Thursday, June 25, 2009
One of the local libraries recently held a book sale, which I attended late on a Saturday afternoon. Even though my hopes of finding an interesting book were slim after the morning crowds, I found a parking space and went inside.
The long tables were lined with rows of modern romance and common fiction, neither of which interested me. All the memoirs, crafting, and books on rural skills were gone, so I looked through the books from the 20’s – 50’s on the table by the front door. There were books about Grant and Lee, Shakespeare’s plays and other literary works, none of which would fill my needs for summer reading. I casually picked up a small red book lettered “1943” on its spine. It was a diary written in small, precise penmanship. I put it back and circled the room, looking at the music CDs this time.
Once again I found my way to the front table and picked up “1943”. Once again I set it back. I checked one more table just in case I missed something but nothing struck my fancy. On my way toward the door I walked over and picked up “1943”. This time I noticed “1944” nearby. I decided that if no one had purchased these during the early rush of the book sale, then they must be there for me. I purchased them and drove home.
After settling myself into a comfortable chair, I thought I’d read a few pages and perhaps catch forty winks. However, once I became accustomed to the early cursive style, I found myself riveted to the story unfolding before me.
The narrative is unique because it was written by a sixteen-year-old boy. In January he cross-country skis with his best friend, carries firewood for an elderly neighbor-woman, sings in a church choir, and gets excellent grades in school. In one entry he mentioned rationing and having only enough fuel oil to last until the next day. That’s when it all clicked – 1943 – The War! He does not dwell on it at length in any particular entry, but I can see how life was affected by it. He attends school assemblies which address civilian preparedness and he watches some military movies at the cinema. There are a few air raids during this year and he helps his mother plant a Victory Garden.
Here are some entries:
Sunday, February 14
When I awoke this morning every thing was coated with snow. It hung from all the trees and bushes and so I took a lot of pictures. I shot 4 rolls. Went to church and sang in the choir. After church I came home and developed two rolls. Then after a roast beef dinner I went skiing with Doug over in back of Parkers. It was good. I developed two more rolls and then went to Young Peoples. After young peoples we played ping pong. We had Mrs. Plumb to visit. Only enough oil left for tomorrow. Temp now 6°. Clear
Monday, February 15
It was -15° this morning and I had to wait 15 minutes for the bus. It was cold at school too and an icy wind was blowing. There was no gym. Pupils had frostbitten ears this morning. In the afternoon (-1°) I spent my time doing homework down by the fire. In the evening Dad and I played rummy. We each won a game. He stayed in on account of the cold and we are going to bed early. Nothing else particularly happened. Just cold!
He writes for college catalogs and wants to attend Harvard. Since his name is written inside the front of the book, I was able to do some research and discovered that he did attend Harvard, became a successful lawyer in this area, and passed away earlier this year.
Coincidentally, this past Sunday I came across a Collier’s Year Book for 1943 at a second hand store. This book is filled with information about what was going on in the world at that time.
I am hoping to find out much more by making this my project for the winter. A trip to the Historical Society will be on my agenda, to peruse town maps and school records. If I’m lucky I may be able to find a class picture.