So far, I have found three diaries in my mother’s estate. My mom passed away at the age of 92. I was left wondering if it ever occurred to her – especially in her later years – that she should read her own diaries once again and make sure she wanted to leave the little books here on this earth for someone to find. After all, what are the chances the diaries are not going to be read by the adult children?
If ever there were someone who left a lot of written material about herself – it was my mother. A world-wide contest held specifically to find the woman who wrote about herself the most, I would say my mother could possibly be a first-place winner.
So if I were to decide to write my mother’s life story – it should be easy. I won’t have to look any further than the cardboard boxes she left for me. She left a lot of written details about her life.
However, there remains some names and some bits of her life story I spent some time having to ask about.
She dated a guy named Chuck. Who is Chuck? According to her diary – they broke up during the holidays in 1945. He did give her a Christmas present – pearls. But she cried herself to sleep because they were breaking up. Chuck was apparently in the service, and his named disappeared from her journaling after the holidays in 1945.
Mom’s earliest diary entry was dated January 1 of 1941. That means she was 14 years old when she started keeping a diary. She was married at the age of 21, so she had 7 years to write about the cute guys and later the guys she went on dates with. It seemed there were many names in those little books. But 7 years is a rather long time – so there were lots of crushes and lots of dances and outings. Thus, the many names of friends to read about.
Apparently the word ‘swell’ was a word that was commonly used, and it meant you were fun to be around or maybe a good person. It made me smile when she used the word to describe others.
I read about my dad – Vern Kimpel – for the first time in her July 31 of 1946 entry. He stopped in at her work and talked with her for a long time. Apparently he had told her that he had strep throat and malaria at one time in his life.
My mother’s job was at the Edgerton Earth newspaper. She worked in the office but ‘news’ back then was a bit different. There was the serious stuff – and I mean serious stuff – in which the reader received unneeded details regarding tragedies that were reported on.
But the social column – who was visiting who, who was engaged or married was news that really mattered. And even birthday parties and the names of their guests were news-worthy.
My mother rode on her bike and knocked on doors and gathered the news. She liked her job and wrote about how fun it was.
We have some black and white photos of her on her bike. I have never attempted to ride a bike with a dress on. I suppose I could do it. But at this late date in my life – I see no reason to ride a bicycle with a dress on.
I would be concerned people would talk about me and possibly say “Did you see that lady who rides her bike with a dress on? No helmet. Seriously that woman has a dress on. And, really, I saw her – she rides her bike around town, and she wears a dress.”
The second entry about Vern was made on August 16. She wrote “Mom and Dad went up to Aunt Goldies. I told Vern Kimpel I didn’t have any brakes on bike and he stopt in front of me just to see. He’s nice.”
Her first date with him was on a Friday night in September when they went to the Williams County Fair. She spelled his last name wrong. My uncle Alfred and aunt Verda were dating, and they asked mom to go to the fair with them. Mom wrote “Al invited Vernon Kimple to go with us. Had a good time.”
My dad’s birthday was on the following day. In her diary she wrote “Vern called me up this afternoon and told me he got his car and wanted us to celebrate his birthday. Went to Bryan to a show. Gave him a plaid necktie.”
After reading this in her diary – I asked my oldest brothers what kind of car it was. Ed’s only memory was a 1949 Dodge. But this was 1946 – so my thoughts were I probably just need to look through their saved stuff – and I will find a note or receipt of some sort indicating what kind of car it was.
My dad and his brothers Russ and Clair were home from the service in November and December of 1945, and we think Dad and Russ may have rented a room from their oldest brother Paul. Dad would have been able to walk to work if he had been staying in town with his brother.
My parents went on a third date on Sunday of that same weekend. They went to Fort Wayne to see the movie “To Each His Own” at Paramount and then out for a frozen malt at Gerdener’s. She wrote they had a wonderful evening.
In the weeks and months that followed, she wrote about where they went and what they did and the food they ate. She wrote about her friends and who was getting married. She wrote about the ballgames – and on November 22 she went to Stryker to see a basketball game. She journaled “I broke my garter. What a time. Came back to Dolly’s.”
Dolly’s was a local restaurant in Edgerton.
On November 27 – they went to Montpelier to see Dad’s youngest brother Floyd playing basketball. Floyd’s nick-name was Bean. Floyd could be described as an attractive young man – many would say over-the-top attractive. Hicksville won over Montpelier. Edgerton was also playing Edon that evening – and Edgerton won. On December 6th – she wrote she had attended all the seasons’ basketball games.
Her diaries included the details of their engagement and approaching marriage. I wish she would have continued her diaries throughout her life – but she and Vern went on to have 11 children – and a diary would have meant one more thing she needed to do for the day.
After my dad passed away, I took Mom to the mall so she could shop for clothes for the funeral. I remember being in the store with her – and I knew she needed to buy him a necktie.
We were shopping in the men’s department when she realized the first thing she ever bought for Vern was a necktie for his birthday. He was celebrating his 27th birthday way back when they started dating.
So I know from her diary Dad gained ownership of a new car on his birthday, and the gal he started hanging out with had given him the first gift she would ever buy for him – a necktie.
And I watched her purchase the last gift she would ever buy for him – a necktie.
And years later, I read about it in her diary – she really did give him a necktie back on September 14, 1946 – and now I know one more little detail about that tie – it was plaid.
The Diary Disclaimer:
If you choose to keep a journal of your life and times, please keep in mind the words you write are most likely not for your eyes only.
The generations to follow will certainly read your diary, and one of them could be a writer. You better raise the writer right.
Words from a diary can serve as a great reminder that you really do have a good life – most of the time. It may be best to choose to document the good stuff and leave the bad stuff out.
The next generation will not understand everything you journal – which will make them wonder – even more so, what life was like for you. Go ahead and document problems such as a broken garter at a ballgame. They will not even know what a garter is, how a garter can break, and what kind of problems a broken garter would cause at a basketball game.