Found in the Archives!

KayAnn Warner

Friday Mar 11th, 2022

It’s time for a “Found in the Archives!” blog post or rather more fitting would be, “The Occasional Blog!”. As we have found out, there lacks consistency to the fitting name, call it as you will. I have been traipsing along since the last post, going through a historic house preservation themed collection that has taken a wee too much of my time. After going through dozens of folders and a few hundred items, the last thing I found in the collection was a little red book called, “Individualities”, curated by Mildred Sherrer and her friends during the time frame 1917-1923. This lovely artifact was given to her Christmas of 1917, age of the writers is unknown. The book is designed “to preserving a record of those individual likes and dislikes of our friends with which we are so familiar”.

Each entry consists of 16 questions, here are a few that should make you giggle:

  • “What verse of scripture appeals most to you?” and one answer being, “None whatsoever.”
  • “What is your idea of happiness?” and Ralph answered, “Ask Mary B or Katherine.” Meanwhile, Robert answered by drawing a bottle with XXX on the front.
  • “What is your chief aim in life?” with one answer being, “She comes ABOUT [voraciously underlined] to my shoulder.” Another by Willard, is “Be a Bum.” John so eloquently wrote, “To raise Hell”, which is my personal favorite. Edwin actually may have won the best comment with this gem, “Follow the ponies”.
  • “What is your idea of happiness?” answer, “A girl, one child, darkness.”
  • “What is your opinion of white lies?” and Rexford answered simply, “Handy.”
  • “What is your ideal motto?” Mildred wrote, “Don’t love a little boy lots, love lots of boys a little.”
  • “What occupation do you like best?” and William wrote, “Sleeping.”—Such a succinct and VALID answer!
  • “What sport do you enjoy the most?” Russell the rogue answered with, “Calling on?”

There is also a rating system of qualities the person identifies to on the opposite page as well as their signature, address and the date it was written. Reading this journal/book one cannot get a grasp of age of the curators. Assumption was high school but for questions like, “What style of beauty do you admire most?”, had answers like, “My wife” which threw me off a bit. Towards the end of the journal I found a newspaper clipping, undated, that talked about the class of 1919 and their dinner at the Boston Store restaurant which solidified they were highschool students. How risqué they were! I guess teenagers, no matter the generation, have always been, well, teenagers.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Why this piece caught my attention is not necessarily the good laughs but the specific question of “What is your favorite song?” We can find popular song lists by year/generation/genres but do we ever see someones personal favorite? Do we ever get to read it in their handwriting? How often have you asked an elder member of your family what their favorite song was in a particular year and they can recall their teenage self and that song? Never. Seeing them writing their preference, so honest, so absolute in that time frame, is so beautiful. I assumed others would find it just as valuable and beautiful, so in conjunction with this blog post and photographs, I have created a YouTube playlist that is an amalgamation of over a dozen song preferences that was written for each entry. Not all songs are picked and not all songs were findable. I will add that there was a girl named, Hazel, whose answer was, “Whatever is popular and pretty jazzy.” If the playlist doesn’t highlight the jazziness of the time, I think this statement does. Also note, one or two songs have recorded dates later than the time frame of the book/journal, but they are the only accessible version.

To end, I cannot begin to describe to you how many people wrote “Dictionary” for the question, “Book to take up for an hour?” nor can I answer why.

Enjoy the photographs, the read and have a listen to songs Erieites loved over 100 years ago!