Mystery Diary is, well, very mysterious.
Volunteer Katie Lively spent several months pouring over the tablet which contains a chronological, pencil-written entries from 1918-1926. The diary was given to the Marion County Historical Society in 1981. Not much more is known about its history.
by Katie Lively
Though written in chronological order, this anonymous diary dated from 1918-1929 jumps around quite abruptly in subject matter. The first page is all under the heading, “Under Strict Surveillance.” The entry begins with mention of the “Tuscania Torpedo” and is dated Jan. 24, 1918 (even though the torpedoing of the S. S. Tuscania occurred almost two weeks later, on February 5, 1918). The first page lists three names of unclear significance – J. H. Braithwaite, W. H. Bentley, and E. O. Miller.
The notes on the first page are the lone mention of World War I in this diary, as the writer quickly transitions to discussing his everyday life in the Willamette Valley. After the notation of the torpedoed S. S. Tuscania, the diary jumps forward 10 years and the main events begin in July 1928.
In particular, the author seems to enjoy discussing politics and religion with his friends and coworkers. The earliest events recorded in the diary take place during the months leading up to Herbert Hoover’s election as president. Hoover was elected on November 6, 1928, despite limited support from current president Calvin Coolidge. (Coolidge found him obnoxious and prone to giving useless advice.) He served one term from 1929-1933. Initially, the writer says he voted the Democrat ticket; however, in later entries, the writer talks to Hoover supporters who seem to sway his opinion. In an entry dated October 1, 1928, the author talked with a friend about the election and says he “talk pretty favorable for the Rep. Party and when I got ready to leave he gave me a Hoover button.”
Oddly, the writer’s entry for November 6 just reads, “Put up A+O church sign 11 o’clock Tues Nov 6th 1928. Thinking I would make a go of my church organizing. Mary come home and asked why I had put up that sign and remark I guess you are getting nutty.”
In an undated entry between October 13 and October 20, the writer says, “Old Staat ride home with Tom Rowe he spoke about the wool warehouse men below our plant going to vote for Hoover until after Election.” The writer does not comment on Hoover again for the rest of the diary. Hoover and the election seem to be important in his earlier conversations, so it is surprising that he has no comment on his rather tumultuous presidency. Perhaps he just greatly enjoyed talking election politics? Or perhaps he just didn’t want to admit that so many people in his life had been wrong about Hoover?
The writer still has plenty to discuss even after he stops writing about Herbert Hoover – he was a factory worker who attempted to organize a church, visited his friends regularly, and seemed to have a close relationship with his parents. The diary continues until August 10, 1929. The writer veers from mostly talking about his interactions with friends to more often recounting the events of his workday. As the months go by, his entries gradually grow shorter, with the final one simply reading, “On boards watching conveyor.”
Transcription of Diary
Notations by transcriber reproduced in italics. Spelling particularities were preserved in transcription.
Under Strict Survillance
Tuscania Torpedo Jan 24 1918
J.H Braithwaite 645 N Central
WH Bentley 832 E 29th St.
E.O. Miller 1555 E. 15th St.
Mr. Goodrich spoke to me how I voted and went in house and brought out 2 sample ballots. I told him I voted the Democrat ticket and also [illegible – quite a scratcher??]. He showed me a party on the Rep ballot about being a pictular friend wishing I would vote for him.
Note from July 1st
Out to Folks July 4th Work on Writing
July 11 Went home, thur noon dryer clog up ate my lunch outside on the platform. F. staats gave me a piece of ham told me to wait until he cleaned up glue mach and I could ride home with him. He mention religion I did not say anything finally he said he never argued about Politic or Religion.
July 12 Fri morning Clyde Marquis asked me if I rested suppose he thought I would tell him about my writings so he could tell Mason.
Miss English Gerald was over to her place. She had him to come home where I was working she told him to ask me who I was going to work for three different times latter on she came home on some street car and walk home with me. The last time when we parted the rear of her home and I was about 15 ft from her. She asked who I was going to vote for. But did not understand until I went a little farther.
She locked her garage and said she lost her key. But the staple on latch had been broken off before she could have taken her finger and pull the staple out. She sent Gerald home to tell me to come over and tear it off because she had lost her keys. I took hammer + screwdriver and went out to garage and took old clasp off and put on one I had. It was a beautiful morning she said it was such a lovely morning she felt she ought to go to church. The point she was trying to get at she wanted to find out if I was organizing a church. She gave me 50 cents for fixing the clasp on garage door.
(On flip side of previous page)
Oct. 1st I was going past his place Sunday eve after 4pm he had me to come in to look at his Dalihia after showing me all his flowers we walk out on 15 st then he gave me a great talk about the Rep party about getting the 5 day work day. About Catholic + Protestant churches. I talk pretty favorable for the Rep. Party and when I got ready to leave he gave me a Hoover button.
