Sixty years ago on Jan. 1, 1958, my family watched the Rose Bowl parade and the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl on TV. Not a big deal when you’re looking at the big picture of what was happening in history during that time. But, it was a big enough deal to an 11-year-old girl who was going to document her life in the family’s weekly memo calendar.
Many years ago I found the 1958 calendar in a box of my dad’s stuff and have cherished it ever since. Dad has been gone for 29 years already, and maybe it’s the Auld Lang Syne of the old outgoing year or the beginning of the new…that I traditionally dig through some of that stuff.
Mom and dad always kept this kind of weekly memo calendar in the utility room of our house. I remember clearly, every year mom was determined to “keep a diary” and write something down, every single day. She generally got through January, and then, part of February. And then, her writing stopped. We laughed about it many years later when we reminisced about her determination. Oh, how well I remember that laugh.
Dad kept the “diary” going by adding the weather report almost daily. I mean, if you can’t think of anything else to write about, you write about the weather…bitterly cold, twenty below, warm beautiful day for January, or, “Tractor won’t start, too cold. No water in the barn, too cold. No church, too cold. Sunday School canceled, too cold.” February had a “thaw” and the weekly memo calendar was filled with one blizzard after another during basketball tourney time in March. And so it goes, and so it went.
Dad would write a sentence or two about what mom was doing, but never about what he was doing, “Mom went to Alex with the girls.” Or, he would write, “Lila is at Ladies Aid today.” Mom would write, “Had Sanford’s, Eddie and Ione, and Clifford and Eleanor over.”
It’s interesting that much of the writing in this 1958 weekly memo was done by my sister. On Jan. 8, 1958 she wrote, “We got an egg washer. It was a miracle.” Oddly, I remember that day like it was yesterday. You’d think it would have been my mother who wrote that memo because that egg washer truly was amazing and a miracle…and it was mom who washed the eggs.
The luster of the egg washer, however, must have worn off in three days because by Saturday, Jan. 11, “Nothing much happened.” And the next day, “Went over to Standish’s for dinner. Beautiful day, 43 degrees above zero. Set quite a record.” Both memos appear to be handwriting by an 11 year old.
On the 15th, my sister wrote, “We dehorned the calves. Very painful for calves.” And the next day, “Mother went with Ione to Alex. Calves were more frisky today than yesterday. Dad bought a sewing machine.” Even though these particular entries were about things our folks were doing, most of my sister’s entries were about basketball games and tumbling, doing back flips, backbends, and having Susan stay overnight, or Roland staying at Benson’s.
According to what was written in ink, about a week after the calves were dehorned, “Stinker”…one of them…died. On Sunday, Jan. 26, “Went to Jacobson’s. Went sliding down the big hill. Snowed about 5 inches of snow.” And the next day, “There WAS school (emphasis on the “was”…written and underlined in ink). Snowed a little more. Didn’t expect school.”
By February, my sister was still tumbling and writing about it almost daily. Because of her writing, and the start of her 1958 diary-keeping, I can tell who won the Evansville-Ashby game, the Evansville-Barrett game, the Evansville-Villard game (and so on and so on…you get the picture…) I also know that on Feb. 6, 1958, “Miss Oberg (our sixth grade teacher, we all had her) was crabby.”
I also know that, according to my sister’s writing, on Friday, Jan. 31, 1958, “Did backbend, and flip- over. Did back-over on elbows. Tumbled for pep-fest. Evansville played Barrett in basketball. Barrett won 63-55 and the United States sent up first satellite.” (Notice how backbends and basketball had precedence over satellites.) On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1958, 60 years ago, “Dad saw the Sputnik at 15 minutes to 7 this morning. Cold day. Chipper (our dog) went away at the afternoon for awhile.” A few days later, my 11-year-old sister played the piano at study club (and, she got a box of candy for doing it.)
I could go on and on…I’m chuckling as I read these 1958 entries because as hard as it might be to believe, I actually remember these daily things happening, even the weather.
When it came time for me to start my own diary, my sister taught me a few lessons about writing in it. She told me that regardless of whether you had anything going on for any given day, you had to write something. She said to only write about the weather if nothing else was going on. And, if your day wasn’t saved by the weather, you wrote, “Nothing.” Or, “Nothing going on.” You had to write something.
I remember my first diary, with a key. I started it in January 1965, when I was 11 years old. Eleven years old, just like my sister was in January 1958. In the beginning, I had a lot of “Nothing.” But then, as I got older, things picked up and life got more exciting. And, I wrote it all down in my diary. I still do.
Sixty years ago… 1958. The old days brought right back to today, just by reading that old weekly memo calendar. Auld Lang Syne.