Feb. 16 – March 1, 1919

Feb. 16

Got up at 8. got breakfast, went to church and S.S. got dinner, rested, went to church again. Made sherbet. Wrote to Edgar and went to bed at 11.

Feb. 17

Got breakfast, went to school. Prof. and I got along pretty good, washed dishes after school, got a good supper. went down to Moultons to meet my committee for the social Wednesday night. had a great time playing and singing. Paul and Wilber brot. Ruth and I home. Some new-fellow, they stayed until 11. set pan-cakes. Mama sent me two just lovely dresses for graduation – one is white charmouse and the other flesh georgette crepe.

Feb. 18

Stayed home and washed some towels, got dinner, went to school, went to bed early.

Feb. 19

Went to school, moved back to next to the back seat. Went up town, got letter, and got stuff to make pea salad for the social, went about 8. sure had one awful time shaking hands with one of the “soldier boys”. Had an awful good time and Bill Roberts for partner for lunch. got home at 1.

Feb. 20

Went to school. mama came home today. six of us rode to the show in Russa’s little Ford. the show was fine – 4 girls. got home at 12.

Feb. 21

School as usual and also choir practice, tired at the end of a busy week. Got a dandy letter from Edgar.

Feb. 22

Done the Saturdays work. crocheted, went up town, had a lunch at Potters, started to make a cretton doily. took a bath and went to bed at 10.

Feb. 23

Went to church and S.S. studied, slept, read, went to church again. got lunch after church, wrote to Edgar and went to bed at 11.

Feb. 24

Went to school, snowed, went to the “free show,” it wasn’t so worse, awful cold coming home. got a letter from Edgar.

Feb. 25

School, washed and the show, they gave away a good bedstead.

Feb. 26

School and stayed all day, went to the show, they gave a rocking chair away.

Feb. 27

Awful stormy, no train, stayed at school all day, went down to Potters to the Ladies Aid supper, had an awful good supper, Mabel took me to the show. stayed all night at Potters.

Feb. 28

Had exams, came home at noon and stayed.

March 1

Done saturdays work, finished insertion for a sheet. got a letter from Edgar but it was written on Tuesday.

The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book – 1918

In the past, Clara revealed her love for ice cream and candy, but here she makes sherbet! Here are some recipes for sherbet from the early 1900s.

And before bed, she again writes to Edgar. It is difficult today, especially as the entire country has been ordered to stay-at-home and has turned to Zoom videos to stay in touch, to imagine having only letters to communicate with loved ones.

The next day, Clara is back at school after Prof. “bawled her out,” sent her home and told not to return to school last Friday. Apparently all was forgiven and school went smoothly. 

After school, she went to the Moultons to meet with her committee for the social in two nights. Paul Moulton (16) and Wilbur Devine (17) brought Clara and Ruth home. But as I have mentioned previously, there are a lot of Ruths in the area, and I am not sure which Ruth this is. 

Last Saturday, Clara had gone to the train station with Mrs. Sheldon and her mama, presumably to send them off. As far as I can tell, in 1919, trains that left the closest station, in Faulkton, travelled to Pierre, the state capital, to the west or Watertown to the east. According to the 1920 census, Pierre was quite small, with a population around 3,000. Watertown was the third largest city in the state, with a population of around 9,000. Only Aberdeen at 14,000 and Sioux Falls at 25,000. If they took the train from Aberdeen, which was a major rail center, it is possible they went to Minnesota. Either way, shopping was clearly part of the trip, for Clara’s mom sent her two possible dresses for high school graduation, which was coming up in a few months.

One dress is white charmeuse and the other a flesh georgette crepe. Charmeuse is a soft, lightweight, drapable fabric of silk or synthetic fibers, having a semi-lustrous satin face and a dull back. And georgette is a translucent woven sold textile that is with a slightly puckered surface and a beautiful drape. 

**Spoiler alert **

She wears the white charmeuse to graduation.

Another social. This time Clara makes pea salad. Here are a couple of recipes from The Salad Book, published in 1910. I was never a fan of peas, let alone pea salad, so I am not willing to make these and give them a try. But someone else might be interested, so here they are:


One can peas, half cup walnut meats, sprinkle with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Cut lemons in halves, scrape out the inside and fill the cups with salad and put a teaspoon of salad dressing on each cup.


One can French peas. One cup chopped cabbage, three apples, chopped fine, nuts. Drain off liquid of peas, mix all together, cover with mayonnaise, sprinkle with nuts, chopped fine.

At the social, she claims to have “had one awful time shaking hands with one of the ‘soldier boys.’” So many questions! For one, what was so awful about shaking hands? Another is why did she put “soldier boys” in quotation marks? And finally, what exactly does she mean when using the word “awful?” I assume she did not enjoy shaking hands, but in the very next sentence, she writes that she had “an awful good time” at the social. Is awful good? Or is it bad?

Bill Roberts is her partner for lunch. I don’t know who he is.

Clara’s mom gets back after four days away. 

Time for another show. I am continually surprised by how many shows Clara attends, and not just because she lives in a small rural town in 1918 South Dakota. But I have to remember that there is no television in 1918. Without TV “entertaining” us each night, perhaps it would make sense to go out to shows and concerts many nights. 

A 1918 Ford T-Bucket

I’ve discussed in previous installments the cars that this group were driving and that were popular in 1918-1919. Fords that were produced at this time included a Model T, Model A, and T-bucket. A Model A was larger than the Model T, so I doubt Russa had that. The T-bucket was for all intents and purposes a hot rod that only seats two people, and they had six in the car. So he must be driving a Model T.

