Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aunt Lil Keeps Track

I would like to say I’m continually amazed at what people choose to save over a lifetime—until I think of what others might think about the stuff I have squirreled away. Then I don’t feel so judgmental when I find, among Agnes Tully Stevens’ collected papers, a notebook of personal records belonging to her sister.

This is no big time operator’s ledger, by the way. Lily Tully chose to keep track of all her worldly transactions in a humble spiral-bound notebook—a slim volume of the kind kids might use for school assignments. She recorded such things as donations to her church, birthday gifts to relatives, and the petty change loans that were swapped back and forth among family members. Of course, by the time she began entries in this book, she was entering her sixties—perhaps signaling a need for tools to help her remember the every detail of her transactions.

March 1941
            $1.00               Fr. McNally
            10.00               Agnes (applied on Carson’s Bill)
               .10                stamps
               .75                night gown (Clara)
               .75                Fannie (I owed)
             1.00                Medicine
            10.00               John (paid for dog)
               .50                   Monday April 7
               .25                Irvinine [?]
                                    loaned Fannie
             4.92                (2.36 drawers John)(1.03 apron Clara, 
                                    1.03 Socks Bill)
                                    50 on socks for John
             2.06                Mandels (John + Francis)
             1.00                dress Maxine stockings
              2.00               Cath + Rosalie

There is more to Aunt Lil’s notebook, though, than the financial records. There were notes scribbled to remind herself about addresses of various Boards of Missions. There were journal-like entries detailing a nephew’s first birthday party, or the date when she had her last “permanent wave.” One page, as if starting a letter, begins at the top with “Mrs. Mason”—and then the rest of the page is left blank. (Wonder how Mrs. Mason felt about that.)

Yet, in wandering around these pages filled with Aunt Lil’s stream-of-consciousness style of recordkeeping, I find snippets of details that piece together a picture of life in this World War II era Chicago household. And some entries I am most thankful for, as they provide corroboration I’ve been seeking for some details in the lives of particular Stevens family members.

Take this entry, for instance. It provides a second telling of the intermediary stops along the way that brought Lil’s nephew Frank Stevens from an abrupt end to his high school education all the way to the fiercest fighting the Pacific Theater had known.

While this little booklet might have seemed like one that should have been tossed a long time ago, I’m now glad someone had decided—for whatever reason—to hang on to it just a little longer.

Francis left for Great Lakes
            Feb. 24 – 1942
Wrote him March 2 – 1942 Sent $1.00
                         3 – 1942
                         5  one 3¢ stamp
                        10  I think
                         13 (Fanny wrote too)
            Francis came home from Great Lakes for few hours first visit in Navy uniform March 21 – 1942
            Came home April 12 – for couple hours
                                      13 to 18 – 1942 vacation
            Francis to go to Jacksonville, Florida
                        To a Base hospital Friday May 29 – 1942
            Left Jacksonville June 10 – 1942
Called on phone Sunday June 12 – 1942 from Norfolk, Va. going to Virgin Island Base Hosp.


  1. Like you, I have STUFF that logic dictates should have been tossed. But I'm learning that if I am patient, a clue will appear to help unravel another mystery.

    1. Wendy, there is something amazing about that waiting to look again. It's all in the clues. It's all a big chain reaction.

  2. This little notebook could be a treasure trove!


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