Fizzed Around, Then Went to Lecture

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

Tuesday, December 9, 1913:  Fizzed around this morning pretending to be doing something, but in reality doing nothing. Really it is wonderful the ways I manage to put the time in.

Went to a lecture with Ruth this evening in Watsontown. Fortunately we didn’t have to walk. We rode in a carriage. The lecture was real good and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Recent picture of the main intersection in Watsontown. I bet that Grandma and Ruth felt proud of themselves as they rode through the intersection in a carriage.

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


I love the word picture you created. I sometimes fizz around when really doing nothing—but won’t have been able to describe nearly as well as you did.

Who took Grandma and her sister Ruth to the lecture in Watsontown in a carriage?

In the early 1900s lectures presented by traveling speakers were very popular in small towns. The lectures brought culture to the towns, and often were inspirational and entertaining—though they sometimes addressed serious topics.

Somehow this diary entry makes me think of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis—though it was written a little after this time period. (Main Street was published in 1920.)

Grandma attended a single lecture, but this is how Main Street described a lecture series:

(The main character in the novel, Carol Kennicott, was from a city and struggled to fit into the small town of Gopher Prairie, so she had a somewhat negative view of the lectures.)

Nine lecturers, four of them ex-ministers, and one an ex-congressman, all of them delivering “inspirational addresses.” The only facts or opinions which Carol derived from them were: Lincoln was a celebrated president of the United States, but in his youth extremely poor. James J. Hill was the best-known railroad-man of the West, and in his youth was extremely poor. Honesty and courtesy in business are preferable to boorishness and exposed trickery, but this is not to be taken personally, since all persons in Gopher Prairie are known to be honest and courteous. London is a large city. A distinguished statesman also taught Sunday School.

Four “entertainers” who told Jewish stories, Irish stories, German stories, Chinese stories, and Tennessee mountaineer stories, most of which Carol had heard.

A “lady elocutionist” who recited Kipling and imitated children.

A lecturer with motion-pictures of an Andean exploration; excellent pictures and a halting narrative.

Three brass-bands, a company of six opera-singers, a Hawaiian sextette, and four youths who played saxophones and guitars disguised as wash-boards . . .

from Main Street by Lewis Sinclair

14 thoughts on “Fizzed Around, Then Went to Lecture

  1. Helena sounds downright perky here! I wish I knew what the lecture was about but it was obviously an event, even if the topic wasn’t noteworthy. And your excerpt from Main Street is the perfect complement to the diary entry!

  2. Who hasn’t fizzed around pretending they were busy while really doing nothing? I love it. This was the wordiest diary entry I have seen since I started following your blog!

  3. I love the idea of “fizzing” around. Sounds like Grandma was at loose ends since school was over and she had no real job. The lecture must have been a great diversion.

  4. Your grandmother is a hoot! She is so descriptive with fizzing around that I can picture it, but leaves me hanging on what the lecture was about. I’m still laughing.

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