Nov. 1-7, 1918

Nov. 1

Cleaned up the house a little. Got the waist part of my sweater done. Abe was here helping Papa today.

Nov. 2

Done the sat. work, started to crochet on a doily, knitted 8 in. on one sleeve of my sweater, rained tonight, went to bed at 9.

Nov. 3

Got up at 8:30. Read, Pa and I had an awful time trying to start the Ford. Clarence came in after us. Had a dandy dinner, seen all the stock and took pictures. got home at 5. Edgar and Gerald came to say they wouldn’t be up tonight because they were exposed to the “Flu”. Read. went to bed at 9 and Sun. night too!

Nov. 4

Clarence is 24 today. Knitted, practiced, took my music lesson. Edgar gave me a ride home. He looked pretty tuff. got supper, went to bed at 8.

Nov. 5

Washed. Finished one sleeve of sweater, Emily came, popped corn, went to bed at 9. Practiced 1 hr. 30 min.

Nov. 6

Ironed, started to crochet a cap, practiced 70 min. snowed hard.

Nov. 7

More snow. Started a sleeve for sweater, practiced 70 min. washed my hair. popped corn and made pop-corn balls, read, went to bed at 10.

Clara continues her crocheting and knitting. She mentions working on a doily. We don’t see doilies around much anymore. I’m not even sure my kids know what a doily is, despite the fact that my mother had numerous ones around the house throughout my life – on the back of the couch, on side tables, on shelves. I am pretty sure that at least some of them originally belonged to the Clarence and Emily who are mentioned in the Nov. 3rdand Nov. 5thentries.

Then Clara and her Pa struggle to start their Ford. This must have been a Model T, which Ford made from 1908 until 1927. Plus, in 1918, half of the cars sold were Model Ts. And I would assume of the different models that they had a sedan. That would have been the most practical for a family and for weather in South Dakota.

Henry Ford said of Model T in his book My Life and Work,

I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.

Until 1920, the Model T had a removable hand crank at the front of the vehicle. After doing a bit of research on the process and the difficulties of using a hand crank to start a car, this had the best layman’s description, just in case anyone is interested. Starting the car in the cold was a whole new challenge, one that is also discussed in this article. November typically sees an average high of 40 degrees and an average low of 20 degrees. However, the beginning of November in 1918 was unseasonably high. In fact, Bison, a city in South Dakota to the west of Cresbard and at the same latitude (but a slightly higher elevation) saw a high of 55 degrees on that day. Cresbard probably saw similarly high temperatures. I can’t believe we can find that information. So whatever problem they had starting the car, it wasn’t the weather.

But also notice that on November 6th, it snowed… hard. Such is the weather.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Edgar is Clara’s boyfriend. He and his friend Gerald don’t come visit Clara on November 3rd because they were exposed to the flu. Sounds like they were practicing good social distancing until you read that the next day Clara and Edgar must have spent time together because he gave her a ride home. 

Clarence Horen

That’s also the day that Clarence turns 24. Clarence is my grandfather, my dad’s father. He married my grandmother, the Emily mentioned in November 5th’s entry, on June 11 of 1918, so they had only been married for five months. A quick side note – this is the Emily that my daughter is named after. The couple would go on to have four children before losing their farm to the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and apparently the grasshoppers and moving to Minnesota. They would be blessed with many grandchildren before they were cruelly killed together by a drunk driver in 1963. There is something so haunting about seeing them here, as newlyweds just embarking on their lives.

Emily Horen

Another chore Clara brings up fairly consistently is ironing. Wednesday appears to be ironing day, as she consistently irons on Wednesdays through the rest of the year. As 1919 begins, she doesn’t manage to stay on such a strict Wednesday ironing schedule. Also, notice that the day before each time she mentions ironing, she lists “washed” as a chore. Those are probably referring to washing clothes, as typically ironing happened on the next day.

Clara also mentions practicing and music lessons throughout her diary. I can only assume that she is referring to playing the piano. The only reason I think she played the piano is because the Horen’s are a piano-playing family. Or at least they were. Family reunions when I was a child always seemed to include time spent around a piano.

From my earliest memory, we had a piano in the house. The first was an old upright. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that piano came from someone else in the family. Then one day, as the story goes, my dad was out for a walk, his primary source of exercise for as long as I can remember, and he came home with a baby grand piano. The upright ended up in the basement of a neighbor’s house, a family that provided all of us with best friends (my dad, my mom, my sister, and me!). But it was old. I still have an ivory key (yes, real ivory) that had long ago fallen off, the dried glue still on the back of it.

