Earlier this year I had the great fortune of spending several days going through some of my grandmother’s belongings. Among the pictures and old documents were some real treasures; my great grandmother’s scrapbooks and my grandfather’s journals.
The scrapbooks were very interesting and even of some historical significance for a few small towns in New Hampshire. They were also a window into my great grandmother’s life and consist of newspaper cut-outs of recipes, birth, and death notices for family and friends. I still need to spend more time going through those books because I spent most of my time reading my grandfather’s journals.They are very simple, pocket sized notebooks. Most entries are only a couple of sentences long perfect for Twitter had it been around. The entries are often the same types of things people Tweet about today, such as, “Cold, rainy. Went to town in the forenoon, loafed in the afternoon.” Okay, maybe the language is a bit archaic. Also unlike today’s Twitter, there are very few references to politics or the wider world in general. My grandfather was focused on his small town and the people in his life. It was all he knew.
The journals served another purpose and one many of us should relate to as we become contract workers. My grandfather’s business life is detailed down to every dollar in these journals. It was his way of keeping track of who he worked for, how much he earned for each job, and who owed him money.
My grandfather was a motorcycle enthusiast (Harley Davidson) and I’m sure that had something to do with my grandmother’s attraction to him. He was not the right type of man to her parents but she fell for him, and it may have been the single act of rebellion in her life. Buried in the midst of his journal entries for cutting would and trimming apple trees is one entry mentioning the purchase of his first Harley. If he were Tweeting it would go something like:
Picked up bike from Oliver’s today. Pd $150. owe $200 by next summer.
From that day forward he was truly a free man. His journal entries mention trips to the neighboring towns and his circle of contacts grows larger, as does his opportunities for work; and play. He and my grandmother never moved too far away and never too far from her family’s influence, as his journals from the 1950s attest, but you can read between the lines of the freedom gained, and later lost when he could no longer afford to be a Harley rider. You can’t drive uphill in the snow on a motorcycle with your wife and baby.
Those journals are such an insight. I never had a chance to hear him tell the stories of his youth so these Tweets from the 1920s are treasures to me.