About old man Staats when he rode home with Tom Rowe about woolhouse men about voting for Hoover.
Ride home with D Griffith. Spoke about the socialist party. I said I was not paying any attention to Politics. He wanted to find out if I was going to vote the social ticket.
Oct 13 Went to Portland and look sea wall over and old docks. Pickup a street car ticket No 6 on 2 at bet stark + Wash st.
Old Staat ride home with Tom Rowe he spoke about the wool warehouse men below our plant going to vote for Hoover until after Election.
Down to Portland Sat Oct 20 1928 had Alpha + Omega church sign made by a show card writer. Said he would have same done by noon gave a 1.00 for it. Pick up street car ticket No 6 – 200133 gave me the hunch I would be successful the 12th month.
Put up A+O church sign 11 o’clock Tues Nov 6th 1928. Thinking I would make a go of my church organizing. Mary came home and asked why I put up that sign and remark I guess you are getting nutty.
Down to Port Dec 8 went to Goodwill store to see about a pair of rubbers for me. Looking over their stock of 2nd book I came across three book. 1-2-3-CH. Thy kingdom come gave 25 cents for them then went up to Journal Junes (??) symphony at auditorium me and a kid spied two street car tickets he beat me to them on account of being smaller and quicker.
Out to folks Sun Dec 9 28
Told them about the keys to bible that I intended to tell D Griffith about being wise to his propaganda. I woke up Monday morning I thought it was 20 min after four instead it was 20 min past five o’clock. Got up got up 15 min to six ate bread + milk. So did not get to tell Dave.
Out to folks Wens Dec 26th. Took bible and writings and showed dad my ideas. Left my 3 books thy K.C. For dad to read. Dad advise me to see a bible student got to talking and found out they had a card and book freedom of people. I told them that where I got all my education from.
Out to Chas + Eve. Sun Dec 30th 1928 ate D.D. They went over to Port they let me out at E.G. + Morrison St. to go to I.B.S. Meeting.
Went over to George and Clarices Tues Jan 1st 1929 New year day. Had chic + wine for dinner George gave me a shirt and took me to the music box show. The trial play got oranges + grapes + grapefruit for kids.
Seen C+E Jan 5th at Union + [illegible] over to C+Georges place took W. along. Did not take some in house. Had wine + ice cream. Home again.
Wens Jan 9th seen Chas about being over Sat or Sunday.
Fri Jan 11 28 C+E came over Friday we sent my W over with them.
Sat Jan 12 went to C+E Sat noon had dinner. I had a hoarse talk and cold. Had a long talk about my + W: went with Chas to St. John had supper. Chas + Eva brought me to Woodburn then they went to Port to see about getting a clock. Also told Eve to write to new bureau at Wash D.C.
Chas + E over to our place Sunday and took billie to show and brought my W. home.
Edd Nelson came over Alice brought home groc. Had a good supper was going to let Jessie read my statements we was sure [illegible] until the 5th of Feb.
Feb. 10 took bath pipe leak thro floor spring a leak and pipe leak about the size of a pen point and leak thro the floor.
Feb. 12 Took Clarice to hospital Geo called up Ma and got Alice to help take care of baby. Was going to have it come on Jessie Birthday but couldn’t quite make it.
Wens Feb 20 was out of grub there was not a bale for breakfast stop at Waffle Groc at Drydock road and got 25 cents work of cookie.
They also turn
We had cut up everything on place to keep warm
Jessie ordered the wood Thur Feb. 21 did not come until Sat [foresnoon??] bet 9-10 got up Sat morning and made coffee ate Bread + Butter.
With all the Dan Hill fire and [donation??] I went through With and my ups and downs Proverty what push me to save my home and get away from hard manual labor.
March 4 1929 I asked L Staats what became of his friend D Griffith about he ball and talking about him around the mill.
March 7 1929
Going to have announcement to come on Gerald birthday. But Edd Nelson came Fri we Mar 7 1929
Mention how his friend Loyd Staats and Dave Griffith was getting along.
High falling when stuck on crossing and talking about him around the plant. Also about going to hit him with Log chain but he sit on stool and look it.
Sunday April 14 1929 Our hobos visited us and had [illegible] ask for a old quilt was at Englishes.
