Monday, March 20, 2017

My Grandmother’s Diary ~ Part 15, June 26 – July 7, 1920

1929 Children sleeping on a fire escape

How did people survive sleeping during heat waves before air conditioning?  You can find out how my grandmother survived this in her school girl diary.

This is the 15th installment of my grandmother's diary from 1920.  Her name was Gertrude Hitchings (1905 - 2001), and she was living on Elliott Street in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Gertrude was a 14 year old school girl when she kept this little journal.  The book is a tiny 3", and every Monday I publish a new section, with transcriptions of the tiny handwriting.  You can read the first installment HERE.  I'll post more of this diary every week for Amanuensis Monday.

SAT.  JUNE 26, 1920
Got up at 7.30 had breakfast
went over Mrs Butler’s at 9. Came
home had dinner.  Ethel
came down. Rus and Mr. Lowell
over to supper.  Went up to the
store after supper.  Home all
evening went to bed at 10.30

Got up at 9 had breakfast
went over Mrs. Butler’s at 10.15
came home stayed home all morning
after dinner Mildred and I
went to walk up reservoir
Home all evening went to
bed out in the tent at 9.30.

Got up at 6.45. Went
over Butler’s at 9.  Came
home at 1 home all
afternoon reading home
all evening went to bed
in the tent at 10.

NOTE:   In these diary entries Gertrude mentions sleeping in the tent.  This was another version of sleeping outside on a sleeping porch during the hot summer weather.  In the days before air conditioning some people used to set up sleeping pavilions in their back yard.  That must have been fun!

The reservoir she mentions here must be the Folly Hill Reservoir, which was not far from Elliott Street. She mentions her brother Russell, his wife Ethel, her sister Mildred, and the boarder Mr. Lowell who was usually there on weekends.

TUES. JUNE 29, 1920
Got up at 7.45 went
over Butler’s all morning
went downtown for Mrs. B.
Helen and baby up all day
Went up Danvers played tennis
after dinner.  home all evening
and went to bed at 10.30

Got up at 7.15 went
over Butler’s all morning
came home at 12.45. After
dinner went to ride with
Ella ??? came home
got supper.  Went out with the
bunch around here.  Bed at 10.30

Got up at 7.15 went over
Mrs. Butler’s at 8.30 and went
downtown.  Down Ella’s all
afternoon.  After supper went
to walk with the kids
went to bed at 10.15

NOTE:  Gertrude mentions her sister Helen, her friend Ella, and going to work for Mrs. Butler (housework?). 

FRI. JULY 2, 1920
Got up at 7.15 went over
Butler’s all morning.  After
dinner went downtown with
Ida & Eunice got a pair of shoes
Came home at 5. After supper
Went riding with Ella and
Gladys.  Went to bed at 10.

Got up at 7.30 went over to
Mrs. Butler’s all morning
worked home all afternoon
rained hard all day Mr.
Lowell over In the afternoon.
Stayed home all evening and
Read went to bed at 9.30

Got up at 8.30 had break
fast at 9. Home all the morn
ing.  After dinner went to
walk came home at 5.
Stayed up all night watched
Bonfire went to bed at 1 A.M.

NOTE:  Gertrude mentions her friends Ida, Gladys and Ella; and her sister Eunice.  She mentions the boarder Mr. Lowell and working at Mrs. Butler’s house.  On the 4th of July she went to see a bonfire until well after midnight! I wonder if she slept out in the tent that night? 

MON. JULY 5, 1920
Got up at 8.30 went over
to Butler’s home all morning
Ellsworth, Helen & baby up Mr. Lowell
too.  After dinner went
down to Ella’s.  After supper
went to ride.  Came home watched
fireworks went to bed at 10.45

Got up at 7.30 over Mrs.
Butler’s all the morning
Went down Ella’s after dinner
and then went down
town.  After supper went
down Ella’s a while, we
slept in the tent bed at 9.15

Got up at 5 had break
fast at 6.45.  Went on the
Sunday school picnic up
to Idlewood had a
swell time home at 8.
Went to bed at 10.

NOTE:   The firework display was on the night after the 4th of July.  She mentions her sister Helen, brother-in-law Ellsworth, friend Ella, and the boarder Mr. Lowell.   Her Sunday school picnic was at Idlewood Park in Wenham where she “had a swell time”.  Gertrude hardly ever mentions church or Sunday school in her diary, but it was an important part of her life growing up.

Click here for another diary entry about Idlewood Park:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "My Grandmother’s Diary ~ Part 15, June 26 – July 7, 1920", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 20, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. I'd be curious to know more about the tent and sleeping pavilions in general. I wonder if they slept on the ground or turned it into something a little more luxurious. Sleeping outside is always a fun treat and now I think I'll have have to do it more often this summer!

  2. I wonder where the bonfire and fireworks were that she went to. I know that most years since my youth, fireworks have been set off at West Beach in Beverly Farms on the 4th of July. (They are just visible over the trees in West Manchester).

    1. And I was wondering about the Horribles Parade, too!

  3. How wonderful to have her diary! I have one my uncle kept as a teenager in Brooklyn. He mostly counted how many squirrels he'd shot each day!