Those Books Before Facebook

In her latter years, my mother often seemed to be engaged in an on-going conversation with herself.  Her streams of thought flowed like a hidden river, subterranean and unnoticed until a few words bubbled to the surface, spilling over and inviting response.

We were folding freshly laundered towels one afternoon when she surprised me by breaking the companionable silence to announce, “We had Facebook when I was in school.”  “What?” I said. “Facebook? There wasn’t any Facebook when you were in school.” “Of course there was,” she said. “We just had another name for it.”

Bemused, I asked if she meant her high school annual, and heard the slight intake of breath that always signaled impatience. “No, we didn’t have those. I just can’t think of the word right now. I’ll think of it.”

She never remembered her word, and I forgot the conversation until recently, when I discovered two autograph albums – one from her sixth grade term, one from her freshman year in high school.  They’d been tucked into a box with school programs and report cards, along with a photo of her senior class. Looking at the faces, I remembered the names I often heard while growing up. My mother’s best friend, Lucille Luke, was there, along with Mary Gianni, Helen Hester, Jimmy Loncarich, Vera Gasparovich, Jack Larson.

As I thumbed through the albums, the memories and greetings they contained seemed quaint, but touching. Each page contained only one entry. All were dated and signed, about half were in ink, and a few were in the beautiful cursive hand that still defined handwriting when I reached school age.

Autograph books, I thought. That’s what she meant when she said she and her friends had Facebook.

In fact, autograph books have experienced a bit of a renaissance in folklore circles, studied for the poetry they contain. Nearly everyone has heard this bit of folk verse that’s a staple of autograph albums:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet, and so are you.

Several humorous variations of the couplet are scattered through Mom’s sixth-grade book.

Violets are blue, violets are yellow,
you’re the girl that stole my fellow.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Send me ten $ and I will owe you.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
I have a bulldog that looks like you.

In some cases, the roses and violets have been completely transformed, but the pattern still is recognizable.

Sugar is sugar, salt is salt – if you don’t get married, it ain’t my fault!

Humor suffuses the sixth grade book. Much of it’s animal-related, perfectly understandable given the context of a small town in rural Iowa.

If I was  a little pig and rooted in your yard,
And you was a little dog, would you bite me very hard?
If I were a rabbit and had a tail of fluff,
I would jump up on your dresser and be your powder puff.

Even in the sixth grade, there was interest in love and marriage. Their view of things wasn’t always sweet and sentimental, but the tone remained just slightly humorous and tongue-in-cheek rather than nasty.

When you get married and have your twins, Come over to my house and borrow safety pins.
When you get married and live by the river, send me a peice [sic] of your old man’s liver.
When you get married and your old man’s cross, pick up the ink bottle (or rolling pin, or fireplace poker, or  tree limb) and say “I’m boss”.
When you get married and the baby’s cross, come over to my house and eat applesauce.

Sometimes, there’s evidence of ambivalence, a sense of inevitability mixed with high romance.

Wanda now, Wanda forever, Elliott now, but not forever.
Love your dollies, love your toys, but never, never love the boys.
The ocean is broad, the ocean is deep, in Buzz’s arms I’m longing to sleep.
Here I stand on two little chips, come over and kiss my sweet little lips.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, If JM don’t get you, somebody must.

Eventually, the kids began to grow up. Grade school gave way to high school. The larger world began to make its presence felt. The beginning of the Depression, the closing of the coal mines where so many fathers worked, all of the anxieties of economic loss and dislocation became a part of life. The Class of ’35 began to think about more than dollies and toys, and their concerns show up in the second, later album that I found.

The importance of the friendships they shared, and a recognition that friendships can end, appeared here and there among the more humorous entries.

In your ring of friendship, let me be the diamond.
Friendship is like a golden thread, easily broken by what is said.
When the rocks and rills divide us and you no more I see, just read this verse, my friend, and think again of me.

Inscriptions by teachers and older relatives almost always included words of guidance and counsel for the future, but even classmates began to draw on observation and personal experience to pen their own words of wisdom.

A wise old owl sat in a tree.
The more he heard, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?
Money is scarce, boys are plenty,
But don’t you marry until you’re twenty!
Just a little advice to aid you as you travel down life’s path,
Do not look for wrong or evil, you will find it if you do.
As you measure to your neighbor he will measure back to you.

As the boundaries of their world expanded, some entries in the autograph books became more cryptic. When the Melcher, Iowa Union reported on the morning of January 17, 1935, that “the Melcher High School girls won a very one-sided victory over the Lucas girls last Friday night at the local gymnasium, with a final score of 67-9″, that was my mother’s team. She played guard, and it’s not hard to find her teammates – or hints of hi-jinks – in her book.

“Away back here, where no one will look, I’ll sign my name in your precious book – Your classmate and forward, Vera”
“Dear Guard – Did you ever go home from a party like ‘this’? – The Jumping Center”
“Remember last night after basketball practice?”

Whatever they did after basketball practice, they weren’t telling. It was enough to acknowledge the bonds of friendship, achievement and shared experience that made them pledge, over and again, to be there for one another, forever.

Yours ’til snakes have hips…  Yours ’til the catfish has kittens… Yours ’til they shave warts off dill pickles… Yours ’til aeroplanes lay eggs… Yours ’til cows crow… Yours ’til stones begin to jump… Yours ’til the Statue of Liberty shimmies down Broadway (a reference to The Shimmy, a dance popularized by Gilda Gray during the Roaring Twenties).

By 1935, ready to leave school and begin life, the classmates grew introspective. Their entries became poignant, filled with subtle reminders of distance, time and death.

When your hair has turned to silver, I will love you just the same,
I will always call you sweetheart, that will always be your name.
Leaves may wither, flowers may die, some will forget you, but never shall I.
In filling your memory’s woodbox, put in a stick for me.
I wish you health, I wish you wealth, I wish you gold in store,
I wish you heaven after death, how could I wish you more?
When twilight pulls the curtain down and pins it with a star,
Remember me, dear Wanda, though we may wander far.

Working my way through the albums, I began to understand how my mother could misinterpret Facebook as a modern version of her autograph albums. Still, there are differences. Facebook is marketed; autograph books are passed on and treasured. Facebook promotes public exposure; autograph books by nature remain private and intensely personal.  Facebook promises connection; autograph books are read and re-read by people already so deeply connected it takes only a date, a name and a single brief  inscription to call up a lifetime of shared experience.

Obviously, there are hundreds of millions who log on to Facebook every day, and I wish them well. But life is filled with choices, and these are mine – first, to forego Facebook for other treasures of life, and now to trace the contours of a cherished album, to breathe in the mustiness of  decades-old paper and rest in the blessings directed to my mother so many years ago.

