Oh, my, god. Here I'm about to make what may be my most important contribution to the recorded history of the World War II era and it begins with an accident. Not the kind of accident where a car bumps into a tree, or a bomb prematurely falls out of a plane, but rather...well...an accident. I'm not sure how else to put it.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, I spoke at the Stockbridge, Mass., Library about Lieutenant Edward L. Forrest. The talk involved a bit of Berkshires history, and I knew that of the 30 or so people in the audience, almost every one of them knew more about Stockbridge's history than I. I thought of a time I attended a meeting of NYMAS -- the New York Military Affairs Symposium -- one of the savviest bunch of amateur military history buffs on the planet. The speaker that evening was a college professor who was enamored of the story of Breaker Morant, read two or three books about him, and wanted to give a talk. The audience knew so much more about Breaker Morant than the poor speaker that when it came time for comments and questions, it was like watching one of those crocodile eats wildebeest videos on YouTube.
Part of my talk involved a visit to the late Dorothy Cooney, who had been Ed Forrest's girlfriend. I photocopied the diary of the Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine, who raised Ed from the time he was 14. I would read passages from the journal to Dorothy and she would tell me who the people were. For instance, on April 7, 1945 (four days after Ed's death, but the minister had not yet received the telegram), Laine was writing an airmail letter to Ed when he was interrupted by a phone call from New York from Gertrude Robinson Smith telling him her mother died. Dorothy asked if I knew who Gertrude Robinson Smith was. I shrugged. She then said one word.
I later googled Gertrude Robinson Smith, so my extent of her contribution to Berkshires history was limited to that one word from Dorothy and a Wikipedia entry, and the prospect of being wrong and having 30 people correct me was terrifying. So when I said Dorothy responded with one word, I asked if anyone knew what that word was.
Whew! Not only would I have been correct, but the entire audience, almost in unison, responded "Tanglewood." (Gertrude Robinson Smith raised much of the money to buy the property and build the shed at Tanglewood.)
But back to the accident. Reverend Laine's handwriting was not easy to read, and he often abbreviated words to save space (E. for Ed, Cong. for Congregation, Ch. for Christian, things like that). More than a decade ago I began transcribing the entries, but I set the project aside to work on other things.
There was a great deal of interest among the audience in the diary. So when I got home I opened the folder on my computer which holds the diary transcriptions and saw I'd transcribed some whole months -- like the month Ed was killed -- and some partial months.
I decided to post some diary entries, starting with the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. My spirits lifted when I looked at the folder and saw a file for December of 1941. But when I opened the file and scrolled down, the last entry I transcribed was December 6. What's up with that?
This is what's up with that:
Holy Cow! No wonder I didn't try to transcribe it. Nevertheless I'll now do my best to transcribe and translate the entries for the first week of December. And then I read about the accident.
Reverend Laine was a chaplain in World War I, and he was gassed. By now he was middle-aged, portly, and likely still suffered some of the physical aftereffects of the war. Thus the entry for December 1, 1941, begins with a dose of sal hepatica. If you don't know what sal hepatica was, this YouTube video might be helpful.
Here is my best effort at transcribing the diary entries. If you recognize any of the names or wish to suggest corrections, please either do so in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 1: (Monday) Cold, sunny. Up 11:30, shaved. Took sal hepatica. Breakfast B 12:35. Miss Canning phoned. Had accident before I could reach bathroom. Took shower bath. Paid bills. 2:10 B to Bank B saw Mr. Taylor of St. Edmund=s on way. Read ATimes.@ 5 B took wine jelly to Miss Minnie Ball in South Lee (did not see her) B 4:30 to tea with Mrs. Hiss (Tracy=s) B her daughter, Mrs. Thomas, there B back 5:35. Grown very cold. 6 B news. 6:20 B Miss Sparks phoned about Libbie Hofmayer case. C.S. Heyward phoned. W.L. MacClintoc phoned (spoke to him about haymaking trucks parking here at night). Phoned Mrs. Sparks that I was sending Hofmayer file to her. E. took Miss F. To E. Millers (S. Lee) & left files (unintelligible) Mrs. Martin. Mrs. Thomas phoned & came to see me about Hofmayer.10 - R.G. Swing.
December 2: (Tuesday) Very warm, rainy a.m. then foggy. Up 11, shaved. (Radio B APepper Young=s Family@ & news). 12:10 B Miss Sparks called, did not see her. Had creamed corned beef for breakfast. Mrs. Thomas phoned. Read ATimes.@ Worked on Library book list B to Library with it. Read AEagle.@ 4 B To Peters, Lenox, to look for Christmas gifts B back 5:20. Mr. Lahart (electrician) of Lenox phoned. 6 B News. Eve. B raining. Radio music. 7:15 B AMrs. Keen.@ Read in 2 of Bp. Davies= books B ADiverson of Staying at Rome" and "After Confirmation, What?" 8:40 B E. came in study & read. 9 B Quincy Howe. 9:30 B AFibber McGee.@ 10 B R.G. Swing B Read in AChrist. Cent.@ Had sandwiches & apple. Read in Reader=s Digest.
