I HAD SO MUCH FUN IN 1951
I got my first pair of glasses on January 5, 1951, a Friday. Less than six weeks later I broke them. I only know this because it’s written down in a diary retrieved from a box in our basement.
The first pages of the book were reserved for vital personal information. At 13 years old I was five foot eight and weighed 150 pounds, my phone number in Frankfort, Indiana was 4354, and the license plate number on my Schwinn bike was 1204. Some scribbling indicates I was paying off the bike $4 a week with money from my paper route.
A chart giving the population of major U.S. cities shows that in the 1940 census Bangor, Maine, had nearly 2,000 more people than Miami Beach, According to another chart, a letter mailed from New York City to Baghdad would get there in 42 days.
There are also instructions on what to do if someone has been poisoned, what time it is in cities around the world when it is noon in Washington D.C., and a full page on “interest calculations,” with the calculations ranging from 4% to 12 %. That’s not something you’d find in today’s diaries, so as soon as I finish this essay I plan to copy that page and send it to my bank.
For someone who as an adult wrote news stories for a living, there is very little meat to my diary entries. Boswell I wasn’t. Here’s what I said about January 14th: “Went to Aunt Ada’s. Had snowball fight.” More than half a century later I’m certain Aunt Ada wasn’t out in her yard throwing snowballs at me and my brothers. She was my father’s only sister, a widow, a fine cook who played the piano at church and a woman who wasn’t accustomed to throwing things outdoors or in.
On January30th, I wrote, “Learned Morse Code.” Followed on February 1 by, “Passed Morse Code.” How’s that for clarity? Did I eat the Morse Code and then two days later passed it?
I always preached to young broadcast writers that “little pictures” make stories. If you tell an audience two coal miners were killed in an accident in Kentucky, that’s one thing. But if you know the two coal miners were cousins and include that, it adds much more atmosphere to your story. There are few “little pictures” in my diary.
February 12: “Went to Scout Meeting. Went to School. Had fun.”
February 13: “Had fun at school. Carried paper route. Had fun in Phys. Ed.”
What was I doing that was so much fun? Teasing girls? Punching buddies on the arm? Doing pushups in gym class? Talking back to teachers? Who knows? I wonder if any of my teachers kept diaries and wrote, time after time, “Went to work. Had fun.”
While I’d bet breaking my glasses was a big deal to my parents, it wasn’t in my diary. “Cut my eye and broke glasses” was my entry on February 15th. Not a single clue as to what happened. Probably just having more fun of some kind.
In going through the diary, the most surprising thing to me is how much I’ve forgotten about my early teen years. A section in the back lists the names, phone numbers and addresses of eight boys, four of whom I barely remember. And then there is the question of lunch—we never had it. Several times I mention going to someone’s house, including Aunt Ada’s, for “dinner and supper.”
When did I start calling the middle meal of the day lunch instead of dinner? What did I call lunch meat as a kid? Dinner meat? Could missing lunch for so many years explain my behavior now? Too often dinner is merely my last sit-down meal of the day. As I do the dishes and pans, I pop chocolate after chocolate into my mouth.
I’m glad I gave up keeping a diary a long time ago. I’m not sure I’d be honest enough to confess night after night my addiction to sweets. No one likes to rat on themselves.
(This appeared originally in the May 2018 issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)