Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My summer of 1958, part 5

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 for the story about why I was living on my grandparents’ farm in 1958, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college.  The diary also covers problems with the water, my menus and cooking, disagreements with my grandparents and my social life. Transcribed from my diary!

I’d forgotten so much of this, and yet, not much has changed in my personal interests and activities and Grandma and Grandpa been gone for over 55 years—1963 and 1968. The signs were there in 1958 for my future career as a librarian, I just didn’t know it then. Even the topics of my publications in the 1990s when I was a librarian at Ohio State university—the journals and books and their stories—I was holding the raw material in my hands in 1958. "A Bibliographic Field of Dreams," AB Bookman's Weekly for the Specialist Book World, in 1994;   "A Commitment to Women--The Ohio Cultivator and The Ohio Farmer of the 19th Century," Serials Librarian in 1998; research on home libraries , spanning two farm family collections for the years 1850-1930.
The diary begins on June 1, 1958 with Grandma and I having a long talk—some of which I probably knew before. I recorded other conversations too personal to repeat. Who but me would remember now she had a baby named Glenn Oliver who died at birth?   I wrote down that Grandma and Grandpa met in college in Mt. Morris, Illinois, in the 1890s when both belonged to the same boarding club.  She was raised on a farm near Ashton, Illinois, and graduated from Ashton High School;  he was raised on a farm near Dayton, Ohio. Both had a financially comfortable life, being younger than their siblings, and enjoyed travel, reading and hobbies—hers was painting, his was bicycles. I’ve often wondered if he’d ever met the Wright brothers whose home and bicycle shop were in Dayton.  They were members of the same small religious group (German Baptist Brethren, later called Church of the Brethren).  They had gone their separate ways after meeting in college—she returned to the farm to take care of her sick mother, and he and his brother had gone on an adventure west, teaching school in the Dakotas and working as lumberjacks in the northwest. Because her father was able to support her, she told me, the local school board would not hire her as a teacher, but she continued with art lessons and “did the books” for her father’s numerous farms.

Jacob Weybright Home 
The farm home near Englewood, Ohio where Grandpa grew up, one of 9 children.
Mary Charles Boarding Club
The boarding club where my grandparents met at Mt. Morris College. She is back row far left, and he is front row far right

I loved learning family history, and Grandma and I talked a lot that summer.  By attrition, sixty years later I’m the only one left in the family who keeps track. I have a genealogy software program, I’ve written several family stories I distribute to my cousins and siblings, a family cookbook, and in my own house, I still have many books and clippings and even some clothing that belonged to these grandparents.  There will never be another home for them since there is no one to pass them on to.
June 5: “After supper dishes I straightened things and cut a fresh bouquet.  Then I looked at old books, clippings and pictures until 11.  I sure found some interesting things.” (Grandma had a parlor for clipping articles out of her journals, and a large walk-in closet with special shelving for her journals dating back to the 1890s.)

June 6: “Grandma and I talked after dishes.  She still worries about Clare (son who died in WWII), whether or not she had tied him down.”. . . “Browsing the tool shed I found agricultural books over 100 years old, also an English grammar from 1850.”

June 24: “Mom came down about 3 p.m. while I was straightening Grandmas’s  magazines.  I drove our car to town  . . . I had a letter from Lynne. . . The water is fixed so I took a bath and read some journals and went to bed.”

Also in my diary are a lot of visits with the neighbors in the evening, especially the Jaspers (both of whom died within the last two years in their 90s), and I learned from their stories about their pasts and families.

Another interest still strong 60 years later is all the letters I mentioned in the diary. Going to the post office each afternoon, then opening my mail at the drug store was a special treat noted often in the diary.  I had several letters a week from my boyfriend who was attending classes in Minnesota, letters from college friends, and even a few from friends living just 20 miles away.

June 11: “ I walked into town (Franklin Grove) to look at the library.  It is pretty nice for a small town.  I got the mail, had a wonderful letter and bought a coke.  Very nice afternoon.”

June 15: “After dishes I wrote letters, studied Spanish and read Good Housekeeping. . . After supper I wrote more letters and read to page 38 in Don Quixote, which I think is a very dull book.”

June 16: “I got a letter from [boyfriend] intended for his parents and one from [another boy I’d dated at Manchester].  I mailed 6 letters.”

June 23: “I walked into town and got 4 letters.  I read them in the Drug Store. . . wrote to Richard (son of Uncle Leslie and Aunt Bernice) after dishes and read and listened to the radio.”

I still do a lot of correspondence, now mostly by e-mail—some of the same people I visited with or wrote to that summer. In the 1990s, I compiled all the “real” letters I had from parents, siblings, cousins and friends and excerpted all the  items about the holidays from Halloween through the New Year and called it “Winters past, winters’ post.”  These letters recorded the ordinary events of our lives to the faint drumbeat of the cold war, the civil rights movement, space flight, the VietNam war, political campaigns, Watergate, economic growth and slowdown cycles, the rise of feminism, employment crises, career changes and family reconfigurations. On and on we wrote, from the conservatism of the Eisenhower years, on through the upheaval of the 60's, the stagnation of the 70's, then into the conservatism of Reagan/Bush in the 80s. National and international events are rarely discussed in these letters as though we were pulling the family close into the nest for a respite from the world's woes. When my children were about 35, I compiled from letters to my parents, all the cute, wonderful and strange things they’d done or said.

I also saved letters from others, and at various life events, bundled them up and returned to sender. Others did the same for me.  In 2004 four years after Mom's death I received a bundle of letters my mother had written to her cousin, Marianne in Iowa.  For about 30 years I saved all the Christmas/holiday letters we’d received from friends and family, and just this past year we said good-bye.

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