since meeting in junior high school in the late 1930s. Despite busy lives that included military service during World War II, college — UMass for Symmes, Wesleyan for Murray — marriage, children and successful careers, their love of Swampscott has kept them connected.
A decades-long shared interest has resulted in albums filled with picture postcards that celebrate their beloved hometown. “I was cheap and didn’t always want to spend too much on postcards. But Dick has accumulated a collection that is elite,” said Murray.

Together, Symmes and Murray’s extensive collections feature historic images of Swampscott landmarks as well as beaches and buildings along the North Shore and in Maine.  

Even after all these years, the town of Swampscott remains the constant in their lives. Symmes, who grew up on Kensington Lane, recalls meeting his wife, Virginia, while both were young students at the Stanley School, and the many years he spent working at Durkee-Mower, the iconic maker of Marshmallow Fluff, “just over the border in Lynn.” The Symmes have three daughters who were born in Swampscott and raised in Marblehead.
Murray, the father of four sons and one daughter, married his wife, Suzanne, at the Phillips Avenue home of her grandparents, Harry and Gertrude Read. He, too, has lived in and around Swampscott all his life and currently resides on Stanley Road near Tedesco Country Club. With encouragement from his in-laws, Murray began his career in paperboard sales at a firm on Eastern Avenue in Lynn. His customers included such large companies as the legendary game makers Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley.

Both men often visited antique dealers, “rummaging through boxes of postcards” to find the perfect additions to their collections. They consider postcards featuring the grand homes on Lynn Shore Drive and seaplanes perched on Fisherman’s Beach among their favorites.
Asked to describe their collections, which both number in the hundreds, Murray cited important lessons from the past depicted in each postcard. “They are a recollection of what we were, what we became and how we have progressed throughout our lives.”

Sandi Goldfarb is a freelance writer. She can be reached at