Grandma’s diaries

Today’s post comes to us from Ben

My grandmother, Lillie (Betz) Eggler, kept a daily diary from the mid 1950’s – about 1987. The small 3×5 book that allowed 1 page per day.   I didn’t know about these until this past summer when my oldest sister mentioned that she had them all. Grandma died in 1990.

It’s been really fun to read about ourselves or the cousins. Seems like every time a grandchild was sick, they went to Grandma’s house. The weather might be terrible but that didn’t stop them from going somewhere; she’d write how bad the roads were, yet she still went to Mothers and Daughters club. Or drove 60 miles to visit her brother. It’s given my siblings and I a lot of things to talk about.

Grandma wrote that she went to a 4H softball game where my brother pitched. He won. The Siblings talked about a club that was our club’s nemesis and their coach. I talked about knowing the coach in later years through farming activities. Part of what is so interesting is that she was still in this area; I know many of the people or places she’s talking about.

Grandma wrote about changes at the farms: Joe and June (my parents) are having a silo built. Who is combining corn or who is planting. She writes about the weather and going over to stay with a friend who had surgery.

On October 27th, 1970 She wrote about June and Joe driving to Menominee to celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary. My oldest sister, Ellen, was at Stout University Menominee for college. That sort of blew my mind. Twenty-two years! Five Kids! One in College!! Grandma and Grandpa (Victor) were also married on October 27th, 1920. 1920!!  Grandma writes it would have been 50 years for them. Grandpa died in 1963. (My brother and his wife also married on October 27th, 1979.) But, I just can’t get over mom and dad at 22 years! So Young!  

There’s a lot about taking off or putting on the storm windows.  There’s a lot about car repairs, washing clothes, or going to the doctor. I learned that bad lower front teeth were a family trait. That explains a lot; Her, mom, me; those lower front ones have always been a problem. A lot about the weather and things in the national news: Earthquakes. Vietnam, Apollo missions. 

Sometimes Grandma wrote about things she was canning, freezing, or cooking. She made a lot of jams, buns, watermelon rind pickles, or fried mini dragons. My mom doesn’t remember a lot of this stuff. And it was 50+ years ago so I don’t blame her.  I had to look up watermelon rind pickles; never heard of them before. Fried mini dragons? Anybody? No one in my family knows what they are. Anyone still making watermelon rind pickles? I was a good baby. My brother was “busy”.

I wrote about Grandma and her car in a post back in July of 2011.

I also have a 5-year diary from 1926-1930 from Kelly’s Uncles mother. It’s just a sentence per day. Lots of household chores, car repairs, and what they did for entertainment that day. She saw Louie Armstrong in concert one night. Pretty cool.

Do you keep a diary? Have you ever?

51 thoughts on “Grandma’s diaries”

  1. I kept a diary for awhile when I was a kid, and for awhile when Solveig was a baby, but that’s about it. It’s sort of wonderful how the stuff that can seem mundane can turn out to be fascinating. I wish my grandmother had kept a diary. Or my great aunt Lillian – hers would have been a fun read (she was a nurse, never married, likely had more than a couple affairs – we suspect at least one married man in the mix – was part of the Army Nurse Corps in Europe in WWII, traveled the world, probably suffered from depression and was hospitalized at least once for it…)

    Liked by 6 people

      1. My maternal grandmother made watermelon rind pickles a lot. She was a conserver, home gardener, canner, preserver of the first order. Unfortunately, she became a hoarder due to having lived through hard times in the Great Depression. It was tough in her final years, trying to convince her to dispose of what most people would call trash: old magazines from decades ago, every scrap of cloth she ever made clothes from, hundreds, maybe thousands of sewing patterns, buttons, nuts and bolts, newspapers, tin foil, you name it–she probably had some somewhere in the house. It wasn’t so bad that the floors were piled high with stuff and there were only narrow pathways through the house, but she was heading in that direction.

        Chris in Owatonna

        (Never kept a diary, never saw the need, although sometimes I wonder if it would be interesting to relive my life through written daily notes to myself. Oh well.)

