An Evening with Friends

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

Tuesday, April 29, 1913:  Ruth and I went up to Oakes this evening. Made a trip up to McEwensville this afternoon.

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

Grandma and her sister Ruth probably had a fun evening with friends. The Oakes family lived on a nearby farm and had several children close in age to Grandma and her sister Ruth.  Rachel Oakes is often mentioned in the diary. Rachel had a least two brothers—James and Alvin.

To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.
To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.
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They would have continued down the road past this farm.
Recent view of the farm where the Oakes lived.
And, then they would have turned down a lane to this farm where Rachel Oakes and her siblings lived.

Looked Pretty Seedy

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

Friday, April 25, 1913:  Had company a little while this afternoon. I am sure I looked pretty seedy.

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (November, 1913)

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

Hmmm. . . Was Grandma wearing ragged, patched clothes? Was her hair a mess? Did she look any different from how she looked on other days? Why was she so self-conscience about her looks?

Graduation Day

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

Wednesday, April 23, 1913:  The work of twelve long years is over. I have long looked forward to this. My last day at high school. It has come and with it a mixture of sadness and pleasure.

Two of my cousins came on the train to attend commencement. I had quite a time getting dressed, for buttons were bound to come off and strings to break.

At last I arrived at the church. We marched in and so on up to the front of the church, where we took seats in uncomfortable chairs and managed to sit out the evening. I recited my essay without a mental breakdown and then at last all was over, after which came congratulations and well wishes.

I am quite pleased with my presents. I received four today.

Graduating didn’t go very hard for me. I was sorry when all was over.

Succeeded in going to school every day for the last four years.

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Helena Muffly (I think this is her graduation photo.)

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

Congratulations Grandma!

Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.
Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.

A hundred years ago Truckemiller’s Mill bordered the Muffly farm. There was a whistle stop for the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick (S. B. and B.) Railroad at  the mill. The mill is long gone—and the road and railroad tracks have changed a little—but her cousins probably stepped off the train near this spot.

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This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.
This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.
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United Church of Christ (Reformed Church)

Grandma probably triumphantly marched with her classmates down the center aisle of one of these churches to the music of the orchestra.  I wonder why the ceremony was held at a church instead of the community hall. . . perhaps the church was larger and would better hold all of the graduates’ friends and family members.

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The Bone Wars and The Lost World

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

Tuesday, April 22, 1913:  Just one more day and then my school days will be ended. I believe I’ll feel rather sorry when they are all past. I hope it will be nice tomorrow and everything goes off all right in the evening.

Cope's Dinosaur that March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cope’s dinosaur which March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)

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

One more day until graduation! The exhilaration Grandma felt the previous week about the end of school now seems tempered with the realization that those days were behind her and that there were things about school that she’d miss.

Grandma sounded a bit nervous about the graduation ceremony. She probably hoped that her speech on The Relics of the Earth’s Past would go well.

Yesterday’s post explored her speech topic. Vanbraman wrote a comment, and suggested that it might have been about the Bone Wars or been inspired by a book published in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called The Lost World.

I had never heard of either the Bone Wars or the book, so I did a little research.

A hundred years ago there was an incredible amount of  interest in dinosaurs and dinosaur bones.

The Bone Wars refer to a period in the late 1800s when there were several major expeditions that searched for dinosaur bones. There was a rivalry between two paleontologists, Orthniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, to discover additional bones. They both were very secretive, and accused the other of stealing bones and exploration sites. Each claimed that the other was not a credible scientist. For example, Marsh claimed that Cope put the head on the wrong end of a dinosaur.  However,  the field as a whole benefited from their many discoveries and the feud increased the interest of the public in dinosaurs.

According to Wikipedia, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a superb piece of science fiction about an expedition to the rain forests of Brazil in search of living dinosaurs.  The book was republished in 2012 in honor of the hundredth anniversary of its original publication.

