Monday, November 10, 2008

Flotsam and Jetsam

Over the years, I have become the Keeper of some of the flotsam and jetsam of our family that has floated down through the years. I became the keeper mostly because I lived in the same house for 16 years and it had lots of storage space. And I lived close to my mother who was the original Keeper.

Mostly it consists of boxes of things that were stored for years, perhaps by the original owner; photographs, cancelled checks, school books, various deeds and agricultural loan documents, miscellaneous receipts, newspaper articles etc.

Periodically, I go through a box here and there and decide who in the family might appreciate having something (or more likely, who can I talk into taking something away!) Whenever the sibs or nieces come to visit, I often have a little packet of photos and documents that are particularly relevant to their branch of the tree to send home with them.

Once in a while, I find something that I have never noticed or realized I had.

This is the wedding photo of my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Don. She is my mother's aunt, my grandfather's youngest sister. She was born in 1897 and she was married to Uncle Don in 1927.

A few weeks ago, I found this:

It is a tablet that probably was meant to serve as a note pad. An early pre-courser to the spiral pocket notebook. I probably saw this notebook and assumed that it had columns of cattle feed costs and notations of how many acres were in pasture at some point in time.

Imagine my surprise -
Aunt Ruth used it as a diary in 1916!

Many entries are pretty typical of most 19 year old girls - boys, parties and her friends that were married and having babies. She wrote intermittently, always apologising for "neglecting you". In the first entry, she mentions George Fuller. In the last entry, eight months later, he is not to be heard from.

The last entry:
August 8. 1916. Tuesday

"It sure has been a long time since I have written to you but I have sure been busy. I have been happy, tho. Chas came up last Sunday and we went to HIS HOME and his Aunt & Uncle and Cousins were there and Earl & Anna and Frank & Sarah and we had ice cream and cake and Anna & Chas & Lawrence played and Ruth & Irene sang and I got weighed. I weigh 133 lbs. And in the evening we went home with Anna & Earl and spent the evening with them. Coming home Chas told me a lot of things about his life but I care for him more every time I am with him."
"He made a date for tomorrow night. I wish it was tonight but I believe it is going to rain."
"Mabel & Norris was married July. 28 at Dodge City. I guess they are happy.
Well Anna & Mabel are both married - it is my turn next"

The last entry made me a little sad when I read it. It would be 10 years before Aunt Ruth was married and not until after her father died. Before that time, her lot was to help run her parents house on the farm and care for her grandmother. Because she "stayed home" Aunt Ruth inherited the house, a rural Victorian mansion really, built at the turn of the century which became terribly run-down in later years.

During my visit with Dear Aunt last month, I asked her about the timing of the marriage and if it was significant that Great Grandfather had passed away before Aunt Ruth married. She didn't remember exactly, but she said "some people were jealous of Aunt Ruth because she was 'given everything', but really, do you think she chose that life? Her place was to stay home and take care of her grandmother. I don't suppose there was any question of whether she would marry!" Dear Aunt said that her dad (my grandfather) always said that Aunt Ruth married Uncle Don because he was the only one who would put up with her responsibilities.

After they were married, Uncle Don moved into his in-laws' home and Aunt Ruth continued as the dutiful daughter. A couple of times Uncle Don's father tried to set him up in a farming operation, but it never lasted very long. After all, Aunt Ruth was needed at home.


Iron Needles said...

This is a good post. It somehow makes more sense seeing it written out.

Anonymous said...

well, i almost started crying at work reading that post! so, lets keep the serious stuff to a minimum when you are cleaning. Dont forget to organize and label your treasures so the 'little girls' dont throw things away when know.....start drinking wine again with mom :)

Iron Needles said...

Can you believe Eldest Daughter wrote that!