Dec. 3: (Wednesday) Very mild, sun out at 1:50. Up 11:25, shaved. 12:45 B F. Pilling came & put new cap on shower bath. Read ATimes.@ Read in AChristian Century.@ Changed clothes. 3 - to Woman Auxiliary meeting (Mrs. Eastman spoke) B I made a short talk. 3:45 B met Richard Sporrell(?) At end of driveway B long talk with him about truck & police situation. Very mild. Read for Sunday=s sermon. 6 B News. 7:15 B Arthur Hale. Very heavy fog. E. to movies. Read about years before World War in ARoad to War.@* 8 B Quincy Howe. Read in AFall of Russian Monarchy.@ 10 B Raymond Gram Swing. Had bran muffin, apricots & milk. 8:30 B Kaye Brinker. 10:45 B News. Read in AFall of Russian Monarchy.@ Shower bath.
*Interesting that he should be reading this four days before Pearl Harbor. Here's an article by the author of "The Road to War" published in the Harvard Crimson in January of 1941.
Dec. 4: (Thursday) Very warm, sunny. Up 11:30, shaved. Mrs. Sedgwick phoned. 1:30 B Mr. Lahart (electrician) of Lenox came to see about putting new light in sacristy. To Church with him. Mrs. E. Miller in. Mrs. Davidson in for press notices. Read ATimes.@ 3 B walked to call on Miss Canning (out) B home B read AEagle@ B then walked to Dr. Campbell=s (new house). Cold [sinus?] B (talk about Glen Pilling, etc.) B to Library B home 5:15. 6 B News. Eve. B Ans. Letters of Prof. Williams of Mt. Holyoke referred to me by Bp. Lawrence. Read in Quinn=s AEdgar Allen Poe.@ [illegible] 10 B R.G. Swing. Wrote [illegilble] to a Miss Lillefield in Springfield (about a Mr. Fallon).Very heavy fog. Had sandwiches.
Dec. 5: (Friday) Very warm (records broken), sunny till 1. Up 11:35, shaved. Noon B Radio News. Read ATimes.@ To Church to see new light installed in Sacristy B talk with Mrs. Derrick & Miss Canning B back 3:35. 4 B Library Trustees meeting B over 5:20. Raining but hot. Read AEagle.@ 6 B News. Eve. B Mrs. Dunn phoned B just home. 7:15 B Arthur Hale. E. To card party at Cong. Church. Changed clothes. No one came at 8:30 to Parish House as Mrs. Sedgwick had planned. 9 B turned out P.H. lights. 9 B Quincy Howe. Read in Millis= ARoad to War.@ Had milk & bran muffin.
Dec. 6: (Saturday) A trifle cooler, sunny. Up 10:45. Army unit passed thru this a.m. Read in ALiv. Ch.@ & ATimes.@ Began to listen to ADie Walkure@ from Met. Opera. E. Took nap. Rec=d minutes of Christ. Education Dep=t. 3:35 B walked around grounds B growing much colder B great change in weather B to Library. Read AEagle.@ 4:40 - 5:30 B dozed in chair in study. Looked over some old W. Mass. Journals. 6 B News. Eve. B picked out hymns. Wrote note of sympathy to Mr. Stewart Forbes & a note to Miss Maude Young. 7:45 B H.V. Kaltenborn. Read in AQuiet Flows the Don.@ E. To Occ. Club. Had some gelatine salad. Shower bath. Grown very cold & windy.
Dec. 7: (Japan attacks Hawaii, declares war on U.S.) (Advent 2) Cold, sunny. Up 8, shaved. Breakfast - 9:06. 10 - opened Sunday School (Sandra P?) entered. 11 - Stockbridge - ("David") (23 min.) Good Cong. (Mrs. Procter & Hope in church). Read "Repub." 2:30 - heard over Radio (WQXR) special bulletin saying Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (What terrible news - God help us!) 2:40 - news - Japs attack Manilla from air. 3:20 - rode with E. to Austerlitz - home 4:40. 4:55 - news (about Japanese attack on Hawaii). 5 - Met. Opera Opera auditions. 5:15 N.B.C. broadcast that Japan has declared war on the U.S. - news from San Francisco & Manilla. 5:20 - Japan declares war on Great Britain - Manilla has not been (?). ... Forbes body at Cong. Ch. 5:45 - W.L. Shirer. Eve. 6:35 - ... another war attack on Honolulu. ... (the rest of this entry is beyond my ability to transcribe! Although upon closer look, somewhere in there he notes: "Wrote Christmas appeal," and also "constant war updates.")
(More to come)
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