Ruth’s Birthday

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, January 19, 1912: You walk through slush instead of snow for the present. I pulled Ruthie’s ears. I tell her she is getting to be an old maid but really don’t mean it.

I was rather mad this afternoon. We had some Algebra problems that I didn’t know how on earth to do them. But I guess I can do them now if I try hard enough.

Ruth Muffly*

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

A hundred years ago today was Grandma’s sister Ruth’s 20th birthday. People used  to pull the birthday person’s ear lobes one time for each year, so Grandma would have pulled Ruth’s ears 20 times.

In 1911, on Ruth’s birthday, Grandma woke Ruth by pulling her ears. She made have done the same thing in 1912.

*1913 photo of Ruth. Photo used with permission. Source: The History of the McEwensville Schools: 1800-1958 by Thomas Kramm.

5 Responses

  1. Never heard about the “birthday pulling of ears” before. Out here it is a swat for every year.

    One of the things that I love about diaries, is that they are written for the writer — if they were written to be read by “descendants” there would be more details and restraint. Just gotta love diaries.

    • I think that pulling ears on birthdays may be an old German (or perhaps a Pennsylvania Dutch) tradition. When I was young, adults solemnly told children not to pull ears on birthdays because it might damage the other person’s hearing. (I don’t think I ever would have thought about pulling ears if I hadn’t been told not to do it.)

      Like you, I wish diary authors included more details. I think about this every time when there is a day when Grandma wrote that nothing important happened. I so wish that she’d described in detail the mundane, routine things that were part of her day-to-day life.

  2. Whoa! I will suffer a lot of ear pulling on my next birthday :( Luckily we do not practice this here :D

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