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James R. Stout

2 Longs, 1 Short

            I have been working hard on my book. I’m currently going through the editing process and I believe the editing process is much harder than writing the book was! Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. Part of the process has been coming up with the book cover. I think I’ve got the one I want to use, but throughout the process I have tried different designs. I was looking through an old trunk that had been my great-great-Grandmother’s trunk originally. It was likely made in about 1860. It went through some changes along the way including a cloth cover, but it is mostly the way it was 160 years ago on the inside. I was looking for a copy of Life Magazine that I knew was in the trunk. It’s the issue following the assassination of JFK. I found the magazine and when I picked it up something fell out of it that must have been put there decades ago. What you ask? Well, it’s a small thin booklet that was given out by a local bank during Christmas of 1958. It was actually a calendar with each day of 1959 allowing space for a note to be written. To my delight I found that it was a daily journal that my Grandmother kept that year.

            She was very diligent in keeping the journal. Every day has something written no matter how unimportant or seemingly insignificant. But the best part was that it gives a great insight into the daily lives of my grandparents as well as notes on their children’s lives and grandchildren’s lives. I’m one of the latter. I turned 4 years old in September of that year. I have some memories of those days, but they are not as organized in my mind as later years of my childhood. Still, I do remember certain things. The best part of this journal is that it is proof of that my memories are real and accurate. In my book I mention spending time at my grandparent’s farm when I was little. In the journal my Grandmother notes on November 22nd, a Sunday, that “The Stouts went home after lunch today and Randy stayed with us.” Two weeks later my Grandmother wrote that “The Stouts picked up Randy today.”

            There were other entries that year that showed I stayed with my grandparents for a combined 6 weeks. That doesn’t count the once a month visits the whole family made for a weekend. Some of Grandma’s other entries were very short and to the point. One day she simply wrote, “Bad cough today.” Another one said, “Sold 2 dozen eggs.” The weather seemed to be one of the major things she wrote about. Something as simple as “Rained all day” or “Cold front came through last night.”

            In early November she mentions that she made three sets of pajamas and two nightgowns. I’ll attach a picture of me, my sisters, and my cousins in our matching pajamas of which she mentioned. I knew the picture was from either 1959 or 1960. Now I know for sure it was in 1959. Besides the journal part of the booklet there are spaces for noting phone numbers for friends and family. At that time, they still had their old crank phone. My Grandfather’s best friend, Little John Shaw” (also my Grandmother’s 1st cousin), lived nearby. He was one of 8 members of a party line on the small local system. Grandma noted that Little John’s ring was changed to 1 long, 2 shorts. There were no numbers and no dialing on those old phones. You rang someone by calling using long and short rings in a combination. My grandparent’s ring was 2 longs, 1 short. Just the opposite of Little John’s. I used to get very confused about all that.

            I remember the way the dining room was during those days. The phone was in the corner of one wall. It was never intended to be used for a long conversation. Phones in those days were for short and to the point communications. No chair to sit and chat. You also had to know your own ring because if any of the 8 members made or received a call the phone rang. If it wasn’t your ring, then you didn’t answer it. In another corner was a small three-tiered shelf. It contained a brush for my Grandmother’s hair, a box of Band-aids, a couple of hair pins for my Grandmother, a comb for my grandfather, and on the bottom shelf there was a notepad. I’m guessing that the journal was kept on these shelves in 1959. It would be just the right place for it.

            Well, thinking on all of this and reading through the journal has been very enjoyable. It allowed me the ability to live that year through my Grandmother’s eyes instead of my memories which are tinted with being a young child at the time. Do you keep a journal of some kind? Probably not a handwritten journal, but if you are on Facebook every day, then a record is being kept. But even that isn’t the same as a handwritten journal. Facebook entries are intended for an audience whether we want to admit it or not. But a journal or diary is just you and your thoughts that are initially for your consumption only. However, 60 years later your journal could be a treasure, a souvenir, for your grandchildren. These are the things that my book, “Souvenirs from a Life” dwell on. You’ll be hearing more about the book as it gets closer to print time. In the meantime, write something down and keep it for your grandchildren to enjoy 60 or 70 years from now.

Christmas of 1959

Top row: My sisters Debbie and Barbara

Bottom Row: Me, and Cousins David and Phil

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