Searching for Arbutus

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

Sunday, April 5, 1914: We went for arbutus this afternoon, but only managed to find the buds. It is late this spring. Went to church this evening and then home.

Trailing Arbutus

Trailing Arbutus

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

Grandma’s cousin Alma Derr was visiting for a few days, so the “we” probably refers to Grandma, Alma, and perhaps Grandma’s sister Ruth.

Years ago it was a common spring activity for people go out into the woods and pick trailing arbutus.

Grandma seemed to really enjoyed searching for arbutus with friends and family members, because she also mentioned it in previous years in the diary.

Carrie Stout was over this afternoon. We went to gather dandelions, and worked awhile, then went to hunt for trailing arbutus in the woods. We didn’t get any though for it was just beginning to come out. But we found some wintergreen and mountain pinks.

April 13, 1911

 

Besse was out this afternoon. We three kids went for arbutus and I got some this time. . .

April 15, 1911

 

. . . Carrie and I went for arbutus and wound up by taking a walk. . .

April 28, 1912

Bouncer: Archaic Definition

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

Saturday, April 4, 1914:  My bouncer of a cousin Alma came over on the train this afternoon. All three of us went to a play up town. Didn’t get to bed till after 12, and then I had to sleep on the rail, it was rather fun though. Wonder I didn’t roll out.

Recent photo of the railroad track near Grandma's farm. (The view is looking toward Watsontown.)

Recent photo of the railroad track near Grandma’s farm. (The view is looking toward Watsontown.)

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

When I first read this diary entry it didn’t make any sense to me. What the heck, did “bouncer” mean? Did I transcribe it incorrectly—even though Grandma wrote the word clearly?

Then I googled “bouncer archaic definition”, and discovered that an archaic meaning is:

bouncer: One who bounces; a large, heavy person who makes much noise in moving.

Wordsense

Wow—Now that I know the meaning, what a descriptive word! I suddenly can almost picture Alma in my mind.

I think that Grandma and her sister Ruth shared a double bed during the months when the weather was cold. I suppose that Ruth, Alma, and Grandma all squeezed into the bed—and that Grandma was so far to the edge that she was right against the side rail.

Now that I think about it—most beds no longer have side rails; but I guess that metal bed frames hadn’t yet been invented a hundred years ago.

Weather Twasn’t Nice and Warm

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

Wednesday, April 1, 1914:

When the flowers begin to peep from their hiding place.
T’will be known that spring is here, spring with all her grace.
When the birds will sing their songs in the tree tops high.
Oh, then we know that April’s here and will not pass us by.
April fool, wash your face and go to school.

Twasn’t nice and warm at all, at all.

Crocus

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

I love the surprise ending to this diary entry. April sounds so wonderful in the poem— but reality didn’t quite match the April of Grandma’s dreams.

You might also enjoy these previous posts:

Monthly Poem in Diary

April Fool’s Day

Lost 10 Pounds

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

Sunday, March 29, 1914: Went to Sunday school this afternoon. Attended church, which isn’t very often since we don’t have a regular preacher as yet. Besse and Curt were here, when I got home. Am rather tired of dieting by this time. Have lost ten pounds.

DSC02319

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

Grandma lost 10 pounds in 18 days– and, her weight has gone from 140 pounds to 130. She must not have been eating very much to lose so much weight.  Is it healthy to lose so much weight in such a short time?

She got her tonsils out on March 11, and had difficulty eating. Two days later, on March 13, she wrote:

Weighed myself this morning. I had lost six pounds. My tummy is flat you can bet. Ate solid food for supper.

Then on March 23 she wrote:

Got a streak of sewing today. I get the streaks quite often in many variations. Another one is to get rid of some of my superfluous fat. 140 pounds (January) is entirely too much for a girl of my age. I don’t weigh that now, since I lost six and gained about three. Intend to take advantage of the other three and fight for dear life.


Besse and Curt Hester were Grandma’s sister and brother-in-law. They lived in nearby Watsontown.

Does Handwriting Provide a Window Into Emotional State?

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

Saturday, March 28, 1914:  Sad and gloomy like the weather.

diary-3-28-14

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

I don’t know anything about handwriting analysis. Was Grandma’s handwriting different on a day when she was sad and gloomy, than on a day when she was happy and excited?

Vanbraman wrote comments several times wondering if Grandma’s handwriting provided an indication of her emotional state. For example on February 22 he asked:

Could you tell if she was excited by her handwriting? I know that some people show their emotion in how they write.

Here’s what she wrote that day.

diary-2-22-14

Visited a Friend

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

Friday, March 27, 1914:  Called on Carrie this afternoon.

The Stout house once was just a little to the right of where the road ends.

The Stout house once was just a little to the right of where the road ends.

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

Carrie Stout was a friend of Grandma’s who lived on a nearby farm—but I can’t really show you where it was.

In the late 1960s, Interstate 180 was built through the area. The farm where the Stout’s once lived was divided into two, and the house was in the shadow of the highway. A few years later the house burned—so nothing is the same as it was in Grandma’s day.

Many days I’m surprised how little has changed over the past hundred years—but other times, like today, everything has changed and it’s difficult for me to even get my bearings.

Getting Eggs and Butter in the Mail

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

Wednesday, March 25, 1914:  Nothing to write.

Source: Milton Evening Standard (March 31, 1914)

Source: Milton Evening Standard (March 31, 1914)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share an article from a central Pennsylvania newspaper, the Milton Evening Standard.

The nation was moving rapidly into the modern era—people could order butter, eggs and other farm produce directly from farmers, and the US Postal Service would deliver it a few days later.

I can’t imagine getting my groceries in the mail today. Wonder what happened. . .

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