29 December 2010

Diary or Journal?

My Mom, Gladys Balmer Schempp, kept a diary from her 10th birthday until the day she died. She always used 5-year diaries - just to make a few notes about each day.
Glady & Bill Schempp
So many articles have been written about the healing and cathartic power of journaling. But, I think like maybe (a phrase of my Mom's) my Mom was right. Just a few words can trigger memories, feelings and create those broad images in imagination that journals try too hard to narrate. Now, I'm not suggesting that journaling is wrong - only Glady's might be a lesson in a simpler way for busy times.

One of my Facebook friends, Sarah Myers, wants to start a journal. I mentioned my Mom's technique and offered to post some scans of my Mom's diary - when she was in her 20s. What wondrous fun this has been for me. Her stories came back to life. I could almost hear her voice. I understood every abbreviation - almost every name and almost felt that I was part of the activities. All of this was conjured with just those few words.

My cousin, Valerie and I transcribed the pages for those of you who can't read Mommy's writing. A click on the diary pages will expand the picture so you can read for yourself, if you choose.

I'll attempt to explain a few things and save a few for my own memories, too. The years are 1943 through 1947.
July 14-15, 1943-1947
Mother Dell                          JULY 15
1943 Weiner Roast - the four of us.
1943 Pittsburg with Mary, Betty & Kent. Saw Horace Heidt. Ate at 7th Ave.
1944 Cleaned Made clothes press    blinds
1944 Shopped – stopped at Library & Aunt Juel’s. Took Mrs. Wayne a milk shake
1945 Aft. Downtown with Mom. She bought me stockings. Dentists Nite - Downtown with Rita - Saw a terrible show at Palace
1945 Church – Read. all afternoon.
1946 Ride to Wash. Park with Andy & Marion - ate dinner at Sweeny's Nite - Glenn & Bob were down
1946 Washed clothes – aft - with Trudy Nite – to Mother Dells – gave her powder & cologne.
1947 Washed clothes - To Pitts – got Air Race Tickets. Nite - Visited Scout camp to Fire Station
1947 Had a birthday party for Mother Dell – She got rhinestone pin & earrings. Nite – Bill went to a fire parade got stuck in mud Betty – Jane & Mary were down.

You'll see Mother Dell at the top of July 15's page - she was my beloved grandmother (Daddy's Mom) and that was her birthday. The other people were school friends and couple friends. My parents were married in 1941 and then Daddy (Bill) was right off to the war. He was severely injured, but hardly anyone knew it! In 1943, Glady was 24.

December 25-26, 1943-1947
1943 Morning – Church with Bill. Then to Marie’s. to home – to Jane’s for a little while.
1943 Had a lovely day - doing nothing. Just company.
1944 Three to Church – Then we visited all the relatives – to Bomita’s!
1944 Ate dinner at Aunt Juel’s – Peg & Uncle Lawrence came over Aunt Mary stayed til 12:30
1945 To Charleroi at 2:30. Jane & Kent were home – exchanged gifts – ate at Mom’s. then Bill went home sick. I went to Donora on 12 bus. Got spice set – cookies for – bed slippers. pajamas, etc.
1945 Bill was sick in bed – Nite - Daddy – Mom, Betty & Aunt Juel came down. Had a lovely time.
1946 To home on 1 bus. All at 2 pm - had company rest of day – Kent & Jane were up. Harold. Mom & Dad brought us home – a fire next door. got a silver service. Moccasins slippers. cups & saucers – vases – jewelry – can opener – glasses    perfume.
1946 Bill got plaid shirt – socks – tie. holder – cologne - $50.00 screwdrivers. Marion & Malcolm were down at noon – then I shopped, helped stuff papers – Went up to see Marion’s gifts. Nite – fixed lingerie chest.
1947 Wonderful – Visited all the relatives. Got silver Tray from Mom & Dad + cologne & ruby ring necklace & wrench – silver & crystal cream & sugar - tea pot – refrig. bowls + Rosepoint plates – diary pinking shears - $50.00 - slip & records. Bill got book & pjs . lotions. Harold & Betty brought us home - Bill has sore throat!
1947 Shopped Stopped at Peggy Dean’s – Sally & Andy were there Nite – Beany & Mary were down   Grandma McCleary & Bill Creesy

My grandfather was responsible for most of the newspapers being delivered in those days - with lots of boys working for him. On December 26, 1946, my Mom helped stuff the inserts (rotogravure, advertisements, etc.) into the papers. All the rest is pretty understandable and probably not that interesting to everyone. But, I could easily tell the story of every line on every page - just from my Mom's stories and these little snippets helped her memory so that she could share them with me

I'm delighted that Sarah started me on this journey. My end-of-the-year resolution has me writing in the last diary I bought Mommy. A few years before she died, she told me that she couldn't live any longer because she couldn't find another 5-year diary. We searched elegant stationers and old five-and-dimes and even eBay to no avail. I finally found a lovely red one from a journal bookbinder in England. She set up her diary - with special events atop their special pages, and the years recorded. She didn't make it through the 5 years. So, it's my turn. I'll keep you posted.


  1. I love it!!! Mom says she has one from her Grandmother, I'm dying for her to take it out. Maybe she will let me share!

  2. Thanks, Sarah! This has been eye-opening for me! I'm so glad you posted that journal article. I just needed a bit of inspiration.

  3. What a treasure, and good on you starting a journal of your own!

    That's a gorgeous photo, by the way.

  4. I just love this, I'm so glad you left a link on my facebook. I've kept journals my whole life as did my mother. I need to pull hers out and look at them. She's still alive at 84 but I think it would be fun to pull them out and look at them with her while she's still here to fill in blanks. I love your page and just followed your twitter. Thanks.