Week 38: September 20, 2014
May I Have your Autograph Willie Mae, Catherine, Grace, Kendrick?
Mama’s autograph book – 1943-1945
This weeks story is one of those – you’re looking through drawers for one thing – and finding another. My attention soon switched to this story after pulling out my mother’s autograph book from 1943 – 1945 – and what soon followed – my autograph book from 1961!
Autograph books have been popular from way back in Victorian times up until maybe the sixties. I think they’ve died out now except for maybe vacation ones. I would say Disney is a very popular spot to see kids of all ages with them in hand – doesn’t every little girl want Cinderella, Snow White or Belle’s autograph? I’m sure my granddaughter Ella filled a book with all her favorite “princesses” autographs.
It was mostly the girls with the autograph books – I don’t remember any boys asking me to sign theirs! By the time I was in high school, the class yearbooks quickly became the official autograph book, with you asking everyone to sign. Girls and boys alike offered theirs for signing “words of remembrance.”
Girls were usually eager to pen a funny verse in your book – boys on the other hand – well they cringed when asked! Their verses had to be thought out – no lovey dovey words or the girl would think they liked her – and they just might! But they couldn’t let her know in written word for all to see. And who didn’t pen a famous autograph or two in their books – I think some of the Beatles signed in mine – just saying…
After reading through the verses in my mothers book – I called her. “Where did you get your autograph book at – who bought it for you?” She had no idea, but she remembered it very well. As I went page by page, reading them out-loud to her and saying who wrote the verse, she quickly began telling tales. I think I’ll pass on writing most of those remembrances – some things better left – not written down.
Mama’s autograph book was entitled School Day Memories – Class of the 8th grade. She would have been about fourteen years of age. Mama listed her “favorite teacher” as Miss Snellings, “favorite friends” were Willie Mae and Joyce, “favorite study” was Health and “favorite sport” was basketball. She later played on the basketball team in high school.
Dear Sis, March 12, 1945
You’ll have many a friend and many a lover but to give you room I’ll write on the cover. Your sister – in – law till my rich uncle gets out of the poor house.
Catherine DeRango McKinley
P.S. I’ll always remember the good times I had in Georgia (Catherine was from Racine, Wisconsin)
Her BFF Willie Mae wrote…
Dear Helen, The river is high and I can’t step it. I love you and I can’t help it!
When you get old and married and along with life you have tarried – just turn back to this old page and remember me in your younger age.
Your school pal Willie Mae.
Kendrick was the local doctors son, and lived next door to mama for many years – they were more like brother and sister. His handwriting seemed to have determined that he would also one day become a doctor.
Dear Helen: “When you get married and soon have twins don’t come to me for safety pins.”
When I read his verse to Mama, she remembered stories.. “Kendrick always like to tease me like a brother would. Anytime I stood in front of the class and read, he’d be in the back of the class trying to make me laugh – I often got in trouble because I’d hit him on the head with my book when I went back to my seat.”
My Autograph book from 1961 holds a few of my teachers autographs along with friends, parents and grandparents. Even though it’s twenty years later, some of the verses were still the same.
Besides the silly verses, it also holds nostalgic memories of written words from my parents, as well as all of my grandparents.
Having a sample of their handwriting is not something you end up saving – and to have it all in one book – makes it special.
Mother’s always wrote sweet verses to you!
And sometimes Daddy’s did too, but I remember the men taking longer to write!
I even see some of my own writing style in looking at their handwriting. If only I knew what I know today, I would have asked them more questions about their life and had them write about it on those pages…
My grandmother McKinley’s handwriting is very special to me as there is no other written words of her anywhere. I have very little memory of her and it’s nice seeing and reading the words she thought to write to me in her own handwriting. The name grandmama and granddaddy are often only used in the South.
I’m sure it was difficult for Granddaddy McKinley to write on this page, and I bet he hedged until I pleaded. Mama told me he had no more than a fourth grade education, but very smart in business and making money. My grandmother mostly read everything to him but I guess this is proof he learned to write. He always signed E. T. McKinley
I don’t know how it all came about, but all the grandchildren called my father’s mother “Mama Bryan.” And she never spelled my name right – no matter what – she always put an “I” in Jeanne!
My grandfather Paul Bryan is who I remember the most – he lived the longest of all my grandparents so I had the most contact with him. He was a quiet, gentle and soft-spoken man – I never remember hearing him raise his voice. He loved a good cigar and a front porch swing after Sunday dinner. It also seems granddaddy spelled my name wrong too – spelling it here as Jennie.
Some always wanted to write on the cover and some on the back – it was always their style – or maybe to be seen or remembered more – who knows – but they have been fun to read one more time before placing back in the drawer to be discovered another day; maybe shared with the grandchildren in later years – and listen to them laugh at such silly words we wrote.