Sunday, February 19, 2012

into the mind of a teenager ... 100 years ago

Odin in 1906, from his high school year book
My great-grandfather Odin Wadleigh was born in 1888 in Cannonsville, New York. He spent his youth in Buffalo, Deposit and Binghamton, New York. He kept a diary for the entire year 1906, which has been passed down in the family and survives as a priceless heirloom.

The diary was written when he was 17 and 18 years old. It describes - among other things - the end of his senior year in high school, applying to college, moving away for his first job, his relationship with his girlfriend and his appendicitis.

If interested, you can read the entire diary on my website.

The following are some excerpts from his diary:

On his girlfriend Eva ...
January 17, 1906: "This noon I went over to speak with Eva and she did not speak. I felt pretty much put out and was mad for a while."
February 11, 1906: "Eva is as prim as ever. I wish she would come down just a little and let me kiss or hug her just once. I don't see what harm it would do for I am no stranger to her."
February 14, 1906: "I as usual acted up and Eva was rather disgusted."
March 2, 1906: "I wrote a note to Eva and apologized for my conduct. She would not answer. I was on the anxious seat all day for E is too good a girl to lose."

July 28, 1906: "Eva was a little cross all the morning. In the PM, I plagued her until she cried.  Then she was mad the rest of the day. So was I. It was mostly my fault anyway."

December 25, 1906: "I cuddled Eva some and teased (and stole) 4 dandy kisses. I like Eva better all the time. I could love her if I don't already."

(Odin and Eva continued to date until they were married 6 years later in 1912. They had two sons, Eric and Gerald. Sadly, Eva committed suicide in 1921.)
On high school ...
February 19, 1906: "Studied like all, all day long and went to bed with a raging headache."

March 9, 1906: "We had a trig review and although I knew the proofs perfectly, I hurried so I only got 71. It made me mad."

June 22, 1906: "Graduation exercises this evening. They went off fine. Got my diploma and now I am an alumnus."

(In his senior year of high school Odin took English, Trigonometry, German, Chemistry and History.  In his diary he mainly mentioned his Trigonometry and German classes.)
Odin, Eva (center) and an unknown friend, in about 1912.
On applying to college ...
February 9, 1906: "I got a letter from Cornell in which I found that I can not enter with my present subjects. So I decided to give up Cornell and work for Syracuse. Between my disappointment and my temper I had no dinner nor breakfast."

June 28, 1906: "Well I got a letter from Syracuse this a.m. which said my scholarship was not good for engineering. It broke me all up. I could not work all day."

(Although Odin did not get into Cornell University or Syracuse University, he did not give up.  He eventually attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he graduated in 1910 with a degree in electrical engineering.)
On working ...
August 31, 1906: "Went down to the G. E. Works.  Mr. Whimple gave me a place in the testing room at $7 a week to start with. I am much pleased.  There were about 100 waiting for a job."

September 14, 1906: "Got my first pay from G.E. today, $5.57.  After paying my board I had $1.25 left, $2.00 on hand, making $3.75."

September 17, 1906: "Worked until 9:30 today and got 15 hrs."

(Odin worked for General Electric for about two years.  He then moved to New York City and worked as an engineer for a railway company.  Then in 1912 he moved to Indianapolis and became an engineer for the Sanborn Electric Company, and eventually became its president.)
On family ...
September 1, 1906: "After supper Mother and I went out shopping and got some things for me. This is the last time we will poke around together. I kinda hate to go."

September 3, 1906: "Mother, Gerald and I had a little cry together. Father went to the train with me."
(Gerald was his little brother. Odin was moving to Schenectady for his new job.)
On visiting relatives ...
February 17, 1906: "We are all glad Inez has gone. Benjamin Franklin said fish and visitors stink in 3 days. He got it right."
(Inez was his aunt from New Hampshire.)
On current events ...
April 18, 1906: "There was a terrible earthquake in San Francisco this A.M. It killed 3,000 persons and destroyed many buildings. Fire broke out and because the water works and pipes were destroyed, could not be stopped. They are having an awful time. We do not know all about it yet."
On food ...
February 24, 1906: "Had some grape fruit for breakfast, the first I ever ate."

July 31, 1906: "Menu for the day.   Breakfast: sliced bananas and cream. fried eggs. coffee. Supper: boiled potatoes, cold ham, black berries, lettuce, ice coffee, bread.
On quitting smoking ...
June 30, 1906: "Eva would not tell me to stop smoking, but said she wished I would. I will smoke once more and quit for as long as I can."
one of the pages from Odin's diary
on his 18th birthday
July 6, 1906: "Stop smoking makes my head ache."
On losing his temper ...
March 10, 1906: "I have become so in the last six months that if I am beat or bested or disappointed in any way it makes me mad. It is foolish I know but I am trying to overcome it."

On an appendicitis ...
January 20, 1906: "About two AM I awoke with terrible cramps in my stomach. Nothing did any good and I was in agony the rest of the night. About 9 mother sent for the doctor. He gave me two hypodermics of morphine. I went to sleep and slept till 2 in the PM. When I woke I felt fine and the pain was gone."

November 26, 1906: "Sometime in the night my old ache back back to me and it is the worst yet. I had Dr MacDuval and he called it appendicitis and recommended an operation as soon as I was able."

December 2, 1906: "Had a little pain in my side. It scared me so I had to come home. Said good bye to Eva because I may never see her again."

December 4, 1906: "This morning Dr. Beardsley gave me chloroform and I did not know anymore until 11:30. The operation was over and I was very sick to my stomach, which pained me very much due to the ether gas."