Rural Free Delivery

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

Wednesday, January 17, 1912: Had to walk to school this morning, as Daddy was busy elsewhere. We didn’t get any mail today because the mail carrier was almost too lazy I guess to get through the drifts. How you do miss the mail then. Ahem.

1996 stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of rural free delivery of the mail

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

Today’s diary entry brings back warm fuzzy memories of the days when getting mail was one of the highlights of the day.

A hundred years ago the mailman probably used a horse and buggy to deliver the mail.

The mailman would not have delivered packages. A hundred years ago merchants opposed the establishment of parcel post because they believed that it would take business away from the local stores—but farmers and others strongly advocated for parcel post and it would be established a year later in 1913.

Old-fashioned Fried Potatoes

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

Tuesday, January 16, 1912:  There is nothing much to write about for today. Things go on as usual.

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

Since Grandma wrote little a hundred years ago today, I’m going to give you the recipe for an old winter staple–fried potatoes. Potatoes and other locally-grown vegetables that could be stored for many months were an important part of the winter diet.

Old-fashioned Fried Potatoes

1/4 cup lard

approximately 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced


Melt lard in large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) using medium heat.  When the lard  is hot add the sliced potatoes.  Generously sprinkle with salt. Turn potatoes with a spatula and again sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking (and occasionally turning) until potatoes are tender, with a crisped, lightly browned coating.

Old-fashioned fried potatoes cooked in a cast iron skillet are one of my favorite foods. They brown beautifully and are very crisp. And, the lard really enhances the subtle flavor of the potatoes.

1912 Silent Film: The New York Hat

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

Sunday, January 15, 1912: Decided to take up spelling just for fun, and three others followed my example. To my dismay I missed a word. Then a lot of the Freshies wanted to know what that word was. Were I to mention it here, you might think I was an awful dummy, so I won’t.

Scene from The New York Hat (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

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

I wish Grandma would have told us the word she missed. The previous Friday, she’d misspelled ‘nihilism’.

An aside—I just discovered an awesome 1912 silent film short called The New York Hat with Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore on YouTube. It’s a delightful 10-minute film that will take you back in time. I’d like to thank Kristin who writes a wonderful family history blog called Finding Eliza for finding this film.

Addendum in response to comments–I believe that several films were typically shown during each show. In a post last year I included an May 5, 1911 advertisement for the Bijou Dream Theatre in nearby Milton. It described the four silent films that were being shown on that date.

One Hundred-Year-Old Jokes

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

Sunday, January 14, 1912: Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Didn’t freeze neither. On the contrary I felt all the better for my walk, which seemed to drive away some of the coldness and bring warmth instead. I devoured a whole lot of stories today, almost a whole paper and part of another.

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

A hundred years ago newspapers and magazines often included humor pages.  Perhaps, in addition to reading stories, Grandma read a few jokes.  Here are some from the January 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

“Sorry,” said the policeman, “but I’ll have to arrest ye—you been drivin’ along at the rate of fifty miles an hour.”

“You are wrong, my friend,” said the driver. “I say I wasn’t, but here’s a ten-dollar bill that says I wasn’t.

“All right,” returned the policeman, pocketing the money. “With eleven to one against me I ain’t goin’ to subject the county to th’ expense of a trial.”

Why It Was

Two young employees of a florist, who were supposed to be variously employed in the near of the establishment while the boss looks at things in the front were recently startled by the appearance of the “old man” while they were engrossed in a game of checkers.

The proprietor was justly indignant. “How is it,” he demanded, “that I hardly ever find you fellows at work when I come in here?”

I know,” volunteered on of the youths, “it’s on account of those rubber heels you wear.”

How He Changes His Sermons

A little girl of twelve years, the daughter of a clergyman, was asked: “Sadie, does your papa ever peach the same sermon twice?

After thinking a moment Sadie replied, “Yes, I think he does; but I think he hollers at different places.”

Hard On the Other One

One hot summer day a Kentucky beau stopped at a florist’s to order a box of flowers sent to his lady love. At the same time he also purchased a design for the funeral of a friend. On the card for his girl’s box he wrote: “Hoping these may help you bear the heat.” The other card bore the one word: “Sympathy.”