        Liked by 4 people

  2. I have never seen a Facebook entry, so I’m totally ignorant about FB. From what I’ve heard, that is the way people now chronicle their lives. Posts on social media typically have short lives, and yet I wonder if there is a mechanism by which a person’s or family’s FB entries could be assembled as a narrative. Presumably, the collected posts could be recorded, for example by copying them on a DVD. The result would be something like a diary . . . or so it seems to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about FB.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The album that FB compiles consists of an assortment of the photos you have posted to FB. Depending on what you have posted over the years, you’ll have an album that contains selfies, photos of your pets or kids, plates of food you have prepared or been served, vacation photos from a rustic cabin by a lake or in front of Paul Bunion or the Eiffel Tower, or, in the case of Anna, photos of her walks around her neighborhood. The photos don’t appear in chronological order but seem to be chosen based on the number of likes they received from your friends; in my opinion not a very meaningful or satisfying album, and in most cases, not an accurate representation of anyone’s daily life.


  3. I suppose this blog is something like a diary for multiple people. Imagine researchers “discovering” our blogs and posts 100 years from now and making them a project and analyzing our history and what they conclude our various personalities were like?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. One of the big discussions my siblings and I have been having lately, are when things were built on the farm. There’s no record of much of that. My brother has been scanning in old photos from all of us and a lot that Mom had in a box at home. So we are piecing together a timeline of things based on photos. if we’re Lucky they have the date on the edge or back. And since that’s when they were developed, it gets us withing a few months anyway.
        But I have started copying some of my blog comments into a Word Document too. If I’m writing about memories, I copy it over there too. Might be useful someday.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. journals
    men keep journals
    i am terrible about being consistent with my updates
    maybe this next go round
    i do have a writing group on saturdays that is kind of a weekly update of what’s up in your brain
    brain dumps is the terms i like
    i do brain dumping as my version diary stuff

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I love this kind of post–understanding the daily lives of those that came before is so interesting to me. Lou’s grandmother kept diaries much like those of your Grandma, Ben. Those were full of grandchildren born, muddy roads, depression because she could not get to town because of muddy roads, and “Leo was sick today.” Laura came over. Leo was her alcoholic son and “sick” was code for drunk. Laura left him many times over this. A few years ago we got a phone call notifying us that Laura had died. She was 107 years old when she died, having outlived husband and children. Unfortunately, we thought she had died years before, so we were shocked at our obtuseness and that she was still living.

    I have not ever been able to keep a diary (or journal, tim) because I find my own daily life in writing to be uninteresting. Go figure.

    Liked by 7 people

  6. I had one of those little ones like your grandma’s, Ben, when I was in 5th grade, and I remember I would scold myself for not writing in it every day. Then at age 14, after reading Anne Frank’s diary, I started one for a while. Tossed both of them at some point in young adulthood because they were too “stupid”, and now I regret that.

    I’ve kept journals on and off since the early 70s, and I have them all. Some portions are enlightening, and I should reread them and then toss some – they fill up a large box. It seems the same issues seem to come up repeatedly over the years.

    One of my prized possessions is a little notebook my mom’s mom kept when I was visiting there for a week at age 4, when my sister was born. And some pages of notes my mom wrote when I was a toddler.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. For about 17 years I wrote a long letter each morning to a friend. To my surprise, she kept them, and at some point she returned them to me in the form of some three-clip notebooks and (later) boxes of letters. I estimate the collection now at about 18,000 pages of single space typed commentaries. Those letters are a comprehensive chronicle of my daily life. I would have been too self-conscious to write an actual diary, but writing letters is almost the most natural thing I do, so writing what became a virtual diary was effortless.

