JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: When snowflakes fall in June
Autograph books bring back those days when life was simple and carefree and when a few words on paper meant more than just words on paper.
Many, many years ago at about this time of the year when schools closed for the summer, girls and boys would bring their autograph books to school to be signed by friends and teachers.
During the summer months the books would remind them of those memorable school days. Some of their friends would have finished school, others would have left the area and some teachers might not have returned. The autograph books served to bring back those days when life was simple and carefree and when a few words on paper meant more than just words on paper.
One such book was owned by a girl named Marian. Her autograph book dates back to the 1930s, almost 100 years ago.
“Dear Marian, I shall always remember you as the little girl with the freckles and the big smile. Your teacher, Mr. Sychs.”
Teachers do see good in every student. It may not always be academic, but there are other qualities that stand out in a student like a smile or the ability to make friends. The written words of a teacher can bolster a student’s spirit, which may last for years and years. What teacher said some profound words to you that you remember today?
“Dear Marian, Flowers may wither; leaves may die; some may forsake you; but never shall I. Your friend, Carol.”
Friendships made during those early schooling years will always carry a unique place in our heart. We remember the friends we made and now and then as we grow older, they bring warmth to our hearts just knowing that those friendships have lasted year after year after year. When you think of school friendships, who do you think of?
“Dear Marian, The door is locked and the key is in the cellar, nobody’s in there but Marian and her feller. Billie.”
I belong to the group that says regardless how well you do academically or athletically, it’s one’s ability to form relationships that makes a difference. Boys tease girls, girls tease boys, probably not too many ended up marrying each other. Still, one’s first sweetheart is something endearing. Do you remember your first childhood sweetheart?
“Dear Marian, When you get married and have twins, don’t come to my house for safety pins. In your woodbox of friendship, consider me a little tiny chip. Your school friend, Verdelle.”
In my collection of early autograph books, I always wondered if the kids made up their inscriptions as they wrote, or were they something they heard before? Whatever the case may be you can see how these short quips would bring entertainment to a boy or a girl as they sat by the parlor stove on a cold winter evening. I might also add that the kids had pretty good penmanship.
“Dear Marian, When you get married and live by the lake, save me a piece of your wedding cake. Your classmate, Alice.”
Getting married was probably the No. 1 goal of girls growing up in the 1930s. There wasn’t much talk about “Dear Marian, when you grow up and become a lawyer, I will come and join you in the foyer.” Girls were pretty much indoctrinated to being mothers and housewives and boys were meant to be the breadwinners. You could say it was part of the culture. If you were around in the '40s or '50s, or even '60s, what were your aspirations?
“Dear Marian, In the albums kept by angels, with their leaves of massive gold; May your name be found there written, when the pages shall unfold. May you always think of me when you sit at home, your friend and schoolmate, Roberta.”
Most of the kids who came from rural areas and attended small town schools or country schools, were also probably active in their parish because there was little else for them to do. Consequently, spirituality was a big part of their lives as was their familiarity with angels. No doubt, most families had the family Bible present in a conspicuous space if for no other reason than to show the local pastor how reverent they were when he came to make a call. How much did spirituality play a part in your life as you were growing up?
“Dear Marian, Roses are red, violets are blue, skunks are dangerous and so are you. Leroy.”
It would be interesting to learn the quality of the relationship between Marian and Leroy. Was Leroy just a fun loving boy or did he feel threatened by Marian. I guess we will never know. I think Leroy looked at some of the other autographs and felt there was a need to lighten things up a bit. He could have been the class clown. Did you have a class clown when you were growing up?
“Dear Marian, Remember this adage by Roosevelt. 'The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.' Your friend and teacher, Mrs. Ruth Bacon.”
Maybe Marian was a student who when she made a mistake got pretty down on herself. Her teacher, Mrs. Bacon, recognized this and gave Marian some good advice, which is what good teachers do. I am sure Marian continued to make mistakes in her life but accomplished a lot of good while doing so. What was the greatest good that you accomplished in life?
“Dear Marian. When roses bloom in winter, when the snowflakes fall in June, when the sun comes out at midnight, and the moon comes out a noon, when stars above cease to glitter and 2x2 is 10, when today is tomorrow and tomorrow is today, when white is black, maybe I will forget you then. Your teacher, Mr. John Mikulski.”
Mr. Mikulski has probably passed away but for Marian, his memory, I’m sure has never gone. This is why years ago boys and girls had autograph books. Did you ever have one?
Riddle: Why do bees hum? (Answer: They don’t know the words. Autograph books helped make words memorable.)
Thanks to the Advising Success Center at BSU for showing their support for the 100% graduation initiative.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.