Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My summer of 1958, part 4

What does an 18 year old do for a social life while living on a farm with her grandparents?  Not much except spend time with adults.  See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for the story about why I was living on a farm the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college. Transcribed from my diary!

Perhaps it was a good thing, but my boyfriend had to go to Minnesota for the summer of 1958 for civil engineer camp. According to my diary, he called about 11:30 on June 6 and said he would stop by before leaving, so I grabbed a pail of water to wash up, put on some clean clothes and we said good-bye before he left. Going after the mail, either walking or driving to Franklin Grove, was a favorite activity and I got my first letter from him on June 9. I would often stop at the local drug store to get a Coke and read my mail the diary says. I mentioned letters from college friends, some other boys I’d dated, and my great uncle Edwin who lived in Ohio.

On Saturday June 14 I was picked up by a relative so I could go to my uncle’s wedding, which was a lovely event and I sat with my other grandmother (groom’s mother). I spent the night at my parents’ home and my brother drove me back to the farm after church with them.  That Sunday afternoon Aunt Muriel and Uncle John came down with my cousin Gayle and we girls had a good visit.  By this time, Grandma and I were wearing on each others’ nerves, and I noted in the diary I started to read Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking.” I was probably acting like a normal, self-centered teen-ager, which I’m sure was difficult for her. I didn’t sympathize then, but for her age and declining health, the stresses in her life and still being in deep grief over the death of her sonin WWII, she was doing better than I realized then.

The big activity of June 16 was cleaning the house and ironing clothes and in the evening I walked in the bean field and watched the men making hay. I’m sure I wished I was at the skating rink or movie, although I didn’t write that. Finally, someone my own age showed up.  On the evening of June 17 friends from high school/college—Sylvia, Sharon and Lynne drove down from Mt. Morris to see me and I wrote we had a lot of fun talking.

Uncle Leslie and Aunt Bernice would come out from Chicago about once a week and all of 5 of us would go to Dixon to eat and shop for groceries, and Bernice and I would chat while Leslie talked to his parents.  She often brought cake or cookies with her.

One rather interesting “social” event was meeting a woman, Mrs. Sharkey, on Sunday morning June 22 when I drove to Dixon, and I attended a Catholic Mass with her at St. Patrick’s  (my first and only until 2017) and she loaned me her prayer book.  She was a widow and invited me to her apartment for coffee, and I note in my diary that her china was the same pattern as Grandma’s.  In late summer 1960 I went to Dixon to the store where she worked and bought my everyday china from her. A sweet memory of a dear Christian woman.

It’s not clear from my diary why I was in Dixon on a Sunday morning, probably looking for the Church of the Brethren thinking I'd see friends from college, but later that day I drove to Mt. Morris, had supper with my other grandparents because no one was home at my parents.  Perhaps I just wanted a bath (we still had no indoor plumbing at the farm).  I recorded that my Aunt Lois (who died this last December at 91) had a baby girl the day before (that would be cousin Rhonda) and that I drove my Dad’s new red Ford Ranchero.  Dad never removed the keys from his cars, so I suppose I just hopped in and went for a joy ride stopping to talk to people I knew!

On June 25 Grandma wanted to see Dr. Boyle in Mt. Morris so we drove there and I had a chance to visit with my girlfriend, Lynne.  On many days I wrote that I walked down the lane to the neighbors after supper. Often they would give me fresh produce from their garden which I would work into my menus  Addie and Dale were 38 and 39 (died in 2016 and 2017),  had four adorable children and were fun to be around.  I also went to church and their Sunday School class, really old folks like 30 or 40, and I don’t mention meeting anyone my age.  I also visited an immigrant couple, Dora and Zieg, down the other lane who were learning English by watching TV (my grandparents didn’t have a TV).  On June 30, two sisters-in-law of my boyfriend stopped to visit me at the farm.

On July 4 after baking a cherry pie, making a big dinner of meatloaf and baked beans and sprinkling the laundry (no permanent press then—wash, starch, dry, sprinkle, iron), I walked to the neighbors down the lane and Martha Brumbaugh came by and offered to take me to Mt. Morris, so we went after supper and I caught up with high school friends Nancy, Priscilla and Lynne to attend the July 4 talent show in Mt. Morris. Sylvia drove me back to Franklin Grove that evening. Rereading this, I am surprised at all the driving back and forth and I seemed rather casual about the transportation  arrangements.  If Sylvia hadn’t offered, how would I have gotten back to the farm? It’s about 19 miles, with hilly, winding roads, and a long lane off the high-way, or about 40 minutes. Did it ever occur to me at 18 how many people I inconvenienced?  If so, I didn’t mention it.

On July 5 I wrote I had a 4 page letter from my boyfriend and I was beginning to miss him!  How shallow is that? He’d been writing several times a week. Also I went to the garden and picked over a quart of raspberries and some rhubarb.  Then I made 2 pies.  Aunt Muriel, Uncle John, their daughter Dianne and my mother came down in the evening.  I hope I served them some pie, although I didn’t write that in the diary!

          Gayle, Dianne, Muriel 1959

I don’t have a photo of my cousins and Aunt Muriel from 1958, but this is 1959 at Gayle’s wedding. Aren’t they lovely!

From July 7 through the 11th my entries are very short.  Sylvia and Dave came to visit, I went to the neighbors to help with a birthday party and got home at 1 .m., I cleaned a lot, baked a lot, took a pie to Dora and Zieg.

July 12 is my last entry in the diary of my summer at the farm. I baked a blueberry pie that day, Uncle Leslie and Aunt Bernice came and we went to Dixon where I bought a wedding gift for my high school friend, Tina, who had moved to Florida after our junior year.  And I mentioned no one would want this job. . . nothing I did was right, and there are no other entries.  I think my father picked me up the next day or within a few days, and I spent the rest of the summer in Mt. Morris.  And I was probably much more appreciative of my own home, my mother’s cooking, and just doing what teen-agers do.

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