Long Ago and Not So Far Away | Newberry

Long Ago and Not So Far Away

According to the Interwebs, nothing much happened in Buckhannon, West Virginia between 1899, when the new courthouse was built, and 2006, when the Sago Mine Disaster took place. I can tell ‘em different. For example, it seems that West Virginia Wesleyan beat Potomac State 34 to 24 on a basketball game January 27, 1922. Margaret said it was a slow game, but that she’d seen slower. She wrote it up at 1 A.M. on the 28th, but she felt she was old enough to stay up that late. She wrote quickly, before Mother could come up and tell her differently.

If I haven’t mentioned this lately, I DO like it when your book donation includes one of your old diaries. Or one of your mother’s old diaries. Or perhaps one of your grandmothers old diaries. Margaret was in her last year of junior high school in this diary, so I’d pot her at, oh, 111 years old if she is out there somewhere reading this on her tablet. She used a different tablet for the diary. In fact, she used a red Top Composition Book (it has a picture of a spinning red top on the cover.) Being in a college town meant composition books would be easily come by.

I still haven’t finished reading the 1908 diary kept by the Sheriff of lake County, but his handwriting’s not as good as Margaret’s, and his spelling is far worse. Margaret occasionally spells things incorrectly, but she knows it. When she is noting that when she starts senior high school, she will have more privileges, she writes it as “privaleges (spelled wrong.)”

The sheriff had more professional excitement to record in his diary, but Margaret’s life was filled with excitement and incident as well. Besides cheering on both the town high school and the town college at basketball games, she was involved in selling tickets for them, which was apparently done the way kids sell magazine subscriptions or candy bars or basketball hoops today: door to door, by word of mouth, and through any relative who will spare the money. If she sold a certain number of tickets, she got into the game free herself, you see: she and her friends would frequently pool their efforts, and someone who had none left to sell would help sell the tickets their friends had to unload.

She was also a competitive, though not terribly lucky, checkers player. She is always at some friend’s house, taking them on at checkers, and it was a sorry thing that the night she beat several of them was a night when she had an awful cold and couldn’t shout her triumph. An interesting point can be seen in that though some of these neighbors were boys, they don’t seem to figure in her occasional musings on Men—high school or college basketball players or male fans from the other schools. Still, I suppose even in West Virginia, the pastures on your side of the fence didn’t seem as lush. I wonder what became of Dick, who insisted on walking her home from Epworth League (she ditched him by getting R- to walk with her.)

I have not read through the entire diary yet, so I’m not sure how a lot of the stories wind up. She DID finish working on her sweater (and wore it to a basketball game that very night) but I don’t know if Dad ever bought Uncle Nelson’s Dodge Touring Car. (They went to look at an aging Buick but didn’t buy it, to Margaret’s great relief. Dad’s current car, see, is way too big for him to allow Margaret to learn to drive it, so she’d like him to get something small and sporty. Do the important things EVER change?) There is also a gap of about five months which she never does explain, from March to late August. The diary runs only through the end of September (composition books are not huge) so I will never know the answer to the big question: whatever DID become of Margaret?

At the age she was writing the diary, she was, um, prey to the ailments of her age. She forgets to go to her music lesson. She puts off the ironing and then when she is about ready to start to start, as she puts it, she finds her mother has gotten out of a sickbed to iron rather than wait for Margaret to get around to it. She led a life of small excitements (there is a huge fire one night, but even though they get in the car to go look for it, they never do find where it was) between games of checkers and basketball games and the occasional trip to the store for candy (she needed nourishment after her first Exam for Latin I.)

Keep sending the diaries in, thank you. Someone demanded to know why I read through them before I put ‘em up for sale. What did you keep a diary for, if not to be read?

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