In the book of life, God’s albums,  may your name be penned with care,
And may all who here have written, write their name forever there.

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86 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How priceless those books are! Besides preserving a piece of your mother’s life, they are for all of us a look back at a time with different values and different sensibilities.

    Autograph books were a big item when I was in eighth grade. I still have mine. When we were planning our 46th anniversary high school reunion, I noticed that one girl I had gone to school with since kindergarten in 1947 had never signed my eighth-grade book. So I took it to one of the meetings and asked her to complete that part of our long relationship. She got a big kick out of it. One of my favorite pages in that book has a message from a man who worked in my father’s grocery store on Saturdays. He wrote: “Always try to be the kind of man your mother thinks you are.”

    • Charles,

      Different values and sensibilities, indeed. I’m grateful those values weren’t simply preserved in my mother’s autograph books. She and dad – along with teachers, relatives and the larger community -inculcated them in me, as well. I do feel like I’m out of step with the world from time to time, but that’s more of a blessing than a curse.

      I love that you took the time to have your friend add her signature to your book – such a lovely gesture. And such wisdom in that fellow’s inscription. Just because we know there’s a gap between our mother’s view of us and reality doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying to close the gap!

      You’ll see Mary Gianni in the middle of the bottom row of the first photo. Her parents owned the grocery store in town. During the Depression, they carried tickets for many families. When I was a child, I would go to that same store with my dad, and Mr. Gianni would give me a pickle from his stoneware crock.

      Linda

  2. And all of these words represent the roots of America, where those that experienced and witnessed dreamed of yet a better tomorrow. With the state of the nation as currently known, how many ways have we or will we fail those that came before …. and after. God help us.

    • Texasjune,

      There are days when I, too, fear the fabric of society has unraveled past the point of repair. While phrases like “work ethic” seem to have disappeared, we’re inundated with waves of unfortunate language and coarse behavior.

      My hope is that we won’t fail those who came before. But we can’t predict that. All we can do is live by the values we hold dear, make our choices responsibly and enjoy the gifts life has to offer.

      After all, as Rudy Giuliani made clear in New York, little things do make a difference. Cleaning up graffiti and stopping turnstile jumpers were first steps toward larger change. Perhaps your care for your land and proper punctuation in my blogs can be that same sort of small step!

      Linda

  3. Facebook, I see lately is worth $Billions. Those old albums though are worth much more: they are priceless!

    • montucky,

      Exactly. Your point reminds me of that bit of humorous but true internet wisdom: “If you’re getting it for free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product”.

      Not only that, you still can browse autograph albums when the servers are down!

      Linda

  4. I have one of these myself, my own, caught on the tail end of the trend, I suppose. They are wonderful reminders of a simpler time and kinder sentiments. My mother wrote in mine while I was at camp, as I had asked her to do. Thank you for this lovely reminder.

    • Teresa Evangeline,

      I went looking, just to see if autograph albums still are being sold. Indeed, they are. There aren’t many, but the fact that there are any at all makes me happy.

      I love the thought of your mother writing in your album while you were at camp. I can imagine your anticipation, opening the book to read her words. The beauty of it is that we can open the albums as often as we like, reminding ourselves in the process of those whose lives intertwine with our own.

      Linda

  5. Linda, I’m crazy about this post for so many reasons! I love the stories you tell of your mother, I love the stories of school and by-gone days, I love the beautiful cursive and the earnest look on all of the students. (They seem so grown up, so much older than today’s college students!)

    My grandmother had a similar book, or two, the first from her friends and the second from my grandfather. His writing was equal to none I’ve seen before or since, and he chose the most beautiful verses to grace her pages. Many of them were from the Bible, most of them were dedicated to “My Beautiful Brown Eyes…”

    These things make me so nostalgic for the past I have to be careful not to rue today. Where things were written in my son’s yearbook with words I couldn’t even repeat to you in private. Not to him personally, that’s just the way communication seems to be today; I think they get it from the songs they hear.

    Perhaps now I sound like your mother… xo

    • Bellezza,

      Yes, you sound like my mother – but I tend to sound rather like her myself, these days.

      The students in that senior photo look older because they were older – not in years, but in experience. Many of them faced challenges far more taxing than getting to the head of the line for the newest $150 sneaker. My mother was born the year WW I ended. Her mother died during the Depression, and she became responsible for her sisters. With the closing of the coal mines and the beginning of WW II, life became even harder, for everyone.

      On the other hand, those kids were responsible and resilient, capable of meeting challenges. They understood how to work, and how to be thrifty. The bad news was that, living in a small town, everyone knew everything about everyone else. The good news was that – everyone knew everything about everyone else, and people who were in need received help. People who deserved a good tongue-lashing often got it, too – and more. But we kids never got all the details on some of that.

      No, it wasn’t heaven on earth. There was plenty of ethnic prejudice, for example. I’m told those danged Swedes just wouldn’t have anything to do with the Lithuanians, and to her dying day my mother was hyper-sensitive about the difference between lace-curtain and shanty Irish. There was gossip aplenty, and petty thievery, and the Klan roamed around, turning crosses on the lawns of – Catholics! Still, it was a fine world in which to grow up.

      I do rue today, in many ways. Between the gangsta-rappers and the politically correct, the space for beauty, freedom and responsibility is diminishing.

      Well, except in your classroom. It thrills my heart to know there are people like you helping to raise up the next generation. It gives me hope.

      Linda

  6. So many of your pieces, like this one, would make good articles in printed magazines and books. I realize that books and magazines are on the decline relative to Facebook, blogs, and e-readers, but have you ever queried publishers about reprinting these posts? This current article, with its air of nostalgia, would appeal to people of a certain age who still subscribe to magazines, who still buy books, and who will keep on doing both.

    • Steve,

      I’ve had some pieces published here and there – in boating magazines, primarily. I had one entry on the anniversary of Katrina picked up by the Sun Herald in Biloxi, and some poetry was included in an anthology published by Liguori.

      I’ve thought casually about submitting some of my travel pieces, too – like the trip to the bonfires. But I’m ambivalent, and I’m not sure why.

      I could blather on about age, time, money, enjoyment – and it very well could be another example of a lady protesting too much. What’s funny is that a copy of the 2012 Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers just showed up in my mailbox last week.

      Maybe I should unwrap that thing and take a look.

      Linda

      • What synchronicity: I’d take it as a sign for you to look through that guide to magazine outlets.

  7. You have done us all such a service by putting this together, Linda. I can’t linger with this as long as I like today, but will come back, because amidst many wonderful places to savor in your piece, I find myself wondering if I am the last generation for Autograph books?