And the letters from Edgar keep coming. The latest is a “dandy letter.” Is there any better kind? Of course, she follows up with her own letter.

After lunch at the Potter’s (Harriet’s family’s house), Clara makes a cretton doily – not sure cretton is actually a word…

But it’s the start of a new week, and there’s a new show every night. On Monday night was the “free show” (“it wasn’t so worse”). At Tuesday’s show, a bedstead was given away (a bedstead is the frame of the bed that the mattress sits on). And a rocking chair was given away at Wednesday’s show. And Mabel takes her to Thursday’s show, which apparently had no giveaway. Mabel is the older sister of her boyfriend Edgar, the same Mabel that found herself previously chaperoning the young couple. And the two are still writing each other; however, the mail appears to be delayed – it took four days for Clara to receive Edgar’s latest letter. 

On February 27, two days before she receives Edgar’s letter, Clara writes that it was a stormy day and that there were no trains. Perhaps that delayed the delivery of the letter. 

In 1838, Congress declared all railroads to be mail routes, which led to the development of the RPO, Railroad Post Office. In 1863, Congress passed a law giving cities free mail delivery, and it wasn’t too long after that people in rural communities were calling for free rural delivery as well. And in 1902, Congress gave rural America exactly that. 

According to a thesis from University of Iowa called The History of the Rural Free Mail Delivery in the United States published in 1920 by Lena Bedenbender Hecker, 

All rural mail delivery routes are divided into two classes known as standard horse drawn vehicle routes which are to be twenty-four miles in length, and standard motor vehicle routes, fifty miles long. 

I want to digress for a moment here because I was interested in the author of this thesis for her MA. As I have mentioned before, I have been surprised just how many women I have come across who have gone to college as well as who have professions. And this is another one of those women.

Lena graduated as valedictorian from an Iowa high school in 1897. She taught for a couple of years before she finished her BA. She then married John Hecker, a blacksmith, in 1905. She continued to teach and serve as a high school principal before completing her MA, which led to this thesis about rural mail delivery (I feel like I have in a small way kept her alive by reading and using her thesis. I also have an MA and wrote a thesis – Rereading the Arthurian Legend: Investigating Power Structures in Idylls of the King and The Mists of Avalon – and the thought of someone actually reading it 100 years from now and finding value from it is a crazy thought. Alaska.

John Hecker’s death certificate

Her husband died in 1928 – his death certificate says he was “gored to death by a bull.” Oh my goodness! The two of them never had children, and after her husband’s death, she returned to school and earned her PhD from Iowa State University in 1935. I found Lena’s dissertation, but I also found 50 from ISU the year she graduated. Six of the 50 were written by women, on topics ranging from watermelons to copper in rats to the leaf of the brassica juncea to pyrrolidines. I looked up pyrrolidines. I still have no idea what that means. Lena’s dissertation was titled The Constitutional Status of Education in Alaska.

Her graduation warranted a newspaper article (page 3). After all, she was 58 years old when she earned her PhD. in political science, one of the oldest women to earn a PhD at the university.

Such an interesting woman.

Lena graduated as valedictorian from an Iowa high school in 1897. She taught for a couple of years before she finished her BA. She then married John Hecker, a blacksmith, in 1905. She continued to teach and serve as a high school principal before completing her MA, which led to this thesis about rural mail delivery (I feel like I have in a small way kept her alive by reading and using her thesis. I also have an MA and wrote a thesis – title– and the thought of someone actually reading it 100 years from now and finding value from it is a crazy thought.

The continued increase in the number of routes throughout South Dakota and the rest of the country and the increase in the demand for mail delivery resulted in a nationwide effort to improve the roads. 

By 1920, “91 percent of all business and personal communication moved by railway mail, while telegraph and telephone accounted for less than 10 percent.”

Hecker makes some other interesting points in her thesis that I want to share here. 

For one, due to World War I and the departure of so many young men to serve in the military, “women have been admitted to examinations since April 27, 1918, and when certified have been appointed as carriers where a male eligible not subject to draft could not be secured.” So women started working as postal carriers in small towns scattered across the country.

Hecker also detailed the very strict rules concerning new mailboxes in rural communities about to receive mail delivery. Mailboxes could be in two shapes: oblong or round. For the oblong, it must be made from 

“No. 20 standard gauge sheet iron or sheet steel, galvanized inside and out. The edges of the metal must be supported or strengthened either by folding back upon itself or by riveting to the edges, band iron or steel at least 1/16 inch in thickness and at least 1/2 inch in width, or by wiring with at least No. 10 gauge wire, but if made of heavier material than No *20 gauge, the requirements as to reinforcements do not need to be 36 observed.” 

She also enumerates the rules for carriers. Here are a couple of them:

“Carriers while serving their routes may stop not to exceed thirty minutes for dinner and to feed their horses, providing such a stop does not prevent the return to the distributing office on schedule time. While making the stop the carrier must retain personal custody of the mail and equipment… They are not allowed to carry mail in the pockets of their clothing, throw it into yards, nor leave it where it is likely to he lost.” 

One last comment about mail in 1918-1919. On May 10, 1918, as a promotion for the new policy to officially use airplanes to deliver mail, the post office printed what became the most famous and valuable stamp in history: the inverted Curtiss Jenny Airmail stamp.

1918 Inverted Jenny

Also on Thursday, in addition to the show, Clara attends a Ladies Aid supper at the Potters, the home of her good friend Harriet. Was my social life this full when I was a senior in high school? I don’t remember having plans every day of the week! 

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