Very soon the girl telephoned: “Thank you so much for the flowers, but why did you write ‘Sympathy’ on the card?”

There was no word from the other card.

A Suggestion

The restaurant manager stood behind the cashier’s desk, wearing his stock-in-trade smile for each customer.

An old gentleman came up. “I notice,” said he, fumbling for his wallet, “that you advertise to make your own pies.”

Yes, sir,” answered the manager proudly; “we do.”

“Will you permit me to offer a suggestion?”

“Certainly, sir, certainly. We should be most happy to have you.”

“Well, then, let someone else make ‘em.”

100-Year-Old Advice on How to Avoid Saying Things in Anger That You’ll Regret

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

Saturday, January 13, 1912: It was so cold today. About all I did was to sit around and for fancy work but not without a rasping lecture from my mother. I guess she thinks I am a terrible lazy girl, part of which is true, oh well. I guess we lack something in some way or other.

Mother: Phoebe Muffly

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

Was Grandma lazy for doing embroidery, crocheting, or other “fancy work or was her mother having a bad day?

The March 1912 issue of National Foods Magazine offered the following advice for women who had trouble “holding their tongues.”

How the Nervous Woman Can Hold Her Tongue

There are a great many woman who come dangerously near to being common scolds. The reason  for this is that they are living under pressure and have  become bundles of nerves. When such a woman reaches the point where she feels “as though she should fly” let her stop at all hazards, go to her room, open the windows, lie down on the bed, and put on enough clothing to be comfortably warm.

Then relax every muscle in the body, close the eyes, let her get as nearly passive as she can. As one woman says, “Let the bed hold you—don’t try to hold the bed.” Breath in a deep, full breath and while exhaling count to ten slowly. Keep your mind on the numbers. Repeat at least ten times. Lie still for a few moments.

This relaxing and passive condition will be hard at first, but it will quiet the nerves wonderfully. You many feel frowsy. If you have time, sleep a few minutes. A few moments like this will save many a day from failure, will keep back words which may make heartaches, and prevent the home from becoming a place of railing and back-biting in scores of cases. A fine thing for the nervous woman is to take a five-minute walk in the open air every morning if she cannot take a longer one.

1912 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

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

Friday, January 12, 1912: At least our examinations are over. Took two today and made about ninety in each. We spelt on sides this afternoon. The side I was on was beat. I was the last one to be spelt down. The word was ‘nihilism’. I guess that’s the way you spell it. If Jake would have pronounced it the way it’s spelt, I would have perhaps staid up longer.

Was invited to the book club up at Oakes’ this evening, but didn’t go as I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I would be urged to play cards and that I scarcely know how.

Had my first sleigh ride today.

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

What were they reading at book club? Goodreads lists two hundred books published in 1912 that are still in widely read. They probably were not the most popular books at the time, but rather they are the books that have endured –and whose message apparently continues to resonate a hundred years later.

Ten books on the list that I recognized the title or author are listed below:

1.         Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

2.         The Reef by Edith Wharton

3.         The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

4.         The Financier by Theodore Dreiser

5.         The Yosemite by John Muir

6.         The Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises

7.         The Judgment by Franz Kafka

8.         Sinking of the Titanic: Eyewitness Accounts by Jay Henry Mowbray

9.         Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

10.       Son of the Sun: The Adventures of Captain David Grief by Jack London

Small Mistakes Can Make You Feel Bad

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

Thursday, January 11, 1912:Was so disappointed today in arithmetic. I was almost positive I would make a hundred, but instead, I only made ninety due to a small mistake in adding up, but big enough to make you feel bad.

Building that once housed the McEwensville schools. The high school was on the second floor.

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

The test would have been on cube roots. On January 5 and January 8 Grandma wrote about struggling to learn how to do them.

Even though Grandma was frustrated with herself, it’s better than some of her previous grades in math. For example, on October 31,1911 she wrote:

Feel rather doleful over the mark I made in Algebra: 68. 68, you I hate.