Monday, December 5, 2016

Amanuensis Monday ~ My Grandmother’s Diary

Gertrude Matilda Hitchings
(1905 - 2001)
Her high school graduation photo
My aunt recently found my grandmother’s diary and gave it to me.  It was dated 1920, and was one of those little diaries given out by banks and businesses years ago, with three days per page and five blank lines for each page.  It had lost its cover so I couldn’t tell what business gave out this little book (only three inches tall!).  It had sewn pages, and many were missing. In 1920 my grandmother turned 15 years old.  She kept her notes in pencil with tiny, neat, miniscule handwriting.

My grandmother was Gertrude Matilda Hitchings, born 1 August 1905 in Beverly, Massachusetts.    Her parents were Arthur Treadwell Hitchings (1868 – 1937) and Florence Etta Hoogerzeil (1871- 1941).  Her father was a draftsman at the United Shoe Corporation, and the family lived nearby in corporate housing, near the USMC country club, at 45 Elliott Street in Beverly.  According to the 1920 Federal census, she was living at home with her parents and five of her seven siblings (one had died young, and her sister Helen had married a few years previous).  Her brother Arthur Russell Hitchings married during 1920.  The siblings at home in 1920 were Russell, Hollis, Eunice, Gertrude, Gordon and Millie (also known as Skeet).

I wanted to read the diary, but since it was so tiny I figured I would scan it first and then transcribe from the images.  This was better than handling the fragile pages.   Here is the first surviving pages in the book (January 1 – 6 are missing).

Page 3
Wed. Jan. 7, 1920
Up at 7 went to school
Home alone all afternoon
Ma gone to the Empire.  Went
Skating down to Crosby’s meadow
at half past four.  After supper
went down to the shoe, home
At 9:30 went to bed at 9:45
Thursday 8
Got up at 7 went to
school home all afternoon. Belle
came up 5:15 staid to supper
She was awfull sick after supper
Went home 9 o’clock car
Played baseball with
Papa and went to bed 9pm
Friday 9
Got up at 7 went to school.
It has snowed hard all day.
Home all afternoon and
worked.  Marian came up after
supper went to bed 9:30

[Notes:  On January 7th Gertrude wrote that her mother went “to the Empire”.  This was a department store in downtown Salem.  Also  “the shoe” is the factory where her father worked, the United Shoe Machinery Corporation.

On January 8th the visitor “Belle” was Gertrude’s aunt Isabel Hoogerzeil (1888 – 1960), her mother’s youngest sister.   Belle remained single until she married George Sorenson in 1936.  She was 32 years old the year of the diary, and married at age 48.  The “car” she went home on was a trolley car, not an automobile.]

Page 4
Sat. Jan. 10, 1920

Up at 8 o’clock worked
around the house all the
morning.  Went sliding over
at the golf link in the afternoon home
at 5.  After supper Gordon and
I went down to the pictures. home at
9:45 went to bed 10:15

Sunday 11
Up at 10:15 took a bath got
breakfast at 11. Stayed home all
morning.  Went sliding over to
to the golf links, Mr. Wilkins
came down.   Mr. Lowell came over
went home at 8:45.  Mr. Wilkins and Russ
down to Helen’s.  went to bed at 9:45

Monday 12
Up at 7 o’clcok went to
School got home 1:15 went back for French 2:15 got home 3:45
Home all the evening and
Studied went to bed at 8pm
Have got an awful cold.

[Notes:  The golf links mentioned on January 10th were probably the USMC golf course, which is now the Beverly Municipal Golf and Tennis Club on McKay Street near the Cummings Center.  "Gordon and I went to the pictures" means she went to the movies with her little brother.  I have no clue to the identity of the Mr. Wilkins or Mr. Lowell on the January 11th entry. ]

 Page 5
Tues. Jan. 13, 1920
Up at 7 o’clcok went
to school all morning home at
1:15 stayed home all the
afternoon.  Stayed home all
evening Mildred and Eunice
Went sliding.  Cold is about the
same went to bed at 9:15


Wednesday 14
Up at 7 Gordon has got the
Mumps.  I went to school.  Had
two exams this morning. Home
at 1:15.  My cold is some better.
Ma has gone down to Helen’s the baby is
sick.  Stayed home all evening
and studied went to bed 9pm


Thursday 15
Up at 7 went to school
Awful cold this morning
10 below 0.  Home at 1:15 got
dinner.  Mabel came up home all
afternoon and evening.  Gordon a
little better, bed at 8 o’clock.

[Note:  Helen was Gertrude’s eldest sister, and the baby would have been Clemont Lowell born 17 November 1919 (almost two months old on the date of this diary entry).   Gordon (with the mumps) was only 12 years old.  Can you imagine 10 below zero degrees in Beverly, Massachusetts in the days before good insulation, warm clothing and central heat?]

I plan to scan and transcribe a little bit of this diary every Monday for Amanuensis Monday on my blog.  Stay tuned for more next week!


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Amanuensis Monday ~ My Grandmother’s Diary", Nutfield Genealogy, posted December 5, 2016,  ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. I love diaries! Your grandmother was so lovely, and how fitting that the keeper of the family stories (you) should have her diary.

  2. Wouldn't they have had a coal furnace in 1920?

    1. I don't know about that. The house is gone now. I know that the house my grandmother lived in at 7 Dearborn Avenue, Beverly had a coal furnace in 1920.