Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Piggybacking on yesterday’s theme, I have an interesting journal story.
About five years ago, my friend Liz and I were driving around in Massachusetts. We came upon an estate sale near Gloucester and decided to check it out.
By the time we got there, everything was already heavily picked over. Among the remaining detritus, there were books scattered on the floor, many of them quite old. Being a book person, I began picking through them.
I found a diary, handwritten in a hardbound book with an embossed cover, dating from 1940. I showed it to the person running the sale, thinking they might want it. But they said the heirs wanted nothing in the house. So I bought the diary for $1.
It has a name in it, but I won’t give that away. (I’ve also changed the names in the entries below.) The diary begins on February 1:
“My birthday! Everything covered in snow! Didn’t hear much from home in Texas. Didn’t do anything all day. Harry came by at 4 and we went for a long drive. That night he took me to the Latin Quarter. We had a table right on the floor. Gee, I got as tight as a loon on 2 1/2 Tom Collins. Harry couldn’t believe it. He brought me home. Marge and Pat put me to bed. I had a grand day. I am 22 now.”
The next day:
“My first hangover!!! So help me, it is my last. Couldn’t eat all day. Finally crammed down a banana. Went over to Dean Road and ice skated. Felt so dizzy and fell so many times, I finally gave up and came home. The outing helped my head.”
On February 16:
“Pat gave Harry and I passes to Sonja Henie’s ‘Hollywood Ice Revue of 1940.’ Oh, she is adorable and her skating is incomparable. We saw her at the Boston Garden. We came home right after the show. Snow was up to our shoulders. Harry tried to jump a bank and slipped and fell. He hit me with a snowball.”
It goes on and on like this, and it’s fascinating. The young author was a fashion model in a department store -- “the clientele is the best in Boston” -- and she records her outings to plays and with various young suitors. On March 4, she went backstage at a play and met Tallulah Bankhead: “She is very witty and has a husky voice.”
Perhaps not surprisingly for a fashion model, she is surrounded by a veritable whirl of young men. The social scene eventually becomes quite frantic, with a huge cast of characters. Eventually, a couple of men ask to marry her, but she turns them down:
“Len gave me a $10,000, 7 1/2 carat engagement ring, mine to have when I say the word. I nearly fainted.”
Through it all, she goes to church periodically, enjoys nights out at plays and nightclubs, and listens to Bob Hope on the radio. There are only hints of anything really personal, like the entry when she comes home late one night with a boyfriend and writes only, “something important happened.”
Then there’s the last entry, on July 23:
“What a day! Lunch at Schrafft’s with Miss Tucker. Chuck called. Saw Walter. I never had such a dirty nasty trick pulled on me. Walter is nothing but a rat! Chuck was upset. So was I. He was swell, tho. It’s best I don’t see anyone for a while, not even Chuck. A letter from Fay Photo -- wants test shots. Harry called -- and a night to remember.”
And there it ends. So who knows what happens. Does she marry Chuck, or Harry, or Len? We’ll never know. But it’s still the best reading ever!
(Photo: Lafayette Street, March 2008)