As happens so often, I’m ending up with more questions than answers. Was Grandma’s graduation speech about evolution (pro? . . or .  . con?) like I thought yesterday. . . or was it about paleontology and dinosaurs? . . .. or something else?

Are Movies Good or Bad?: 1913 Opinions

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

Sunday, April 20, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon.

Classmate and Future Husband: Raymond Swartz
Raymond Swartz 

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

Three more days until graduation! Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to continue to dive deeper into the information provided by her commencement ceremony program.

Six students, including my grandparents—Helena Muffly and Raymond Swartz— graduated from McEwensville High School in 1913. Both spoke at the commencement.

The title of Grandpa’s speech was Motion Pictures as an Educational Factor.

commencement.program.1

This was the era of silent films and lots of melodrama. When I researched this topic, I was surprised to learn that in 1913 many people thought that movies were a bad influence on young people.

According to Laura Wittern-Keller in her dissertation:

Movies with themes that challenged traditional values, shown in the dark to a mixed audience with larger-than-life figures, spawned a “moral panic.”

Hmm–Grandpa spoke on a controversial topic. He apparently took the side that his high school class mates would have approved of—but that  their parents might have objected to.

How did Grandpa build his argument that movies were educational? . . . Maybe he argued that  they enabled people in rural Pennsylvania to see  “see the world” . . . or that some of the movies were about historic events. . . or that they were works of art.  . .or . . . .

In my imagination, I picture his classmates giving him a standing ovation, while their elders tried to frown but their lips turned up in slight smiles of approval.

Received a $2 Bill

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

Saturday, April 19, 1913:  Did quite a lot today. Am a little tired. Ma gave me a two dollar bill.

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

$2 bills from the late 1800s (I couldn't find any pictures for bills from the early 1900s.) (Source: Wikipedia)
$2 bills from the late 1800s (I couldn’t find any pictures of bills from the early 1900s.) (Source: Wikipedia)

The $2 bill was the third graduation gift Grandma received. The previous day she received a gold hat pin and a handkerchief. 

This diary entry raises more questions than answers for me.

Today we seldom see $2 bills—and they often seem special when we get one. Were they also unusual a hundred years ago—or were they readily available?

Why did Grandma say the gift was from her mother instead of from her parents? Why is her father so seldom mentioned in the diary? He was a farmer—and it seems like he should have been mentioned more often than he was.

Were Grandpa and Grandma Both at the Class Supper?

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

Friday, April 17, 1913:  Our class was invited out to supper this evening. It broke up rather early. My first presents arrived today. A gold hat pin and a handkerchief.

Lillie. Raymond (standing), and Michael Swartz (1913)
Lillie. Raymond (standing), and Michael Swartz (1913)

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

Grandpa must have been at the supper—but Grandma doesn’t mention him and it sounds like the dinner was boring since the party broke up rather early.

According to the Commencement Program there were only six people who graduated from McEwensville High School in 1913, and two of them were my grandparents–Helena Muffly and Raymond Swartz.

commencement.program.1

 In such a tiny class they had to have known each other—yet Grandma never mentioned him in the diary. Why?

Raymond was much younger than Grandma—perhaps he wasn’t on her radar screen at the time.  He was only 14 1/2 years old when he graduated; she was 18. He must have skipped several grades.

Maybe Raymond was really quiet and Grandma barely noticed him. His mother had died several years previously. He lived on a farm with his father. He only had one sibling—a sister, Lillie, who was 12 years older than him.

Or maybe he was smart and annoying. . . .

One place in the diary where I want to think that Grandma referred her future husband was on February 6, 1911:

. . . Got too close to the stove pipe at school today and burned my hand. Didn’t feel very good. Put some black on a kid’s face, and then he put some on mine. I tried to prevent him. Got my arm scratched and tore my waist.  . .

It  almost  seems like the two students were trying to get each others attention, and that maybe they  liked each other just a little. Grandpa would have seemed like a kid at the time. . .could it have been him?

I’m probably imagining things. . .