Thursday, January 7, 2010

Treasure Thursday: Grandma Space's Journals

Long before "Journaling for Dummies" and bi-monthly magazines dedicated to journals were published, William Wordsworth penned the words Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. I often wonder if my grandmother, Alma Loretta Polar Space, came across these words and took them to heart. Among my family treasures are several brown notebooks chronically travels of my grandparents; also included is a diary, written in 1962.

I have no doubt my grandmother never intended nor did she envision that I would end up with her journals. Hearing her distinctive laugh she would find it difficult to believe that I - or anyone - would find her journaling interesting. What could possibly be interesting about washing dishes, trips to the store and visits with friends and family?

Written in her bold penmanship the travel diaries mark trips to Montana and Las Vegas, Oregon and Milwaukee. Where they stayed (stayed at Mobridge, South Dakota in a rather shabby cabin. Cooled off after the rain) how many miles they drove each day and the sights and sounds. One of my favorite entries chronicles a day in the life when there was an apparent discussion on which route to take which resulted in having to back track. Even after 40 years, the entry resonates with "I told you so."

What could possibly be interesting about my life? January 4 - Went to town for groceries. Snowed while in town. Later it cleared off. Bergeron's came. John & Phyl left early. Mrs. B. told me they are closing the store. Had chicken.

Hidden among the every day are the milestones, such as April 21, 1962, when my grandfather's brother, Forest "Bob" Space, spending the Easter holiday with my grandparents, suffered a massive heart attack. I recall the moment my mother received the phone call with the sad news that her favorite uncle had suddenly passed away. Forty years later, I hear the anguish from someone who lived the event: The day we won't care to remember ... no need to write more we will never forget it.

My grandmother loved to read, she introduced her granddaughters to Beatrix Potter and Carl Sandburg. First and foremost, she was a teacher, one of the many pioneer women whose classrooms were in the now vanishing rural schools of Langlade county. She told me stories of driving through snow drifts over low and no maintenance roads, hoping she would not get stuck as it was the responsibility of the teacher to arrive before the students to build a fire, shovel the steps in winter and make sure the school house was ready. At one point during her teaching career, Gram was asked to teach a summer school session for students with special needs in Summit Lake. From the pages of her journal, I discovered that my grandmother struggled with lesson plans and worried she might not be able to finish out the term.

Powers School located in Langlade County, WI, Circa 1912

With the help and encouragement of her sister, Leona, who was also one of the hearty rural teachers, my grandmother was able to come up with new ideas for her lesson plans and regained her confidence. That summer spent teaching in Summit Lake remained one of her teaching highlights.

Alma Loretta Polar Space, front row in white dress, and her sister
Leona Polar, standing second from left

October 12, 1962 marked their 40th wedding anniversary. Her journal entry on that day read: Beautiful moonlight. Forty years ago was a nice day. Everything quiet at school. Left early. What a surprise! Most of the old gang and Space relatives came to celebrate our anniversary. How very nice! Don & Helen came about nine thirty.

My treasure? The chance to, once again, spend time with my grandmother, as I remember her before Alzheimer's took her from those she loved and who loved her.
"... the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make." Truman Capote

October 12, 1982 - 60th wedding anniversary
Harley Allen Space and Alma Loretta Polar

With the exception of quotes by Wordsworth and Capote, all text and photographs
Copyright Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski 2010


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post, the way you were able to tie known events to her entries. Very cool!

Lori said...

Hi Cindy! I love your blog. I have awarded you the Happy 101 Award. You can pick up the award at Thanks for sharing your life with us!

Anonymous said...

一起加油吧 ..................................................

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Diary entries are still the best... my mother kept them from 1932 to 1999 in her final days... treasures, for sure. Enjoy every page. Even the "mundane" are meaningful to use, being able to imagine them writing the words.

Keep these ancestor stories coming!

Bill ;-)
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"


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