Won’t See Billy for a Long, Long Time

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

Sunday, December 31, 1911: It really snowed last night, but I guess it isn’t going to stay very long from the way it looks. Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Billy was there. Won’t see him again for a long, long time. We had ice cream today but that isn’t very interesting is it? Well this year has thundered on at a rather rapid pace, so it seems to me. I have the same feeling now that I had when I commenced this diary. Sort of sad.

Mid ice and snow

And wintry glow

The solemn Old Year dies

And now I’ll end

And not pretend,

That all of these entries are lies.

Yes, the old year is passing and the new year is close at hand. Nevertheless to me it has brought joys and pleasures, as well as little petty griefs and sorrows.

I have done what I promised myself to do. To keep a written record of each passing day throughout the years, nor has my time been wasted. As I glance over its pages, I feel fully justified in my year’s work.

I have not counted the many mistakes that lie scatter amongst its pages. They are there all the same for me to laugh at when my school days are over, and I am free from the delightful task of poring over some dry General History or working a cranky Algebra problem that is my fate to get in examination if I didn’t get it when I tried it. Well I can account for some of the things I’ve don’t this last year, and some important events and the like, etc., etc, etc.

All of its pages are written upon

All of this book will soon be done

But the diary itself is just begun

And goes on until it is finished.

With the morrow comes the New Year,

And its many things in store,

So now the old year vanishes,

As did the years that come before.

Many deeds and noble ventures

They have passed like clouds of mist.

Yet this diary here remainth,

Token of a patient fist.

As the old year dies, so is this diary filled almost to brimming over. It is not to be destroyed, but kept as a treasured token of girlhood.

So passeth the year of 1911.

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

I love Grandma’s thoughtful sentiments regarding her experiences with keeping a diary during 1911. It’s cool that the diary was never destroyed–and I feel honored to have the opportunity to share this treasured token of my grandmother’s girlhood.


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

I think that Billy refers to Bill (William) Gauger. His family lived on a farm east of McEwensville. Bill married Grandma’s sister Ruth several years later, but I think that Grandma had a crush on him when she was writing this diary.

Bill (William) Gauger*

Bill probably was back in the McEwensville area over the Christmas holidays, and now needed to return to school. He was the teacher at McEwensville High School during the 1914-15 and 1915-16 school years.  During the 1911-12 school year he may have been a student at a normal school.

A hundred years ago schools that prepared teachers were called normal schools. They generally had one- or two-year programs.  Teachers were not required to have bachelors degrees in 1912—though they were paid more if they did. Many primary school teachers only had a high school diploma—while most high school teachers had some post-secondary training.

The Alumni Directory of Pennsylvania College of Gettysburg, 1832-1918 indicates that William C. Gauger, McEwensville received a B.A. in 1918. He apparently taught for a few years before completing his four-year degree. (Type: “William Gauger McEwensville Gettysburg College” into Google to find this resource.)

*Photo source: The History of the McEwensville Schools, 1800 – 1958 by Thomas Kramm. Used with permission.

Ice Cream

The Muffly’s made ice cream in the winter months when ice was readily available. This is the first time it has been mentioned during the current winter. Grandma mentioned making ice cream several times during the previous winter:

Ice Cream in January (January 22, 1911)

Old Time Vanilla Recipes (February 12, 1911)

Old Time Chocolate and Fruit Ice Cream Recipes (February 26, 1911)

10 thoughts on “Won’t See Billy for a Long, Long Time

  1. Those teenage years are tough aren’t they..sounds like she did have a crush on him, based on her various comments through the diary. I hope you are feeling happy and glad as we move into a new year.

  2. I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed the 1911 trip back through time looking forward to 1912 sharing it with you and yours. Here is wishing you a very Happy New Year.

    Charles H Goodspeed

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write the nice note. It’s always wonderful to hear when someone enjoys reading the posts. Have a wonderful New Year!

  3. Sheryl, I really enjoy tracking down the people in my ancestors’ lives — and it sounds like you too enjoyed the “Billy” years of your grandmother teen years. Have so liked following along with you on this diary trek with your grandmother.

    1. Since I knew many of the people in the diary when they were old, it’s fun to think about what they were like when they were young. I’m glad to hear that you also enjoy it.

  4. Wow, I am loving this! Reading your grandmother’s thoughts and goings-on back then is so fun. The university I work at was originally called a “normal school” as well, back when it originated in 1903. Thank you for posting your link on NYT!

    1. It’s interesting how schools have evolved over the years. Some of the schools that started as normal schools then became state teachers’ colleges, and now are major universities.

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