    • C.C.,

      I don’t think you’re the last generation – I hope you’re not. My prediction is that, as things become more and more digital, and therefore more ephemeral, there’s going to be a swing back to some of the older, more tangible ways of doing things.

      I discovered last night that Disney is selling autograph books at their theme parks. Wouldn’t it be something if they turned out to be in the forefront of autograph book preservation?

      So good to see you – I hope all is well for you!

      Linda

  8. You hit the motherload in the treasure department with this one — talk about something to cherish. How wonderful to see all those expressions — they’re so charming. But to have the joy of seeing the evolution from childhood to older times — that’s remarkable and beautiful. I agree with Steve that this would make a marvelous article — I could see it (don’t laugh!) in the back page of the Martha magazine or so many others.

    This also brought a sweet memory to my heart. One of the projects my mother did with us — I think in scouts, but maybe as a room mother — was making autograph books for the whole team. They had purple felt covers and I don’t remember how she held them together. I wish I still had that, as I do so many things from that time.

    I can see why your mom might get those mixed up with Facebook, but from where I sit, there is no comparison, primarily in the fleeting nature. FB will be gone as soon as the comment goes “beneath the fold” or the person decides not to be there anymore. These treasured books and memories will stay put so long as someone wants to have them, easy to find, to touch, to savor.

    Loveliness in so many ways…

    • jeanie,

      I rarely sit down with paper and pencil first. I do most of my work at the keyboard. But this needed a different approach, as the entries weren’t in chronological order. As I copied entries, I became aware of the changes in perspective over the years. It really was quite remarkable.

      I’m lucky to have a historical volume about the town, too. There are nearly 600 pages of newspaper clippings, photos, stories told by townspeople and so on. That’s where I got the details about that basketball game.

      Well, and this: during the 1931-32 season, the original Harlem Globetrotters showed up for an exhibition game! It was on the second try, though. The first time they tried to get to town, their model A got stuck between Pleasantville and Melcher, and they were late!

      It’s so nice that you remember making those autograph books – you started your crafting early. And I suspect your memories are a lot like mine – the most vivid involve doing something together.

      Mom, of course, didn’t really have a clue about Facebook – I’m sure it was a word she kept bumping into, and she just was trying to fit it into a familiar context. But she could sit with those albums, see the names, and tell stories forever. Having the tangible reminder made all the difference in the world.

      Linda

  9. It’s good to be reminded of such things, as you’ve done here. Just yesterday, we came down to the city and gathered together with long-time friends we haven’t seen in a while. One of our number asked me who all was coming and said, “I’ll tell you why when I see you.”

    She came to our gathering with envelopes for each of us. She’d been clearing out her basement and going through all her considerable stash of photographs (back when photos were on film!). Each envelope contained photographs of other times we spent together. Wasn’t that a fine and thoughtful thing to do? Of course, we all immediately dug into our envelopes and shared our photographs around.

    My friend also found many family photographs, going back so far as to include tintypes of some family members. Now she’s begun to go through old family correspondence. I have no doubt she’ll have a treasure trove that’s worth a book. (Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that she was born and bred in Iowa (Burlington) and still has a brother there.) In an old-fashioned way of safekeeping, I printed out the note she sent me telling me about her project so I would have it as a real, rather than a cyber-keepsake. It seemed only fitting, after all.

    • Susan,

      What a delightful gesture on your friend’s part. It’s such fun going through photos like that – although our family’s learned a difficult lesson. Be sure and record who’s in those photos, or you may come to the day when no one has a clue who they are!

      Of course, if there’s anything better than finding and keeping photos, it’s dumping bad photos. As far as I know, there’s not a single copy of my 5th grade photo extant. It was truly terrible, and it was enormously satisfying to tear up an entire cache of those things.

      i’m a bit of a printer, myself. In fact, I’m in the process of spending a half hour each day tidying up all of my blog entries – especially, re-formatting some of the earliest entries when I was still trying to figure out what I was doing.

      Then, I’m going to try a free program called BlogBooker to get a PDF of the whole business. As I understand it, you then proof and edit your blog from the PDF, resubmit and you get a high quality copy ready for a printer. It would be fun to have a few copies. But that’s for later on….

      Linda

  10. Ours were called ‘poesy album’, or ‘poetry album’; they contained no pictures, only little improving verses, some poetry, some home made ditties. Our teachers wrote in them too. we brought them out for special occasions, like major birthday and special church rituals. Small leather bound books they were, with gold-edged leaves. Some people stuck pretty shiny pictures in the pages, to go with the verses.

    I remember mine well; alas, it was one the many memories my mother destroyed after I left home, for the sake of tidiness and order. “Stuff like that only catches the dust and as you’ve left now anyway (gone to live in a different country ), you won’t be wanting it again.”

    There are times when my heart is ready to break.

    • Friko,

      I didn’t know if people in other countries followed the custom, too. Obviously, you did, and I like that your albums were called “poesy” or “poetry albums”. I suspect that name helped to shape the content. My mom’s “autograph albums” had a little collection of verses I didn’t include here that suggest a certain feeling of duress: for example, “Autograph writing is hard and tough. I’ve said ‘Hello’. Isn’t that enough?”

      And I love the phrase, “improving verses”. I’ve never heard it before, but knew immediately what you meant.

      I’m so sorry you lost your album. I suppose all of our mothers did things that were both consistent with their natures and slightly appalling – or even greatly appalling, for all that. Tidiness and order is a wonderful thing – Lord knows I could use a touch more of it around here. But some objects catch and hold memories as well as dust – I wish I’d learned that earlier, myself.

      Linda

  11. Just the other day I was thinking of the “roses are red, violets are blue” saying & wondering why they say violets are blue – I’ve always thought they looked purple (now if my husband were to read this we would have a huge discussion about purple & blue – ha!). But I guess purple wouldn’t do too well for a poem.

    My job is fairly introverted, so facebook is kind of like going to a bar to meet friends after work. But maybe I shouldn’t be going to the bar EVERY night, so I’m thinking of giving it up, or curtailing my activity there during Lent. Just to see what that would feel like.

    • Bug,

      Of course purple would work! Haven’t you heard the old classic?

      “Roses are red, violets are purple,
      I love you as much as sweet maple surple!”

      My grandpa taught me that one!

      Interesting, your comment about curtailing FB during Lent. I just read a piece today by Pico Iyer called “The Joy of Quiet”. Much of what he says supports changes I’ve been making in my own life over the past couple of years.

      One thing that caught my attention was this:

      “Two journalist friends of mine observe an “Internet sabbath” every week, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation. Finding myself at breakfast with a group of lawyers in Oxford four months ago, I noticed that all their talk was of sailing – or riding or bridge: Anything that would allow them to get out of radio contact for a few hours.

