No Smallpox–Just Reading, Moping, and Doing Nothing

15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:

Saturday, January 21, 1911. Spent most of the day in reading and moping around doing nothing. Mother is reading tonight, while I make my entry, but she doesn’t know what I’m writing, for she has her back turned.

Local Front Page News Exactly 100 Years Ago Today:

More Smallpox: Three More Cases Have Broken Out In Montour County

Two at Mausdale and One at Washingtonville: All Are Traced to Lumber Camp

Milton Evening Standard, January 21, 1911 

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

When I dug into the old 1911 Milton Evening Standard  microfilms at the Milton Public Library, I was shocked to discover that smallpox still occurred in central Pennsylvania a  hundred years ago. This means that there was smallpox less than fifty years before my birth. I had thought that the smallpox vaccine had wiped the disease out much earlier.  But, even though the victims lived only 15-20 miles from Grandma’s home, it  apparently was a world away from Grandma’s concerns when she wrote this diary entry. (Sometimes the slower pace of 1911 sounds wonderful, but there have been some very positive changes in the last 100 years!!)

Grandma probably wrote this entry sitting in a house illuminated with at least two gas lanterns—since it appears that she and her mother weren’t sitting close together. Maybe Grandma was huddled over the table in the kitchen but could see her mother sitting in the living room through a doorway.  Why did she mention that she won’t want her mother to know what she is writing? There’s nothing very earth-shaking here—except maybe yesterday’s spelling fiasco.

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