Tuse Apr 22 1929 About pay check Jack went to stamp it paid and said josh it real money I unfolded it and look it was a $500.00 bill 430×435
Wen 23 30 after dinner
Harold about conveyer today 250 times
May 2 1929 Took Buss at union [illegible] ave.
at Miss [Thillsworth?] Ave was counting my money said to myself I would have to borrow quarter
at Miss + Port Buld. I was sitting in front seat looking out thru window in meantime Buss driver got out to look for car and smoke a cig
I thought it was a pop bottle cap I look at it a couple of sec and finally got up enough nerve to get up and get out and see if it wasn’t a Q walk out and pick it up sure was a Brand New Quarter.
M – M – is like a fine and delicate hair spring in a watch that is subject to cold and heat M – M – is subject to his S power
Got a new year from CW
May 6 1929 Two pcs Iron broke hoggo Harold put me back on center job Fri Sat Bring over core for Glue Mach to [illegible] Sat May 11th. Chas Wallace came out to our place Sat eve to see if he could get me to join his woodman as a ruse. Or smoke screen. Talk religious talk to Ma about judson and shusta.
Sunday, May 12th Eva + Chas came also folks
May 20 1929 Monday
Pay day worded 15 minute after [illegible]
May 25 Sat 1929
unloaded car of glue
Harold came out to car and has how I was make it
Monday June 10th 1929
A fellow worker came over and sit down while I was finishing my lunch and asked what denomination I belong to a Catholic + Protestant church and talk religion with me I worked last week a couple of days with him but he never mention religion to me. L.D. Greely
Sunday June 16th 1929
Out to folks FMJ to Bull run lake fishing nobody home but old folks was surprise at dad had a lot of mark in bible had me read them he was convince that heaven was right here on earth.
Pay day too
Thur 20 after noon 4pm I starts asked if I wanted to get a little fresh air went down on lower deck to help him on a [illegible] asked me what I was going to do on the 4th of July.
Sun June 23rd out to J.B. To see about it.
Fri June 28th S about Ling Bergh
Sat 29 C on Same Basis as Gov a. S. of the people by the people for people.
Monday July 1st C+Baby over Mary Birthday
Thur July 4th out to J.B. Look at river to see how much the water has fallen.
Friday 5th Deputy at door with summon O+O King bill (???).
1130 Me and Ma went to Pantages theatre.
It can be done
If it can be done you can do it.
Me and wife just got this bible to [illegible] and of course the big black smoke came and we all got in a religious argument. And that stop the thing right there.
July 9th Ma to town to see about Olds+King bill the atty was has bell for collection
Ev+Cha came had ice cream for lunch then they took us over to the place to see the house and new furniture
July 9th Out to C+Georges Sunday had chicken dinner. Six mo today sinced I was there, lost Geo mention about somebody at his place of business with some bible pictures.
Monday July 8th 1929 Harold commence on his nagging about letting a piece 2 inches thick and [illegible]. See about [illegible].
Tues July 9th Wife to town to-to see atty and saw Mrs
July 12 Been her to collect the rest of his Groc money also about to tfr truck looking for a piano 644 Buffalo St.
July 13th Reading over C+W better he wrote the 22 of June and 28 his father got sick so he had to stay home with his mother the little [illegible] so he couldn’t keep his date.
July 14 Sunday home all day.
Sunday July 21 out to folks – folks away went to councial crest to tell them what I was about to do C Marquis or Staats
Monday July 23 Greene collector came at supper time told Ma I said didn’t see why she hadn’t payed bill never said it ended up in a quarrel was figuring on going to town Monday just another check and set Backed.
Mrs Walker son out with Alice was a little bit drunk could smell the liquor on his breath
Fri July 26 Up at 12pm commence work at 3pm work until 12 o’clock next Sat-Mon until further orders.
Sat July 21 Up at 12 went to work at 3pm worked until 1215 Harold [illegible] asked me to work 1 hr to help Jan Miller cleaning up sucker before Clyde + Alva.
Sunday July 28 walk over to VC wash out to Barrack and city park stop at col on way back and look at river me and Gerald went up to NL Gerald wanted me to buy him a ice cream I told him I didn’t have a cent Gerald said we were to poor to buy even a ball of gum.
(above last line) Last of week has said he had a contract also I would be put back on centers in three weeks
Tues July 30 went back pulling boards Tom + Leo on centers put us with [illegible] said he was to slow about 10 put me on boards
Sunday, Aug 4th Ma got a register letter from Bain wanting the interest and [illegible] asked me to write a letter Sunday night Aug 4th 1929 Dream – about J Mather Delta in red Ethel about [illegible]
Monday Aug 5 came out of bedroom with letter and asked me to write the letter again to Bain about interest + mortgage.
Tuesday Aug 6 went to [illegible] also to Pantages. Theater payed water bill also gas bill to
Wensday Aug 7 Harold rendless asked me why I layed off also put me back on centers
Thur 8 – Fri 9 Sat 10. On boards watching conveyor