Boy River woman used journal to document life, express herself and celebrate the good times
In 1940 Margaret started a journal in the pages of a brown spiral stenographer’s notebook. Maybe she meant it to be something else – more of a log book to mark notable dates, or to keep track of the family’s farm expenses – but it became so much more. The dates and words would overflow into other notebooks before the journal’s last pages would be written. When Margaret started writing she was already 38 years old. She was the wife of a blacksmith, and they owned a small farm. Five of her six children had already been born. The times were busy, and the money was tight. In initial entries she talked about logging and farming. She wrote about her family, which would later include two additional generations. And she used her pen and tablet to document world affairs and a war that would affect everyone. Long before the invention of word processors, she sat down daily writing every word in longhand. And she had plenty to write about.
For 54 years some of the entries in the journal were merely a sentence recounting the temperature of the day, an unusual measurement of snow or rain, and a mention of how nice it was that one of the neighbors had come to call. Sometimes she remarked on the high cost of gasoline and noted the date and price if they were lucky enough to purchase a new piece of farm equipment.
Throughout the years she would chronicle heartbreak, too.
Three of her sons were required to register during wartime and were called to serve. In separate journal entries she wrote of each of her son’s enlistments and call to active duty. She described how scared she was for them and in the pages after that she would note who had sent word for them with one of the neighbor boys home on leave, or who was able to send a letter or a gift and what news they’d had of the war.
In March of 1944 her third son was called to serve at 18 years old. Margaret wrote often of his whereabouts, the glorious trip he made home that July and the many cherished letters he had written while he was away.
Within that year, she would log an excruciatingly painful entry. A letter had come to tell the couple that their son was
Sadly, just pages later, in March, Margaret would write another painful entry. With a broken heart she wrote in her journal that her 19-year-old son, who had been gone from home for only a year, had been confirmed killed in action. Laid to rest temporarily overseas, he would be sent home following the war for a proper burial. Though they later received his purple heart it was little consolation to a mother who had lost one of her sons.
There were many happy times documented as well in the journal. She enjoyed words and had a wicked sense of humor. She delighted in telling stories. “Margaretisms” are sprinkled throughout the pages.
In November 1963, Margaret wrote of the president’s assassination. In 1974, when her husband passed away there was an entry to both assure and warn her children. “I’m fine,” she wrote, “I will stay in my own home. ‘Til I get lonesome. Then, watch out kids!”
As she entered her 80s and 90s and arthritis began to cripple her fingers and make it hard to spend as much time writing Margaret’s entries were often shortened to one or two lines. But still she managed to give readers a sense of the times and anything of note.
Margaret passed away in 1994.
As future members of her family are born each generation will get to know her. They will be able to hold in their hands the book that took her 54 years to write as a tangible, cherished gift to her family. Each will read her story in her own words and will share her joy and heartache. When they are ready, they too, will read the journal.