Monday, January 31, 2011

60 Years ago Today at Foxcroft

January 31, 1951

Wed. -5

Nuts – baked bread – cards to Judy Smith and musical chats. Dottie here for tea sent her home with bowl of spaghetti + 3 pieces cake. Wrote check for 310 gal oil @ .138 = 43.63. Gov’t check for 75.00 came –


"-5" Would have been the high temperature that day. Bess recorded the high each day. The day before (1-30-51) was -17, the day after (2-1-51) was -20. It was certainly a cold week. Below zero temps are forecast again for us on Thursday, but usually the high makes it upwards from there!

Nuts” probably meant she cracked nuts. Despite the black walnut trees not being listed in her 1956 yard map cracking nuts was a regular winter pastime. Bess had three other entries earlier this week that tell of cracking nuts. (I spent nearly 2 hours cracking black walnuts myself yesterday.)

Judy Smith and musical chats” I have no idea what this means. I haven’t seen this person’s name mentioned before.

Dottie” was the next door neighbor, who is a regular reader of this blog. In several other entries during this time period Bess mentions being alone all day, so these visits certainly meant a great deal to her.

310 gal oil” This would be a reference to heating oil to run the furnace. The price must have been 13.8 cents per gallon. Multiplying that price times the amount comes to $42.78. The additional 85 cents must have been sales tax? Bess’ Jan. 31, 1950 entry says “Fuel oil smell in house as tank overflowed.” Given the cold temps it must have been a comfort to have the tank filled.

Gov’t check” I’m not sure what this would have been. Bess was a WWI widow, but I don’t think this would have been a pension. I know that in the mid 1920’s the yearly support check for Helen as the minor child of a WWI soldier who died in active duty was $27.00 annually and that Bess had to send a detailed report to the Veteran’s Administration detailing how she spent the whole thing!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Marion's Prairie Prayers

My first post of 2011 is only tangentially related to Foxcroft but it is related. I've actually referred to Marion before, specifically here:

Heirloom peas

Aunt Marion was my father's aunt. She was my grandmother's closest sister, three years her junior. We always saw Marion and her husband, Bill when visiting at grandma's in the summer. They would come and play 6 handed pinochle with my grandparents and parents. Marion's home in Marcus, Iowa had a very large garden. Aunt Marion had a loom in her basement and wove rag rugs. After Bill died Marion always came to Thanksgiving at our house with Grandma and Grandpa. Marion was a favorite of mine.

Apparently Marion was a lot like both Bess and Helen, in even more ways than I have already related. (gardening, handwork). Marion and Helen were contemporaries, Helen was born in 1911, Marion in 1912. Both married later in life and apparently both were dedicated diarists. I had no idea Marion kept a journal. The article listed below is written by one of my dad's first cousins, whom I've never met.

Marion's Prairie Prayers

Considerably less educated than Helen, Marion, like my grandmother, was sent to live as a "cook girl" with a farm family at age 14 after the completion of 8th grade. Marion's journal seems to be far more insightful than anything I've read in either Helen's or Bess' journals. Of course I need to remember that I still have over 1,000 letters yet to read as well as what is at the UI main library from Bess and Helen.

As my brother commented to me " interesting to get a glimpse of the backstory I'd always wondered about..."

I'd love to get a transcript of Marion's writings and line them up with Bess and Helen's.