    What was not effortless was keeping all those boxes and notebooks when I moved, first to Oregon, then to Michigan and finally back to Saint Paul. I would long ago have discarded those boxes were it not for my daughter. She begged me to keep them and has helped move them several times. Presumably she will open them some day. I can think of three or four comments I would like to edit out of the stack now, but for better or worse that is not possible.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I have kept either diaries or journals on and off throughout my life, mostly off. I always stop for a few different reasons- either I find that I feel like I’m writing for an audience and I am editing myself as I write or I lose the will of it. I did a gratitude journal many years ago that I kept up for almost a year but in flipping back through the pages I realized that I wasn’t really digging deep for the gratitude and so I ended that project as well.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I had the luck of actually writing for an audience, which made the whole thing simple and purposeful. Anne Frank seemed to feel she was writing for an audience–Kitty, she called the diary–which helped her write naturally.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. I’ve never kept a diary, never considered keeping a diary. I know what I think, know what I thought in the past without needing to record it.

    I suspect that other people’s diaries are usually more interesting than your own. At least there you get a glimpse at another frame of mind.

    Not a diary as such, but Robin has copies of all the letters written between her mother and her mother’s mother during the years when the family was living in Kyoto and which encompassed the years when she and her siblings were growing up. I think she would like to retype them all to digitize them (they are presently carbons of typed letters on onionskin), but that would be a monumental job, as there are hundreds.

    A friend of ours discovered that a pair of great aunts of hers had gone in the late nineteenth century into Persia as missionaries. No diaries, if any existed, have survived but a sort of diary in the form of letters they wrote regularly back to the sponsoring church do exist and have been digitized and are online, so she has been able to read about their personal experiences.

    Back about twenty years ago, Robin and I visited James Cummings on a farm near Knapp, Wisconsin where he ran a bookselling operation. Cummings is a longtime bookseller who has had shops in Wayzata, Dinkytown, Stillwater, Knapp, and now in Tennessee. At the time he had a barn full of books for sale and a house full of his personal collection. In his collection was possibly the world’s largest assembly of published diaries—about 16,000 I think—plus Cumming’s own diaries, which he had kept daily at that time for about fifty years. (Diary comes from “diurnal”, which means daily, so if you keep it daily, it’s a diary whether you are male or female.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In times when I didn’t write in a journal, I would sometimes make photocopies of “important” letters I wrote to people, and have kept these, so I still know what was going on. One period was the two years I was with Wasband, and I’m really glad to have the letters now.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It occurs to me that journal is also derived from diurnal, so before someone else points that out, as I’m sure they will, I thought I’d beat them to the punch.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. If you want to digitize those letters, you may be able to scan them as a first step – there is software available that will use the scans to translate into a text format which may still need some proofing, but less work than typing them all out. Husband used something like that to scan and re-create mimeographed pages for a gaming project.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It would be worth a try but may be problematic, since these carbons typed on translucent onionskin are more obscured than simple typed sheets might be.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You can upload scanned documents in You have to register, but it’s free, and then you can create a family tree and upload photos and documents.


    4. I remember a used bookstore in Dinkytown in the late 70’s, I think on 4th Street. Could be wrong about that. You went in a door and up a rather narrow staircase, as a recall, and it was on the 2nd floor. Would that have been owned by Cummings?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Larry Dingman’s Dinkytown Antiquarian Books used to be up there in the early 2000s, but bookstores in Dinkytown have come and gone and moved around. The Bookhouse, which is owned by James Cummings ex-wife, Kristin Eide Tollefson, is in that upstairs space now, but it used to be on 14th street, north of the Podium pipe and tobacco store. That 14th St. space for The Bookhouse may or may not be the site of Cummings original store. In fact, I think the former 14th st. site of the Bookhouse had previous to that been the location of Melvin McCosh’s bookstore. Melvin relocated to the firehouse on the west bank (where the Mixed Blood Theater is now) and after that to Dundas and after that to Excelsior. Cumming’s son had a Dinkytown bookstore as well, on the east side of 14th street south of 4th street.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Bill, you are right. The store was owned and run by Melvin McCosh, a real character. It faced the Podium. In the 1970s McCosh moved to a former firehouse, as you said. McCosh was an owly old guy with an untrimmed beard who was not especially welcoming with customers.


