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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Dad's Diary

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 3, 2017

 Recently, I noticed that a particular November date would have been my father’s 98th birthday, if he were still living.


I texted my brother to see if he remembered the date, and yes, he had thought of it too, and did the math to calculate that 98 years had passed since dad’s birth.


My father enjoyed learning about his family tree, but he wanted my mother and me to do the work of research and we were delighted to fill the request.


He was an only child, and his extended family was small.  The Hall Family was large in that there were 11 children but there reproduction was small and today my brother and I are nearly the only descendants of that Hall line with the last name.


My mother had somewhat more family members, and her interest was to prove being descended from a Revolutionary War veteran so she could join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and a 13 year tract of research did make that a reality.


In my parent’s day, searching a family tree and doing genealogy meant a lot of hunting through libraries and government agencies and offices and writing to distant relatives for clues.


That all still happens today, but has been significantly supplemented by online systems of information developed by a massive amount of digitizing of records.


My father was born on Thanksgiving Day 1919, so this Thanksgiving I was thinking that I should carefully read his diary this year.


In 1995, he asked me if I would fix the binding of his “diary” and I said “certainly” but was shocked that he even had such a book.


Well, it turned out to be a 5-year diary that covered 1944-1948 allowing a couple of lines for entries for each day.


I fixed the binding and returned it to him, and a couple of years after that he gave me the diary to keep.


I skimmed through it and read entry after entry about the weather and some odds and ends about this and that --- and then put it away for a more thorough reading and review at another time.


12 years after he died was time enough and I read it and made some notes to share with my brother.


The diary was complete for 1944-1945 as World War II events filled any pages that the weather missed, but as his marriage to mom in 1946 developed the diary “got thin.”


He admitted that mom gave him the diary when they were dating, and kept pushing for him to write in it --- which he did until August 25, 1946 when they married.  Then it got sketchy.


I have to admit interest in his friends during that time period, as by the time I was around and observing my parent’s friends, they had all changed.


The most interesting entry stated, “Had to go to the Doctor today, as I ate some moldy Bran Flakes and got sick.”


I was shocked that someone would eat something identified as moldy, but my brother reminded me that dad was a product of the Great Depression and nothing was wasted, moldy or not.


The other big event was a drive to New Concord, Ohio after gas rationing had ended, and he ripped the rear bumper off the Hudson due to a telephone pole near the curb.


His mother and aunt were along and both loaded the bumper in the trunk of the car and tied down the lid with a rope until they returned home to pay 2 dollars to get the bumper reattached.


So why share the events of my father’s diary?


To interest you in using a library to search your family tree, and if you are fortunate enough to find a diary or documents where your ancestor wrote stories of daily life --- take full advantage of it and share it with your descendants.


Any think about what will remain of your life, just an obituary?