Archivist Matt Tantony shares a blast from the past, discovering a favourite childhood character in a box of leaflets. 'Wicked!'

We all know and love Postman Pat. There have been other postal mascot characters over the years besides Greendale’s finest. Many might fondly recall Stamp Bug, the insectoid friend to young philatelists. And there are even those who reflect wistfully on Poco the Postcode Elephant. But are you cool enough to remember Jools?

Cool As Jools 1

Jools posts an air mail letter – in space! (POST 110/7135).

Lately at The Postal Museum I’ve been sorting and cataloguing hundreds of Royal Mail, Post Office and Parcelforce publicity leaflets. There’ve been lots of new discoveries to add to the already extensive collections in the Royal Mail Archive. I was especially thrilled to open a box and come face to face with Jools, whom I remember well from my childhood in the 1990s.

Jools was the mascot of Royal Mail International’s Hola! club in the 1990s. Hola! was a pen pal club, putting children and young people aged 9-16 in touch with pen pals in lots of different countries around the world. Members got a writing kit with aerogrammes, a pen, and other useful things. There was also a magazine with articles, competitions, and prizes. I was a member! Alas, my pen pal in India never wrote back to me. But I do remember receiving the magazines:

Cool As Jools 2

An issue of the Hola! club magazine (POST 110/7135).

I’ve not been able to find out where Jools came from, but I definitely think he’s a great character. Crucially, he’s a teenager and not a child, making him slightly older than the Hola! club’s members. I love his air mail envelope shirt, several years before Björk wore something similar. A very nice touch: he’s often drawn meeting his foreign friends in their home countries, cleverly personifying the journey of a letter.

Cool As Jools 3

A selection of Hola! club publicity material featuring Jools and his friends (POST 110/7135).

I’ve assembled a very nice Hola! collection in the Archive, including leaflets, mailshots and posters. They’re wonderfully, nostalgically 1990s: from the slang (‘wicked!’), to the features on the Hong Kong handover, to the very notion of hand-written pen pal letters. A few years after my short-lived Hola! membership the Internet arrived and changed everything. Even with web technology, though, I still like to send hand-written letters and cards to my friends overseas. In this way, I hope, I’m still as cool as Jools.

Stay tuned for more Leaflet Labyrinth posts, in which I’ll share other discoveries from our printed publicity collections.

– Matt Tantony, Archivist (Cataloguing)