      Other friends try to go on long walks every Sunday, or to “forget” their mobile phones at home. A series of tests in recent years has shown, Mr Carr points out, that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper”.”

      There’s much more of interest in the article, which you can find here.

      Linda

    • I’ve come across quite a few flowers that have the word blue in their common name or are described as being blue, when in fact the color is violet or purple. By coincidence, my post this morning mentions that:

      A Blue that isn’t blue, a violet that isn’t a violet…

      Two others in Texas are the bluebonnet and the bluebell.

      • What a wonderful photo of that salvia/blue sage. The photo says it all – against that sky, blue becomes violet again!

        Now, I’m going to have to go peek at the old-fashioned bachelor buttons. I remember my grandmother’s mix as having some blue blossoms, but now I’m not sure.

  12. Hello, Linda,

    While I’m grateful that Facebook gives me a venue to stay in touch with distant family and friends, it in no way replaces my school year books or other memorabilia from the past. If your Mom was equating her year books and memory books with Facebook, she was giving it way too much credit! Facebook provides us with fleeting connections, but no lasting memories such as the ones you so generously shared with us, and Facebook certainly doesn’t have the charm of those wonderful photographs and penned sentiments.

    I remember how much we kids used to enjoy going through my mother’s cedar chest-full of a hodgepodge of old post cards, school year books, scrap books, photo albums, baby shoes, lace hankies, war medals, old letters, souvenirs from a trip to Europe after her high school graduation with three of her girlfriends and a maiden aunt and so much more! It was like a treasure chest of the cherished flotsam and jetsam of her life and it made a wonderful rainy day past-time, as she showed us these things while telling us the stories behind them.

    It must be a generational thing because my daughters, in turn, used to ask if they could look at my old year books and photo albums, but I was less flattered by their keen interest when one day they asked: “Mom, can we look at your school year books….” but added, “… so we can laugh at the pictures?” What can I say… it was the 70′s and the styles were pretty hideous, even for sedate Cape Cod which seldom ranges far from the usual New England uniform of jeans and flannels.

    I hope all is well with you and thank you for the delightful read! :-)

    Beth

    • Beth,

      As I mentioned to jeanie, I don’t think Mom really was equating Facebook and her treasures. As far as I know, she never saw a Facebook page in her life. But words are funny things, and one can lead to another. My suspicion is that hearing the word “facebook” on television or reading it in the newspaper was enough to trigger “autograph book” in her mind.

      But we’re in agreement on one thing – there’s nothing in the world like these little bits of life to evoke story-telling. I remember the mystery of the cedar chest from my own childhood. Many of its treasures are gone now, but many remain – tucked now into the suitcase Mom carried on her honeymoon, ready to be thrown into the back seat of the car for the next hurricane evacuation!

      Writing this has made me a little sad that I don’t have kids to pass all this stuff on to. I really am thinking about getting in touch with the historical society in Mom’s home town, which has begun a museum. I don’t have many items, but some, like the autograph albums, report cards and such, might fit in nicely. Something else to add to the “to-do list”!

      Glad you enjoyed the read. One of these days, you’ll be telling your stories to your grandchildren!

      Linda

  13. I love these old yearbooks. I have one from my mom and my grandmother. How careful the handwriting was – and all those little rhymes and special notes. So personal compared to electronic fare today!

    • philosophermouse,

      The handwriting was beautiful. Do they even teach handwriting in schools any more? Mom and I both were taught by the Palmer method. My writing changed over the years, but hers was consistently “whorly” until arthritis really set in.

      I love that you have your grandmother’s book, too. I wonder when the albums first came into use? Something else to explore!

      Linda

      ADD: Well, 1879, at least. Take a look at this treasure!

  14. Wanda now, Wanda forever, Elliott now, but not forever.. . . At first reading I figured Elliott was the current boy, good for now but not forever! It was only when I saw the pic that I realised that Elliott was the maiden name, soon to be abandoned for good. Yikes, even the phrase maiden name, who uses that anymore. . .

    • Jeannine,

      Now that you mention it – I can’t remember the last time I heard the phrase “maiden name” spoken. It’s still around on forms and such, and of course it’s a commonplace for anyone who does genealogical research, but it’s fallen victim to the times.

      That’s one of the reasons these books are such fun. I kept bumping up against little reminders of what life was like – so different from our own. For example, the same girl who wrote the verse you quoted added this below:

      “Hi there, boys, if you want to flirt, here comes Wanda in her sunburst skirt.”

      In case you’re wondering about sunburst skirts, everything old is new again. You can pick one up at Bloomingdale’s for only $168!

      Linda

  15. Reminds me of yearbooks when I was in high school. By then, though, I guess it wasn’t cool to be so poetic! However, if mine had not been destroyed by flood, I think reading a single “autograph” would indeed call forth memories, both good and bad! It was a really big deal to pass your yearbook around and anxiously see what your peers thought about you, wished you, or generally had to say about you. I’m pretty sure my grandmother had an autograph book, and your story makes me wish I could lay my hands on such a treasure.

    In regards to Facebook as applied in my daily life, my children are perpetually online through their cellular devices; and since I know they are monitoring Facebook throughout the day, it gives me easy access to them when a phone call can’t be answered! I can send the three adults one family memo at the same time, knowing it will be read and answered in a timely manner. So, it does come in handy for me in this technological society of which my children are a part!

    I totally agree with you, though: Facebook messages are nothing like the everlasting treasure of a hand-written sentiment. (I do love the annual Mother’s Day letter penned by Dotter!)

    BW

    • BW,

      Oh, I don’t mean to minimize Facebook as a communication tool at all, or even a casual “keep in touch” tool. Especially if I had a family as large as yours, I might be right there with you, slapping notices up on the wall!

      Still, the number of people wandering around with their noses stuck in a “device”, and the number of people I hear quite casually talking about their “addiction” to cyber-activity gives me pause. And, it’s becoming more clear as time goes on that one of the biggest obstacles to productive activity is online activity – quite the irony.

      In a sense, it’s the e-reader/bound book discussion in a different context. For passing on information, text, twitter or post away. For sharing memories, autograph books, yearbooks – even photographs – function quite differently.

      Viva la difference, that’s what I say!

