Diaries Revisited – September

diaries line up


Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. I wore my coolest dress because it was 90° Boy it was HOT. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. After school I did my homework…Then I played Army…We watched TV. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. It wasn’t my day. I brought my lunch… (grade 5)


When September rolls around, traditions click into place. Even irrelevant outdated ones – when entrenched in childhood, they still rise to the surface years later. Like the cream floating on milk in those half gallon bottles delivered by the milkman when I was 9.

But I digress.

More like  whoops it’s past Labor Day, now I have to stop wearing white shoes.  Which, again, is no longer relevant. I don’t even own white shoes.

Labor Day. My childhood diaries mark its significance. Labor Day meant getting ready for school, the beginning of school and the end of summer. And my white footwear was shoved to the back of the closet until the following Memorial Day. Which was fine with me, as I preferred my Keds.


I put dividers in my notebooks…Maddy came over and helped me organize my notebooks…(grade 6)

Today I went to school…I began to understand the Math…(grade 6)

Today I went to school. We had Math. Then Science…After lunch & Social Studies we had gym. We played keep-away football…(grade 6)


September = shopping trips for school clothes. Sensible dresses, skirts, shoes. One year: dresses with attached poor boy tops. And then just poor boy tops. A CPO jacket. Penny loafers. Or – after much begging and cajoling – a bra. My my. And finally, after more begging – stockings and a garter belt. This was years before girls could wear pants to school. A new pocketbook – at some point – with my own saved-up money. Bought at a discount store with a girlfriend. One year a madras style. One year with fringe. If possible, with zippers.


I attended 5 public schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. There was always a wariness mixed with excitement before each school year started. Who would my teachers be? But mostly – who would the other girls in my class be? Would Diane be back to mock me and make me feel small? Damned if she didn’t follow me from school to school until we moved in my 6th grade year. Decades before bullying became a news headline, it was – of course – still rampant.


…Wore stockings to school. Had a terrible lunch – meatball hero. (grade 7)

Today I went to school…Came home and washed dishes, made salad & whip ‘n chill. (grade 7)

…My hair turned out great.* It stayed in all day. Even when it rained. (grade 7)


*Dippity-Do – another back-to-school must have. That stuff (plus pink plastic curlers) was magic for curling straight hair.

September = shopping for school supplies. I loved this part. Wandering the aisles at Valley Fair. The 1960’s version of Walmart plus Woolworth’s plus creaky wooden floors. Everything was in there – 45’s and pocketbooks and stockings and Wrangler dungarees and cheap cosmetics…and in September…a whole aisle of paper. All kinds. Notebook paper. Lined and unlined. Graph paper. Pads of paper. Yellow pads. White pads. Packs of pens and pencils hanging from hooks on display. Bic pens. Flair pens. Yellow pencils. Colored pencils. Blue three-ring binders. Black and white composition books. Smooth, blank and full of potential. Pink erasers. Notebook dividers. Pencil cases. Rulers. Protractors. When I discovered cartridge pens – with the little ink cartridges and calligraphy tips built right in:  Jackpot Fancy.


Tried on dresses so Grammy could shorten some. (grade 8)

Went to school. Hot out…After school I went to Westwood. Got a new pocketbook – has a chain handle. (grade 8)


I usually got a hair cut.  So did my sisters and brother.

Haircut. New dress. New shoes. Lunch. Notebooks and schedule. Ready to go.


Today I went to school. Today was the opening of the high school for all students. I really felt crowded today. The lunch was good…. (grade 9)


As I got older, September also marked changes in my after-school life.

Grammar school: Chores. Playing army with my brother. Or building a fort with my friend Kathleen. Riding my bike. Playing kickball in the street.

High school: Chores and babysitting my siblings. Lots of babysitting my siblings. Listening to records & AM radio. Talking on the phone, shopping or baking with my girlfriends. At their houses. At Wendy’s it was snickerdoodles. At Vikki’s it was fudge. Or maybe we just ate her mother’s fudge, because she was such an amazing baker. Vikki and I used to joke that we would widen our doors for each other when we got older. Forecasting the obesity that never materialized.

…back to September and another tradition…

First Day of School Picture

8th grade


Went to school…We had to write an imaginary story in English about what we would do with a super power. I picked invisibility. The lunch here is so much better than last year…On the way home the bus broke down & we had to change busses to get home…(grade 9)



The Whole darn Bunch

Opa never told me about his drawings.

I found one in a box with a stack of his and Oma’s old photographs. A small rectangle of cardstock – measuring about 6″ x 2 1/4.”  Drawn in ink, perhaps with a fountain pen. My mother had written on the back…identifying it as Opa’s handiwork.


opa oma friends 1926005
circa 1926

Who are these people? I recognized two names: “Hank” is Opa and “Ruth” is Oma.  The details make me smile. Cowlicks. Curly hair. Twelve friends holding hands and grinning. Each person just a bit different from the next. Whimsical and sweet and young and happy.

And then I found these photos tucked in with the drawing.

opa oma friends 1926002
Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I can match two of them…Hank and Ruth are second from the right. The rest – I can only guess; although “Andy” in the tank top could be a close bet on the far left.

Oma was 19 and Opa was 20 years old in September, 1926; as I imagine most of these young people probably were too. Were they all childhood friends? I have no idea. All the photos tell me is they were enjoying the day and each other. Celebrating a day off from work together.

How Opa & Oma loved their friends! They traveled with them. Exchanged letters for many years. Went out to eat. Visited both near and far. Opa went on numerous hunting and fishing trips with his buddies. Oma went along on at least one hunting trip that I know of, but I think the black flies put an end to that. They traveled to Florida for deep sea fishing trips with lifelong friends. They both made friends most everywhere they went.  Opa was an open, gregarious man who relished the art of conversation. Oma was a bit quieter, but ever present with a twinkle in her eye and a sly comeback.

Opa traveled in Europe quite often in the 1940’s and 1950’s for business. He once struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to him on a long distance train in Switzerland. Opa’s soon-to-be new friend happened to have twin daughters who were the same age as his daughter (my mother). The twins became penpals with my mother and eventually emigrated to the United States a decade later. Fast forward to my childhood — they became like family and shared many holiday celebrations with us. One twin became my sister’s godmother. I am still close friends with the surviving elderly sister, who now lives back in Switzerland. Look what a chance meeting on a train led to.

I wonder what happened to my grandparents’ friends after this Labor Day in 1926. Their friends from before marriage and children and, in a few years, the Great Depression.  When everything changed.

opa oma friends 1926004
Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I am glad they had each other…The Whole darn Bunch.