My grandfather, John Lemuel Anderson, kept a daily diary from 1923 through 1974. He died in 1977
These weren't little diaries, or full of gaps; he wrote in daily diary books. It would not come as a surprise to any of my relatives, close or distant, or friends who knew his nature, that every day included whether it was hotter or colder, clear or changing, windy or still... the temperature or rainfall, or snow if it was something unusual, like the hottest or longest without rain, for what amount of time and he would even go back and update them to say that date xyz was the new record.
His entries were so dry and short and to the point. He was definitely a "just the facts ma'am" kind of guy.
For example, when someone died he would list their name, date of birth and that they died on this date. No emotion. Including his parents, and other close relatives. The next day or so would be the funeral and what family was in attendance and with whom they stayed and for how long.
Most of the days had entries such as Tuesday August 6, 1935 - Hot Mother took treatment (we don't know what it was, but she had some that day.) and off in the sides there were monetary entries 3.- .25 1.- .50 Again, not sure what for but reckon it was housekeeping expenses or earnings from trading goods. Other days would include something like " May 12 1935 Rained early this morning. was good all day but began raining at 9 P.M. Down home today. Out to Lems (his father or grandfather, don't know, named the same and in the same town) Dinner at Alexs (my grandmother's father) Out to airport this evening. Got some fish of ships (? He was valedictorian at his college, I guess if he wrote ships he meant ships) Got eggs, rhubarb, shoulder meat."
The birth of his children and grandchildren were announced - Helen Marie was born today - nothing about how my grandmother was doing, how many days it took, again - just the facts. Same with weddings and other life events.
His family moved a few times in the early days for his job. The moves seemed to happen rather quickly because he'd just say "moved into house in Macomb". It has been easier to translate all of these entries as the years of the diaries went on because I stopped expecting or anticipating details on parts of the family story I knew about.
In the 60's the diaries include the construction of his new brick home that he himself built. Occasional help from other family members with trade experience but for the most part it was - went to such and such store, bought some kind of gutter thing to run along side the driveway, took it to the house, put up 4 pieces of drywall. Every single day. I learned how to build a house, THE house that I remember spending so much time in. And he was also helping his son build one on the other side of town. At the same time. Fascinating.
He was really into cars and talks a lot about fixing them but I was surprised to hear how often they drove these big cars on big day trips and back. He was an avid horse race enthusiast. He has entries of seeing great horses, Man O' War, Citation, Seabiscuit, and so on. They would often take the whole family and sometimes he'd go by himself. Would enter the miles driven, how much for gas, who he bet on, the odds, and the outcome. At the end of the diary each year was balances, and one set aside particularly for racing. He did pretty well!
He sold tractor parts for Case and kept separate diaries for expenses, including the expense book and clothes he bought. Occasionally my grandmother would fill in the blanks on those days and they were equally lacking in details. But, my grandmother had a few surprises in her entries too. According to my mother my grandmother used to put a tiny x on the corner of the page when my parents got "together" if you follow me. And she was not shy about calling out her boys. Something my grandfather would never ever do. One year she started the diary. On January 1st her entry included the usual details that my grandfather had always included, who was living where, how old, what they were up to, like school or work, etc. So this particular year when she got to my uncles, her 2 boys, she wrote that John was in the navy stationed at some place and that Jimmy was just a bum. That was probably the funniest thing I saw the whole time. Still cracks me up.
He started these diaries shortly after he and my grandmother were secretly married. She was whisked away to another state and they were discovered when they returned to town. It made the local newspaper. When my grandmother was quite young she started getting sick and eventually died from a brain tumor. That year and the years after were very difficult to read because my grandfather's grief was somehow not hidden by his stoic entries. He called her his dear Pal. So sad to even write about.
As you can imagine, having these 50 years of diaries is one of my greatest treasures.