        2. Larry Dingman’s special interest was western fiction. I bought a couple of Hamlin Garland books from him about 2000 or so. He also organized the antiquarian book fair at the state fair grounds.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. My sister makes watermelon rind pickles from time to time. I think she made some last summer, or maybe it was the summer before. You used to be able to buy them at the store, too – there was a company called London Lodge that sold them. They were very tasty.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Back in about 8th grade we had to keep journals for English class. (“Journals” – Bill, is that what you call it when you don’t write in it everyday??) That’s what got me started. I learned it was a pretty good way to work though things. There are several notebooks that are filled with teenage angst and they’re just annoying to read. And once I met Kelly, I stopped writing for a long time.
    Now I write maybe once / week or once a month. Kinda depends what’s going on in the world or my life. I don’t think about who might read these some day so I don’t edit much. I figure if anyone is reading them I’d probably be dead. Or old enough not to care.

    A few years ago while visiting my niece and husband down in Charleston SC we stayed on a house boat. I took the journal out on the deck to write, went back inside for something and it blew off into the harbor. I didn’t feel as bad about that as you might expect. What better place to leave some memories behind than Charleston Harbor? And I bought a new notebook and tried to briefly summarize at least the major events I had lost in the previous journal.

    The last few months I’ve had a lot to write about in the world.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I’ve kept a diary, very sporadically, since I was about twelve. It may have been the Diary of Anne Frank that inspired me to do so. But I lived in constant fear that my mom would find it, so I didn’t dare write what I was really thinking or feeling. After a while, it seemed stupid to write down only the censored version of what was going on inside my head, so I stopped writing and tossed the diary, flimsy little lock and all.

    During the years between the age of eighteen and twenty-nine, when there was actually something going on in my life that might have been worth recording, I was too busy living my life to bother writing. I regret that now.

    After my divorce I wrote, again sporadically, mostly I think, to help me sort through the emotional turmoil I was in. Those scribbles were actually very revealing. They were a completely honest assessment of the mess that my life had become, and were most definitely not written for an audience. I reread them about twenty years ago and was astounded at what I had written. Those pages were so revealing that I thought I had better burn them, and did. I regret that now, but since I don’t have kids or any other relatives who might have an interest in that journal, it really doesn’t matter.

    During my cancer “journey” it was recommended that I write, and I did for a while. But, once again, I realized that I was censoring what I was putting down, and quit. To me the exercise isn’t worthwhile if I’m only willing to reveal the sanitized version of what’s going on in my life and who I am.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I haven’t read my journals from my youth in many years, but I think even if I wasn’t always forthcoming about what was really happening, there would still be much to be learned from them. They’re buried in a closet somewhere.

      I remember that when I was a teen, if I didn’t really want to write about something, I’d draw a picture that would refer to it in a tangential way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t have a date from either photo and I’m not sure where the header photo was taken. I’d think it must have been at the farm where she lived, but I can’t picture that wall of flowers.
        The second photo, Grandma Lillie and Grandpa Victor. Since he died in 1963, I’m thinking it must have been just before that. And the cement and screen door make it look like our old farm house.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I recently posted lighthearted comments about receiving my first virus vaccination. I now wonder if I should have been more careful, as the rollout of vaccinations in Minnesota appears more troubled than I thought. Those of you waiting for vaccinations might wonder why I got mine so soon.

    For reasons of efficiency and bureaucratic convenience, it seems many early vaccinations went to facilities where large numbers of elderly people are concentrated. The owners of this place have a contractual relationship with the CVS pharmacy chain. When CVS got a supply of vaccine, they set up vaccination clinics in facilities like this place.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The Biden administration goal is 100 million shots in the first 100 days, which would take us to the end of April. That sounds like a lot, but if everyone needs two shots, that means 50 million people in a country with over 300 million.

        Here in Minnesota, Governor Walz says if there are 100 million shots delivered in that time frame, Minnesota will get about two million. So that’s a million people, in a state with a population of 5.6 million.

        It’s going to be awhile. I’m not 65 yet, so I’m envious of those who are a little older than me. I was hoping to get at least one shot by my birthday, but I’m probably going to be weeks away at that point. But the awful thing is how many deaths there will be this winter and spring while we wait.

        I haven’t kept a journal during the pandemic, but probably should have.

        Liked by 4 people

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