      Linda

      • Well, it does concern me, too. Seeing most younger adults walking around with their heads in their 4G phones is the reason I don’t ever care to retrieve my email on a cell phone; even though I use a Crackberry and have the capability. I just don’t want to be that connected all the time. Heck, my kids would rather text me than call me, and as a result, over the years I’ve increased my plan from 250 texts a month, to 700, to 1500. Enough already! Last month I went OVER the 1500 texts. That is just ridiculous. That’s more than 50 texts a day, Linda. Do I have to start keeping count of texts now so I don’t go over and get charged PER TEXT, or do I take the “can’t beat em join em” mentality and pay through the nose for “UNLIMITED” everything? As you can see, I’m just not THAT cool with all this “connectivity”.

        • What can I say? I’ve never texted in my life. Not once. I’ve not noticed any lack in my life because of it. We used to say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Today, the marketers have reversed that and tell us “Invention is the mother of necessity” – because texting, twitter and Facebook are there, we need to make use of them. Well, when I find a reason, I’ll make use of the technology. As it is, I can’t justify the time or expense – for me.

  16. Linda,
    Another story that brought back a flood of memories and made me smile.
    You know what I am going to say next don’t you? Of course I have an old autograph book, possibly two or more of them in my old trunk in the attic. I have Hank Williams, Jr’s autograph when he was a boy along with his Mother, Audry and his uncle. That was my Jr High autograph book so all my friends signed it. Many with the poems you mentioned above!

    I’ll bet it was a delightful experience to read your Mother’s autograph albums. Also my YearBooks all have notes written in the pages from friends. All saying how “cute and sweet and nice” I am!

    I am on FB and I enjoy it because it reconnected me after 40 yrs with all those people who wrote those poems and messages in my yearbook. I like the way someone put it that it is like going out after work with friends for Happy Hour!

    Thank you again for a wonderful story that brings a smile to my face. Wonder if any of my kids will one day enjoy reading my old school things in my “trunk” that will reek of the 1960′s in a small town in Arkansas!

    Thanks again,
    Patti

    • Patti,

      I suspect your kids and grandkids will enjoy exploring that trunk, just as Beth and I enjoyed exploring the cedar chests our mothers filled wth their treasures. When I went through Mom’s cedar chest after she died, one of the things that struck me was how much in their was hand-made or hand-written.

      That’s the clue, right there – you can “hand down” something like an autograph album in a way that you can’t hand down something on Facebook. They’re just different, with different purposes. I like the way you connected the two, pointing out that FB helped you to reconnect wth the people who had written in your books so many years ago.

      One thing hasn’t changed over the years – you’re still “cute and sweet and nice”! ;-)

      Linda

  17. One of my nephews had a homework assignment when he was in high school. It was to have an older person answer questions to make a memory book. I still remember my mom, still the good student, saying how she was doing her homework and how long it took! I had a mental image of my mom diligently answering all the questions with just the right words and my nephew partying.

    For my mom’s first birthday after her passing, my sister sent us all a copy. Reading the story of my mom’s life in her own hand is priceless!

    Your mom’s beautiful memory books are giving you a little peek into her world before you. Whatever happened after basketball practice for Wanda, or my mom getting served a beer while her older sister was refused for being underage, is what really fascinates us. Imagine– these moms were actual people before they ever heard of us!

    • Claudia,

      It is fascinating – and there are more avenues for exploration than just that night after basketball practice.

      There’s Mom’s aunt, Margaret McAllister, for example. When I found her entry in the book, shown in the photo above, I had no idea who she was. For that matter, I’d never heard of the “Uncle Bill” who left his own little verse.

      I’ve since discovered which side of the family they were on, but questions remain, not the least of which is, “Why didn’t I ever hear about them?” Perhaps they died before I was born, and already were fading from memory. Perhaps there had been a family squabble. Perhaps they were bootleggers! It will be fun to figure out some of the mysteries.

      I love the thought of your mom sitting and writing out her “assignment”. I have a bit of hand-written family history from a great-aunt. It’s also a treasure – and I must say, she was quite a writer! All of them should be reminders to us that we’re part of the chain, too – if we don’t preserve and pass on these treasures, they’ll be lost to future generations.

      Linda

  18. A treasure trove of memories! Priceless!

    ~ Matt

    • Matt,

      Aren’t they, though! Of course you can imagine how delighted I was to find them – I just wish everyone had written in them with pen. Pencil fades after a few decades!

      Linda

  19. This is so beautifully said. Interesting the parallels between these albums and facebook…and I have to agree – the personal is far more powerful than the over-saturation of public connection. Such a thought-provoking post.

    • Marcie,

      If I were to pick one quality that distinguishes autograph albums from Facebook, I would say “thought”. Well, and permanency, which influenced peoples’ thought as they considered what to write in the book.

      Post on Twitter or Facebook, and it’s gone in a flash. It’s throw-away thought, not much different in quality than disposable cameras or razors. Both services have their uses – I do utilize Twitter myself from time to time, especially to publicize new blog posts. But utility is one thing. Preserving the best of life is another.

      Linda

  20. These are lovely. I think it is a tradition which should definitely be carried on by our digital little ones.
    Red.

    • Red,

      I think it’s hard for us, caught up in all the enthusiasm of the moment, to remember how quickly some things fade. MySpace, once the #1 social site on the web, now is #138 (give or take), and is owned by Justin Timberlake. How the mighty do fall.

      Five years from now, there’s no predicting what will have happened with Facebook. What is sure is that, if I’m still alive and still can see, I’ll still be able to open Mom’s albums and enjoy all of the history and memory they contain.

      And who knows? Maybe in the future the kids will be writing things like this in their autograph albums:

      Roses are red, violets are blue,
      I gave up on Facebook – how about you?

      ;-)

      Linda

      • That is rich! I wrote an epic poem recently about giving up FB. It is called Oh, Facebook! Give it a peek.
        Red.

        • Marvelous! Perhaps next we can do a melodrama, complete with a handlebar-mustachioed Mark Zuckerberg and a set of train-tracks to nowhere!

          • Oh, that is rich! I am having a hard time restraining the idea he should be tied to the tracks in a Natasha & Boris type scene. *snicker*
            Red.

  21. These are so graceful and joyous. You really get the impression that you are peering into the lives of youth, instead of children trying to look and act like adults. This is a precious and priceless phase of life captured on a page, and thus will live forever.

    I collect yearbooks; my earliest being one from 1911. Besides each photo there is a literary quote that best captures the personality of the student. I also collect autograph books; the ones from the 1890′s are full of sentiment and poems and pasted cut-outs of Victorian flowers and cherubs.

    Thank you mother, please, for sharing these memories with us!

    • aubrey,

      Well, they’ll live a good long time, unless they were written in pencil! Someone already has traced over some of the albums’ pencil entries in ink, and I’m going to do the same with others that still are legible.

