Art Hebel of Michigan said he first hand-delivered the card to Bill Nichols while they were young friends in 1948 and Nichols inadvertently began a tradition when he gave the card back to Hebel the following year, WDIV-TV in Detroit reported Tuesday.
"I called him a cheap scape because he gave me the same card back," Hebel said. "I put it away and the next year I crossed his name off, wrote my name up, put 'ha ha' and gave it back to him."
Hebel said the card exchange continued as the two men grew up and they now exchange the card annually via certified mail between Hebel's home in Richmond and Nichols' residence in Fort Wayne, Ind. He said the card bears only names and years, with extra messages included on separate sheets of paper.
He said the card is the only communication he and Nichols have these days, lending it great sentimental value.
"It's worth it because the card is so valuable to us," Hebel said. "Maybe not to everyone else, but between him and I, the card means a lot."