Family journals can be lifesavers. Literally.
Thanks to the 28 years of journals kept by my paternal grandmother, I am able to answer many of the questions I neglected to ask when she was still alive. Of course, the journals also raise some questions I will likely never know the answers to.
I always pictured my Dad’s parents as quiet, strict, stay-at-home types. They were much more complex than that.
In the last year I have learned that they lost the first house they were buying when the owner of record went broke just at the start of the depression. They later moved into the house I knew as their home and began an endless series of upgrades, including replacing the floors with maple flooring they bought from the first school my father attended.
Grandma had been married once before she married Grandpa, something I’m certain Grandpa knew about but which was apparently kept from their first-born, my Dad. I have found no mention of her first husband in the journals, however.
I have learned, to my utter amazement, that this hard-working, blue collar couple from Iowa also owned land in Florida and, apparently, Texas. They were smitten by Florida from their first visit and eventually bought some property in Clearwater Beach, land they never developed and which Grandma sold in the early 1960s after Grandpa’s death.
The vague journal references to Texas, though, are a mystery to me. In 1956, when they leased the oil rights to an unnamed company, there was a series of meetings, letter exchanges and phone calls with lawyers before Grandpa and his three brothers signed off on the deal.
Since an unrelated woman from their hometown of North Bend, Nebraska, was also mentioned in the oil leasing deal, I wonder who actually owned the property and what the outcome was. Perhaps I’ll learn more as I work my way through the journals.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy Grandma’s observations on family, work, life and health as well as her near-compulsive fascination with the weather.
Writing prompt for the day: Have you collected and examined the diaries and journals of your departed family members?
Photo: Harry lehmer and Jessie Breckenridge in 1919. (Walter B. Lehmer collection).