      I do like the distinction you made between youth and children trying to act like adults. There’s no false sophistication in these pages. No matter how humorous, literary or hortatory the entries, it’s clear that they are real expressions of real people. No one is trying to impress anyone, because they already know one another too well for that to work.

      I love the Victorian cards, albums and postcards. I have three valentines that were sent to my mother’s mother – framed now, they’re true treasures of the heart.

      Linda

  22. Oh-Oh-Oh. The nostalgia of this post is downright touching, Linda. It brings back memories of our yearbooks and how important it was to go around at the end of a school year to get everyone’s “autograph.” We always wanted to choose our words with care because they would be there forever.

    Facebook is a horse of a different color. I didn’t “get it” for so long and didn’t WANT to get it. I was downright opposed to it and fought it tooth and nail. Then I gave in. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was testing the waters by just adding my 3-times-a week image from my photo blog. The jury was out for weeks. Then suddenly I saw it: I was having contact with high-school classmates, past co-workers, and even family members…all of whom I had previously no contact. Suddenly my whole world was opened up.

    Don’t get me wrong: most of what I see on FB still doesn’t make sense to me. Why would anyone possibly want to know what you ate for breakfast this morning??? If you can weed through all of that, you do find plenty of tasty morsels.

    • Ginnie,

      We were careful with those words, weren’t we? I think words were held in higher honor generally, and we were more sensitive to their effects. Remember the old sayings? “A man’s word is his bond” “Little pitchers have big ears”. “Loose lips sink ships”. The albums were about more than friendship and memories – they also serve as reminders about the responsible use of language.

      I’m not opposed to Facebook – I’m just one of those who don’t “get it”. There are many, many people who have patiently explained its virtues to me, and even after I’d been on Facebook for six months, I didn’t get it. My lack, no doubt.

      There’s another issue – that of time. It’s hard enough to carve out time for writing and reading. Even a half-hour on Facebook would cut into that “spare” time, and anyone who knows the internet knows that a half-hour anywhere is almost impossible. I don’t want to spend the time necessary “weeding through” to find the morsels – if I’m going to be on the interwebs, I want to read blogs, articles and so on.

      Don’t I just sound like an old stick-in-the-mud? That’s ok – there are garlic and sapphires down here – T.S. Eliot says so!.

      Linda

  23. These are priceless! What a treasure trove of heirloom and keepsake, Linda. Thanks for sharing with us. This is a most unique and enjoyable post.

    Come to think of it, I used to have autograph albums too, and for me growing up in Hong Kong, departing for college and immigrating to North America was the norm. That’s when these autograph albums came in. I’d signed a few, that was one of the first ‘poetry’ writing experience for me.

    Your mother was wise to point out these were the former Facebook. Alas, how much we’ve lost though over the years through the digital revolution, the personal touch, the actual proximity of being, the sentiments shared, the actual lives lived. Thank you for opening up an important portal back to our personal history.

    • Arti,

      Priceless, indeed. I also found two of her report cards, from the first and eighth grades. One of the categories on her first grade card was “hand work”! Can’t you just see a classroom full of little girls working on their cross stitch?

      I was intrigued to see there were no quotations from famous poets in Mom’s books. I suppose that’s why they fall into the category of folk poetry. Many of the verses seem to be common, but they have that feeling of being “homemade”. I suspect if someone came up with something really nice, others would appropriate it and use it themselves.

      The beauty of it all is that we have choices available that weren’t available in my mom’s time. If we choose to use Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t mean we have to use those exclusively. Many people I know are beginning to send “real” cards again, rather than electronic greeting cards. A real card can be propped on a window sill, used as a bookmark, re-sent back to the originator with another greeting – the possibilities are endless. An electronic card? Very nice, but pretty one-dimensional.

      For a while, Paul Graham was the only one I’d run into who shared my perspective on these issues, and had a reasoned argument to put forth. Increasingly, I’m finding others who share my views, including a few folks like Pico Iyer, Nora Ephron and Malcolm Gladwell. Humph. I feel a new post coming on!

      Linda

      • For awhile my aunt and I and my mother and I re-sent cards to each other; it was fun. Rather like some kind of precursor to the email thread.

        • That really is true – about the email thread. There were a couple of birthday cards in our family that kept getting sent around. We’d just scratch off the most recent name and add another. We always dated every card, too. It was especially useful if there were handwritten notes in the cards about illnesses, visits — that sort of thing.

          • It really is a great way to circulate cards and news. A good recycling activity too.

  24. I love this – the original “Facebook” – so much more creative in many ways!

    • Marilyn,

      It’s one more of those ways of communicating across boundaries – in this instance, across the boundary of time.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for commenting. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  25. Oh, my in-laws were older than your parents and older than mine. My MIL was born in ’06, “aught 6″, she would say. haha…even her language was of a sweet time from a distant past.

    So around 1922, before my mother was born and when my dad was only three, she graduated from high school. She graduated with her “girl’s book.” It was a formatted scrap book prepared to fill in pages. There were pages to put photographs of her high school friends (her high school didn’t make school pictures much less graduation pictures), pages for autographs, a place for her to quote her favorite verses, and pages for her to write about her dreams about the future. Her handwriting can be found all throughout her book.

    My husband and I have wondered if girls had a girl’s book, did the boys have anything similar? Thank you for waking me…and my husband up to that treasured book. I must photograph some pages and put it in the family book.

    • Georgette,

      After seeing how many boys wrote in Mom’s books, and how thoughtful (or at least extensive!) their comments were, I’m almost certain they had their own books. I hope they did. It would be a shame for these wonderful memories to have been just for girls!

      Yes, your MIL was a little older. My dad was born in 1912 and Mom in 1918. I’m surprised to hear about the formatted scrapbook. I had one of those, and assumed they were more modern. Apparently not. One similarity is that we wrote in our scrapbooks, too – and we tried so hard to do a good job, making our “hand” as pretty as our mothers’.

      Scanning and photographing some of these treasures is a wonderful new possibility. I found some flowers pressed into one of my grandmother’s books, and carefully scanned them. They were wildflowers, but some have ribbons – so many questions about those little bouquets!

      Linda

  26. A few years ago my sister was able to save my Mom’s autograph book from the garbage. My Mom threw it away because she thought no one would be interested in it. It’s beautiful – also full of “roses are red” stories, and a lovely dedication page from my grandmother. My sister’s got the book so I can’t share the autographs.

    Linda you’re a gifted storyteller and I agree with Steve that you should submit this to a magazine.