My dad played the piano every day. Every. Single. Day. Tchaikovsky, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Shumann. Naturally, I also took piano lessons. Unfortunately, I was fired by my teacher. She would come to the house once a week. I didn’t want to practice. And I was not very nice to her either. Eventually, she had a meeting with my mom, and the two of them decided it might be better if I stopped taking lessons.

My daughter Emily watching my dad play his baby grand.

Not surprisingly, I grew up to regret not sticking with it. And not surprisingly, I subjected my own kids to piano lessons. Although it didn’t stick with either of them, at least they didn’t get fired.

When I bought my first house, where I lived for 18 years, I knew a piano was requisite, even though I didn’t play. So when my ex-husband’s mom mentioned donating her upright piano to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, I stepped in and brought it home. A house just couldn’t be a home without a piano.

Unfortunately, the piano was in terrible condition. First thing I did was hire a tuner, who promptly told me the piano could never be tuned. He could get close, but it was too far gone. I went ahead and paid him to do his best, but he was right. The kids and I pounded on that piano for years, but it was when my dad would visit that we really saw just how bad it was.

He would launch into a Mendelssohn and get only a few chords in before he would hit a clunker. But he kept going. Soon, he would have tears running down his face and would be coughing violently as he laughed uproariously and tried to keep playing. The kids and I would quickly join in the laughter. It was just so horrible. It became a parlor room trick every time he came to visit. Get Grandpa to play the piano!

My son James at our woefully out-of-tune upright.

Clara and her friends like to eat popcorn. Only four years earlier, Jolly Time became the first brand of popcorn sold. As it was produced in nearby Iowa, this is probably the brand of kernels they bought unless someone locally was growing the particular strains of corn that are used for popping. One day, they make popcorn balls. If popcorn balls sound like something you want to try, here’s a recipe for traditional popcorn balls.

One last comment even though Clara doesn’t mention it. November 5thwas a Tuesday, and it was the day of midterm elections. I only mention it because during this coronavirus pandemic, the United States has been concerned about the upcoming primaries and the November presidential election.

So many things to say about the 1918 election!

First, women did not yet have the right to vote – perhaps that’s why Clara didn’t mention it in her diary. That wouldn’t come until 1920 with the 19th Amendment. And men? Men had to be 21 to vote. It wasn’t until 1971, when the 26th Amendment was ratified that gave 18, 19, and 20-year-olds the right to vote. The principle argument was that if 18-year-olds could get drafted then they should be able to vote. 

However, the South Dakota Women’s Suffrage Amendment was on the ballot. This was the sixth time citizens of the state voted on suffrage, but the first time it passed: 63% to 37%. The South Dakota State Historical Society has an interesting and detailed read on the history of suffrage in South Dakota.

Twelve other measures were also on the ballot, with all passing but one. Most of these increased the role of the state in what seem today to be odd ways. For example, one allowed the state to manufacture and sell cement. Another to build and operate grain elevators. And yet another to enter the hail insurance business.

Another interesting piece of history associated with the 1918 election is the 17thAmendment. The 17thAmendment changed how we elect our senators. And it was a huge change. Prior to the 17thAmendment, senators were chosen by each state’s legislature. The reason for this was to protect the interest of the states by assuring that they would have a voice in the federal government. The House of Representatives, by contrast, represented the people.

Thomas Stirling

The 17th Amendment changed all that. Once the amendment was ratified, senators would be elected by a direct vote in each state. Each senator serves a six-year term, and every two years, one third of the Senate is up for reelection (here’s a complete history of the evolution of the 17th Amendment). In 1918, the last third of the senators were elected by popular vote, making the 66th Congress the first to be completely elected by popular vote. In South Dakota, the popular vote elected the incumbent Republican senator, Thomas Stirling, who had been elected previously by the legislature.

Nationally, however, the 1918 election was pivotal. The president was Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and he had enjoyed a Congressional Democratic majority for the previous six years of his presidency.

But in 1918, House Republicans gained a majority by winning 25 new seats in the House and 5 more seats in the Senate. 

Newspaper accounts from the time, and articles written by historians reveal that politicians and health professionals expressed the exact same concerns regarding the 1918 elections as they express today: whether to postpone the election, adequate social distancing at the polls, whether to require masks, the problem of low voter turnout. And, as expected, the flu provided election losers with the perfect excuse for their loss, and they railed against election improprieties. 

Time will only tell what will happen in the election of 2020, but undoubtedly controversy will surround it.

3 thoughts on “Nov. 1-7, 1918

  1. This wonderful reading..I’m really enjoying the history! Richard’s Family was from Virginia & a lot of what you write brings back memories of conversations he spoke about his Grandfather & Parents.


  2. Wonderful read! I lost my grandmother, my moms mother and one of her sisters, to the 1917-1918 influenza. They lived in North Dakota on a farm.


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