A daily diary of Depression-era life, told on Twitter.Posted on Wed Jan 28 2009
Late last year, my family found a line-a-day diary maintained by my great-aunt from 1937 to 1941. She was in her early teens, living on a small farm in rural Illinois with her two brothers, one of which was my grandfather.
It's a fascinating account of life in a bygone era, a time when my family's only connections to the world were schoolhouse chatter and a neighbor's radio.
Looking at the terse journal, my sister quipped, "This is the Twitter of the 1930s." We glanced at each other and almost immediately began planning the Twitter account that would become Twitter.com/Genny_Spencer.
Admittedly, most of the entries are pretty dry. That's farm life for you. But there are some real slice-of-life gems, like when my great-uncle Norman shot his first rabbit — at age 8.
There's another entry (which hasn't been posted yet) where my great-uncle won a contest at school, and his prize was a knife. Those were different times.
Oh, and to answer a few common questions I've gotten:
• My great-aunt is still alive, although she has severe dementia. She lives with a wonderful caretaker in Missouri, and my family tries to see her as often as possible. UPDATE: Genny passed away on Feb. 26, 2009.
• No, there's nothing deeply personal in the journal. It's very factual, more like a ship's log than a young girl's diary. Still, I asked my grandfather's permission before starting the Twitter feed.
• Unfortunately, the diary ends before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I'm not sure why. The last entries are from early 1941. Once war broke out, my grandfather, Kerby, enlisted as a fighter pilot and served proudly in the Pacific.
• No, I'm not the first person to think of this. There's a Twitter version of a 99-year-old's diary from 1974, though I hadn't seen it until after I started the Genny_Spencer account. There's also a blog that's posting George Orwell's diary.
• I'm using a service called TweetLater to prepare the posts in advance. I've been quite happy with it.
Thoughts? Impressions? Questions? This is obviously an open-ended experiment, so I'm definitely curious for feedback.