    • Rosie,

      It sounds like your Mom and I shared a bit of the “throwing gene”. I’ve always been more of a thrower than a keeper, for a variety of reasons. I’m just grateful that I have so many treasures that were preserved over the years. The truth is that my mom didn’t have a lot of “stuff”, but so many things that still are around are things that she truly treasured. Some I’ve already passed on to her sister, because there are cousins on that side who will keep and treasure the items – and I’m the end of the line, with no children of my own to pass them on to.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this. It’s been an amazement to me to find so many people have memories of this custom – even some in Europe. Perhaps we can find a place to “recycle” it for some other readers.

      Linda

  27. The owl poem was made famous by Katherine Hepburn in “Rooster Cogburn.” Now, if I knew the title, I could look it up and see if it was written prior to the late 19th century, which I believe was the setting of that film. Your post is making me wonder if the famous people from my high school signed my yearbook.

    Hope this finds you well.

    • symonsez,

      Well, you have just given me some fine entertainment. I had no idea the Owl poem was a part of “Rooster Cogburn”, let alone in Katherine Hepburn’s repertoire.

      I’ve just done some snooping, and I have to laugh. Turns out this poem was written by Edward Hersey Richards (1874-1957) who was born in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Not only that – this was it! The Wise Old Owl was a one-hit wonder – the only poem he ever had published. There may have been a few more floating around the house, but even in the school curricula I found, there’s solid agreement: one poem, famous forever.

      And it would have fit just fine in the film’s timeline.

      I found something else, too. The poem was slightly revised and used for a WWII poster, which you can see here (scroll down just a touch). The words were:

      A wise old owl sat in an oak, the more he saw, the less he spoke,
      The less he spoke, the more he heard…
      SOLDIER, be like that wise old bird!

      Everything is clipping along here just fine. It’s good to have you stop by – hope all’s well there, too.

      Linda

  28. What a lovely story, and how special that your mother hung on to all these pieces for so many years. I had friends write in my yearbook. Lucky for me I had already met the man that was to be my husband, so when they would write things like: “you and Randy were just meant to be together”, over 40 years later, that still holds true. I had a little stuffed dog that was an autograph dog back in elementary school – unfortunately long gone. But kids here still do use autograph books! I’ve seen them and written in them.

    And yes, we do still teach cursive, but I don’t think anything like when we were youngsters – as kids need to learn keyboarding now. When I was younger, it was only the girls that were taught typing, prepping us for secretarial jobs. But now boys and girls are taught keyboarding…starting in 2nd grade! After all – it is the way of the future!

    • Karen,

      I had completely forgotten my little stuffed weiner dog that also was meant for autographs. It had that nice, tightly woven and smooth covering, so the writing would be clear. And we always used real fountain pens – no ballpoint, because it would smear.

      I’m glad to know that the kids still are using autograph books. It’s easy to fear things have disappeared completely, just because we don’t hear them talked about. In the past day or so, I’ve discovered the reason Disney is marketing them so enthusiastically is that the kids (and perhaps adults!) collect autographs from the various characters at the theme parks.

      Ah, yes. The typing class.Ours actually were co-ed. The boys got to take part, too. Unfortunately, they didn’t let the girls into shop classes. We had to learn all that on our own, once we got out of school!

      Linda

      • My mom actually took a shop class (wood shop). She was ahead in school so had time to take some electives. Certainly not the norm for her day (40s), but my mom was not the norm :) I don’t remember many males in my typing class, there may have been some – but they certainly don’t stand out in my mind.

        • I figured out a long time ago your mom is a pretty special lady. It sounds like she was special in her youth, too!

  29. what a lovely post, those autograph books are such a wonderful source of family history,

    I’m not a huge fan of Facebook but it has its uses…

    • Juliet,

      You’re exactly right about Facebook. It should be a tool, not a way of life!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s occurred to me recently that these blogs can serve many of the same purposes as the autograph books and such – particularly if they’re saved in some other-than-digital form.

      Yet another project for The List!

      Linda

  30. This is a treasure trove of linguistic memorabilia in correspondence and social interaction! What an act of love. What strikes me is that we, of our generation, have a real choice between the media we choose for these social interactions. We were born into one (well this was before our time, in the previous generation), and have lived on into quite another. And wow, it changes faster than you can type LOL. But the current generation was born into this electronic age, and I wonder what these “nostalgic” correspondences will mean to them.

    Last night on the NBC nightly news the “making a difference” story was of a woman, a retired teacher, who has sent birthday cards to her students every year since she retired (and maybe before, I can’t remember). She sends about 400+ cards a year. She follows them wherever they are, sends a card, because she believes it will make a difference in how they see themselves, that they have value.

    Interestingly, especially in light of your post, she uses Facebook to keep track of where students are whose address she can’t find otherwise. She sent one request while she was interviewed, to friend one of her former students, and she received a reply during the interview. I think it’s important to use the resources we have the way we wish and not feel forced into anything someone else decides is good for us.

    I should also say that several of her former students were also interviewed, and they talked about how much this teacher’s cards meant to them. Three sisters said it had an impact on how they valued themselves. An older woman said it affected how she raised her own children, to remember to take time for hand written notes.

    • Ruth,

      Your story of the teacher is a perfect illustration of the power of choice. All of us have the freedom to combine both the old and the new in whatever proportion we choose. Some prefer to live at one end of the spectrum, using only electronic media for communication and interaction. Others reject not only Facebook and Twitter, but email as well, prefering to depend only upon the “old-fashioned ways” to keep in touch.

      Most of us are in that great middle. The trick, I suppose, is to be intentional about the choices we make, and their consequences. Understanding our own motivations doesn’t hurt, either – although that requires a certain self-awareness. For example, one of the tiny factors in my refusal of Facebook is the advertising angle. As the tech guru adage has it, “On the internet, if it’s free, you’re the product.” It’s true for Blogger and WordPress as much as for Facebook – as any of us who have gone through the changes to our beloved “services” knows! But in the case of WordPress, the advantages for me outweigh the negatives. So here I am.

      I did see something this morning that applies, beautifully. An artist whose blog I read was talking about a current exhibition at thePhillips Collection in Washington, DC. It’s called “Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard.” It explores the invention of the Kodak handheld camera, and the consequent advent of personal photography in the late 1800′s. As he pointed out, the camera allowed artists to ponder an image long after the moment had passed.

      Even though I enjoy receiving news via email, Twitter and blogs – just as many enjoy establishing contact and receiving updates via Facebook – there is a qualitative difference between the ephemeral nature of “all that”, and the physical reality of clipped obituaries, birth announcements, report cards and valentines in even the poorest of shoe boxes. The “ponderability factor” of those is much higher.

      Aren’t we lucky we have both?

