Girls and Women Fishing a Hundred Years Ago

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

Monday, July 28, 1913 – Thursday, July 31, 1913:  Nothing very much doing for these days. It’s so terrible hot and I have a hard time of it just doing nothing. I’d hate to go anyplace such weather as this is.

women fishing a hundred years agoPicture caption: Who said girls couldn’t—and shouldn’t—fish down on the old dock or under the sycamore? Who gave the outdoors to their brothers anyway?  Source: Good Housekeeping (July, 1913)

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

There’s no new diary entry to post  today since Grandma apparently didn’t write anything for four days—and then summarized what she was thinking  at the end of the time period.

But, I wonder if Grandma ever did any fun activities on hot summer days. Did she ever go fishing, either in the creek that flowed along the edge of the farm or in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River which flows through the nearby town of Watsontown?

The text of the short article beside the picture seems a bit odd to me, but it probably made perfect sense a hundred years ago. It says:


There’s no doubt whatever about it, men have all the best of it in this world, and women have to put up with ‘most anything. Why, just take that one example of the way the men go rooting in the back of the closet on the top floor after that old fishing-rod, the one with the black thread all wrapped about the part of it that split once when—everyone in the neighborhood knows it was five pounds. And there’s the fuss they make over the disgraceful old clothes that are fit for only the rag-bag, and goodness knows hardly that, , and the disreputable hat that you were planning to give to Mandy Brown’s husband the very next time he came after the ashes, and—

Good Housekeeping (July, 1913)

Warrior Run Creek near the Muffly farm

Warrior Run Creek near the Muffly farm

Recent photo of the bridge at Watsontown. This is the second bridge that was built a this site. It's hard to believe that a hundred years ago the first bridge had not yet been built.

Recent photo of the river at Watsontown.

Blue Hydrangeas and Other Questions

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

Friday, July 25, 1913:  Not worth writing about.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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

Since I knew my grandmother when she was much older than the teen in the diary, I’m constantly trying to reconcile how the young Helena in the diary evolved into the grandma I knew.

Since it was a slow day a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share a memory that I have of Grandma as an older woman—when she actually was my grandmother.

Every year when the hydrangeas bloom I think of Grandma.  I can remember playing with my cousins—and seeing Grandma  “watering” her hydrangeas with a can filled with something that wasn’t water.

I ran over and asked  what she was doing . She explained how she needed to add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the hydrangeas blue.

I couldn’t understand how a flower could possibly change colors depending upon what was put on the soil—so I asked a zillion questions. And, I remember Grandma carefully and patiently answering each one.

In many ways this story is very typical of many of my memories of Grandma. When I was a small child Grandma always welcomed questions and treated each question with respect.

When I was a youngster, she treated me like an older person than almost anyone else I knew—but I always understood her answers and really liked that she knew that I was big enough to understand what she was saying when she explained complex things to me.

Which Name? Ruth, Ruther, Rufus, or Ruthie

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

Sunday, July 20, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Ruther and I went up to church this evening.

Ruth Muffly

Ruth Muffly

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

Hmm. . . Ruther.  . . That’s a new nickname for Ruth.

Was Grandma annoyed with her sister Ruth. . . or feeling kindly toward her? Throughout the diary Grandma called her Rufus when she was annoyed with her.  When the sisters were getting along well, Grandma generally called her Ruth. . . though she occasionally referred to her as Ruthie.

Visitors on a Summer Evening

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

Friday, July 18, 1913:  We had company this evening.

Source:  Ladies Home Journal

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

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

Sometimes it’s nice not to have too much detail—because it allows me to create my own mind pictures.

If I squint my eyes I can almost see Grandma, her sister Ruth,  and their parents sitting on the porch entertaining guests on a hot summer evening—and maybe serving cookies and iced tea—while her little brother Jimmie chases fireflies as dusk falls over the farm.


Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

Tired From Picking Strawberries

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

Tuesday, June 17, 1913:  A feeling of weariness creeps o’er me, as a result of too much stooping yesterday.


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

I bet that Grandma was picking strawberries again. This is the third June that I’ve posted Grandma’s diary. This post makes me realize how much I’ve gotten into the ebb and flow of her life. She can merely write that she was tired from stooping–and I immediately think, “It’s June so she was picking strawberries.”

Diary entries in previous years suggest that a neighbor raised strawberries for sale and that Grandma was hired to pick them.

On June 12, 1911 Grandma wrote:

Started to pick strawberries this morning. Of course it will mean some early rising and loss of sleep, but just look at what I can earn.

And, the following year on June 10, 1912 she wrote:

This morning I picked berries and helped myself to some. I wonder if anyone saw me. . .

And, on July 1, 1912 Grandma felt rich:

Stopped picking strawberries today. All my earnings, about $4.00 in all, I still have and expect to keep until I spend them.

Old Washington DC Excursion Train Ad

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

Tuesday, June 10, 1913: Nothing much doing.

Source: Watsontown Record and Star (May 1, 1914)

Source: Watsontown Record and Star (May 1, 1914)

$3.00 LOW RATE

Sunday Excursion


Sunday, May 3

A Rare Chance to Visit the National Capital


Williamsport . . . 12:01 A.M.

Market Street. . . 12:05 A.M.

Muncy . . . 12:30 A.M.

Montgomery. . . 12: 38 A.M.

Dewart. . . 12:47 A.M.

Watsontown . . . 12:52 A.M.

Milton. . . 1:02 A.M.

Returning, Special Train will leave Washington. . . 5:40 P.M.

The Trip of a life-time. An education as well as a delight. An opportunity to see “The Heart of the Nation,” a city of magnificent distances, unlike any other city in the country.

An Ideal Sunday Outing

See the New National Museum, Library of Congress, Capitol Building, Concoran Art Gallery, and the varied sights of Washington, “The City Beautiful.”

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

Grandma’s sister Ruth left the previous day for a week-long trip to Washington DC.

Today the 200 mile drive from McEwensville to Washington DC takes at least 3 1/2 hours. I have no idea how low the train ride was a hundred years ago.

It is not what Ruth did, but I was surprised to discover that back then there were one-day excursion trips to DC from central Pennsylvania. The train left Williamsport right after midnight—and picked up people in several nearby towns and then raced to DC. The route would be reversed in the evening.

Imagine the excitement of catching a train in the middle of the night—and pulling into Union Station at dawn. . . and seeing the capitol outlined in the early morning sunlight.

Dang—I almost put myself into the story—and was ready to book a seat on the next excursion train; then I remembered that it was 2013.

Didn’t Do Very Much (Again)

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

Saturday, June 7, 1913: Didn’t do very much today, as there wasn’t very much to do.

Recent photo of the stream that flows through the farm Grandma grew up on. The old Muffly barn is in the background--and the cows were probably pastured in this field.

Recent photo of the stream that flows through the farm where Grandma grew up. If you look really hard, you can seen the house and barn through the trees.

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

Sigh . . . Nothing happened,  AGAIN???!!!??. . . Grandma must have done something a hundred years ago today.

This is the fourth day in a row that Grandma either wrote that there wasn’t anything worth writing about or that she didn’t do very much.

There are numerous places throughout the diary where Grandma indicated that nothing happened on a certain day –but  generally this type of entry was isolated and sandwiched between entries of more substance.

What was happening (or not happening) in Grandma’s life  in June, 1913 that made her feel like she had nothing to write about? Was she too tired to write because  she was working very hard on the farm? . . . or was she bored now that the excitement over her high school graduation was long past? . . .or . . .


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