Tuesday, Jun 28, 2016
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Give and take just between friends

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Harold C. Ackerman, left, and Ernie Bollinger hold the birthday card that they have been sending to each other for more than 60 years.

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Ernie Bollinger gave his friend a birthday card in February.

Last week, his friend gave it back.

No offense - they've been doing this for more than 60 years.

See, Mr. Bollinger, who on Monday turned 77, and Harold C. Ackerman, who turned 77 in February, have been sending the same birthday card back and forth since they were students at Clay High School in 1944.

These fast friends from Oregon have been inseparable since sixth grade. They've double dated, been in each other's weddings, and vacationed together. Even their sons are good friends.

And it's all in the card, which has been passed between them for 61 years now and has become a kind of time capsule for their lives and friendship.

It began when Mr. Bollinger sent his buddy a birthday card featuring a thrifty Scotsman who sent an old, used card he found in the attic. Mr. Ackerman picked up on the joke and took it a step further.

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The six decades worth of brief annual messages between Ernie Bollinger and Harold C. Ackerman filled the birthday card. Not long ago, the longtime friends added a scrap of paper to add more greetings.

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"It was a perfectly good card, so I sent it back," he said, laughing.

Each year, the friends continued to sign the card, which Mr. Bollinger believes he bought for 15 cents. Many times they added a short note, each with its own secret story.

"It's sort of a history," Mr. Bollinger said. "It brings back so many memories."

There are references to weddings, medical procedures, and national events, as well as the types of things that only best buddies would know. Like Mr. Bollinger's 1958 entry that says only, "The Dehydrated Frenchman."

It's a reference to a popular joke at the time, he explained.

"Did you hear about the dehydrated Frenchman?" he said, barely able to hide his enthusiasm. "Pierre!" (Say it again, slowly ... Get it? Get it?)In 1991, Mr. Bollinger referred to himself as "The Scud Stud" during the Persian Gulf War. A decade earlier, his friend signed off as Evel Knievel, jokingly recalling a motorcycle speeding incident. This year's addition from Harold notes that 2005 was the year of Katrina.

There's only so much room on a little birthday card, though, and so they've had to be frugal with their comments.

"If we'd known we were gonna send it back and forth so often, I wouldn't have written so big," Mr. Ackerman said.

Not long ago, it finally was necessary to add a scrap of paper for more birthday wishes. At the bottom of it is a final, hopeful epilogue handwritten in a neat script:

"We probably didn't need this much paper for future notes, but we should be optimistic."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.

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