      Linda

  31. I found an autograph book among my aunt’s belongings when she died. It was from 1932, and she was eight years old. I recognized some of the sayings you quoted here in her little book. And it was amazing to see the handwriting of some of her classmates whom I knew only as older men and women – my Great Aunts and Great Uncles.

    I enjoy Facebook as a way of keeping in touch with people of all ages, especially the young people I met when I worked in the high school. But there’s something entirely different and special about those yearbooks and memory books we had in the “older” days. I like the idea of leaving something behind for another generation to find and think about.

    • Becca,

      No surprise that you found some of the same sayings. The entries in Mom’s books all were 1929-1931. It was the same era. Of course, in the 50s, when I had my autograph books, the same “roses are red” verses still were around. The biggest difference was that my book had variations on jump-rope rhymes, too – and a funny precursor of text-speak: “2 sweet 2 B 4 gotten”!

      The physical, the tangible, the “pull-it-out-and-look-at-it-again” sorts of things are different. I’ve always liked the word “keepsake”, and that’s what they are. You were writing about tools – that’s how I see Facebook. When I need to take a sink apart, I look for a wrench. Someday, I may find something that makes me reach for Facebook. I just haven’t had the need yet.

      Linda

  32. I loved the one you penned: “In your ring of friendship, let me be the diamond”. What a powerful and meaningful request if asked in earnest.

    Fantastic article. I see a commenter suggest magazines and the like for your articles and it appears you have gone that route, but not so now. My guess is you write for yourself and should you write for someone else, well then it becomes a job more than pleasure. However, if you happened to have a link to a Kindle Book/Short Stories and or self published like in Lulu Press, I would be tempted to purchase one. You tend to draw knowledgeable and caring viewers. Just a thought.

    • Preston,

      That little inscription about the ring of friendship seems to have been part of a “sub-genre”. I found a couple others with the same form, like “In your row of apples, let me be the peach”. Some are just funny, but you’re right – the one about the diamond is lovely.

      I’m so glad you liked the story. I’d be happy to have a few more to combine together in some form, but figuring out how to get them written, how to get them published, and how to do all that while still working full time is something I can’t quite get my mind around yet.

      On the other hand, I said I wanted to push the boundaries a bit this year and do some story writing – now it’s only February and I have a first one. Maybe I need to push a little harder. And I do still have a clutch of postings from my trip to Kansas. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, freebies all around!

      Linda

  33. I have the high school autograph books that belonged to my parents; they’re in a drawer less than three feet from my computer. After reading this wonderful post, I looked through both books with a fresh perspective. I was struck by how many people wrote “For Get Me Not” (or “4 Get Me Not”) — one word in each of the page’s corners. The pages themselves were generally filled with poems, many bordering on the meaningless. It was those four little words in the corners that jumped out at me now.

    Maybe that’s what today’s Facebook is really all about: a simple plea to be remembered, dressed up with photos, interests, status updates, and endless lists of Friends. I wonder if our fear is not really of death, but of being forgotten.

    • Bronxboy,

      I’d not noticed it, but when I went back and looked at Mom’s autograph books, there were a couple of pages that had “4 get me not” tucked into the four corners. Clearly, these were meant to be memory books – and at least in my mother’s case, the realities of life at the time were such that even the children realized how tenuous life could be, how difficult, and how quickly circumstances could change. It wasn’t only the adults – the teachers and relatives – who were more serious in their entries when it came to remembrance.

      As for Facebook – it’s hard to say what the motivation is there. I’m sure many use it simply as a connectivity tool, while others may have other intentions. It doesn’t seem to me like a place to preserve anything, but that, as they say, is only my opinion.

      I’ve been pondering this during the afternoon, and I think I’d have to say that, for my mother and her friends, the issue wasn’t so much a fear of being forgotten, as a desire to be remembered fondly and well. That’s not a bad goal, either.

      Linda

  34. A very moving post, Linda, with those intimate pieces of family history that you’ve shared with us. And by the the way, I love the phrase “companionable silence” in the second paragraph.

    I feel that social networking sites like Facebook can be enriching. It all depends, of course, on how they’re used.

    • Andrew,

      The autograph books themselves are treasures, but so is that “companionable silence”. It takes time to develop, but anyone who’s lived or traveled with inveterate chatterers knows how valuable it is. As the old saying has it, there is a time and a purpose for everything, but our society has nearly forgotten that a time for silence can be good.

      I do agree with you. Like so much in life, Facebook is a tool. It’s neither good nor bad in itself – it is the use that makes the difference. I know people who seem to fear anything less than total connectivity. If their devices stop “chattering”, they get nervous! Better we should live in a companionable silence with our gizmos from time to time!

      Linda

  35. Such a wonderful post! I have many old family papers myself and can relate to how personal and treasured they are. There is something so touching about each entry in an autograph album.

    Lately, I’ve also started to collect autograph albums that have no relation to my family. It’s fun to investigate the previous owners and writers within. Sad, too, that no descendants in those families own them today. It’s great to see that you cherish your mother’s belongings. :-)

    • mirrorwithamemory,

      I’ve come by to visit your blog, and was completely entranced by the friendship vase with all of the signatures encircling the woman’s portrait. You’re exactly right – long before facebook, people still enjoyed recording and memorializing the friendships that gave context to their lives.

      After years of collecting, I’m beginning to disperse some things now – including a good bit of china. In a sense, what we part with says as much or more about us as what we’ve collected. We certainly do begin to learn what’s truly valuable to us – like these family papers.

      Thanks so much for your visit and the kindness of a comment. You’re welcome any time!

      Linda

  36. Thanks for linking me to your post on autograph books. So fascinating to think of our mothers in opposite hemispheres engaged with their autograph books. My mother’s book covers the period from 1933 to 36; basically her last years at grade school. Some of the verses in their books are similar. You may be interested in this reference to Face Book from 1901 http://cclblog.wordpress.com/?s=Facebook+

    • Gallivanta,

      Mom was just a bit older than your mother, but the practice certainly did endure for some time. When I was in grade school we all had our autograph books. I don’t know where my favorite ever went off to. It had a white cover, and pages of colored paper – pink, yellow, mint green, and blue.

      That Face Book post is truly fascinating. I’ve always been intrigued by the visiting cards, too. Long before people started swapping business cards at conventions and cocktail parties, there were creative ways for people to keep themselves in others’ minds.

      i’d be terrible at drawing, though. If I were forced to do sketching, I’d probably never go a-visiting!

      Linda

      • Yes, my sketches wouldn’t be very acceptable, either. I think it’s interesting that autograph books were originally a university student ‘thing’, centuries ago, but now they belong in the domain of children.
        Both my autograph book and my mother’s have pages of coloured paper. My daughter’s book, which dates from 1992, has coloured paper too.


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