In this day of texts and e-mails — quick communications that are soon deleted, it would be fun to bring back autograph books, something I remember from my girlhood grade school days. They were basically a blank book where friends could write verses of remembrance, the real books featured the inscription “Autograph Book” on the front. Each student had his own favorite phrase that was written in the best possible handwriting on everyone’s pages such as these this example:
I thought, I thought, I thought in vain
At last I thought I’d write my name.
Those would have been likely inscribed by a boy as the couplet didn’t commit to undying love or anything mushy. Each signer was allotted an entire page yet filled little space and once the book was full it could be turned upside down providing a place for additional messages, making the book essentially twice as long. Closings such as Your friend, Your classmate, Your true friend were used more by girls. Girls often mentioned the future to their friends:
When get married and have some twins,
Don’t call on me for safety pins.
These books were meant to be treasured forever and were the forerunner of the inscriptions in high school annuals. Book owners invited each person to sign. When teachers were included it indicated that the student had a particular fondness for the instructor and their writings were usually more personalized, not rhyming clichés such as: “My little student, always remember me with true affection. Your teacher,” followed by her signature.
I always thought these sentiments were only collected by girls then I came across a small scrapbook titled, “Hysterical History of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps),” published by Peerless Engraving Co., Little Rock Ark., in 1935. Seven of the pages are expressly for autographs. The men wrote heartfelt greetings, shared specific memories, signed their whole names and usually added their hometown. In this particular CCC boy’s book there was only one poetic attempt:
When you are looking through this book,
Think of me and my old brush hook.
That message paints a vivid picture, encompassing the history and the type of work done. It shows the men did hard work together, some might even call it shared misery. The following personal message makes me wonder if these men ever saw each other again: “Rockerville, Summit, Lightning Creek. We’ve been together in them all and now you are leaving but your acquaintance will always be with me in memories, one of the worthwhile things of CCC life. Remember your first day with an axe.”
Will today’s young people have anything written with which they can remember their formative years or will the memories all be forgotten with the delete key? Certainly, their family members will not have the fun tidbits like autograph books and mementoes unless people make a conscious effort now to leave a written trail.
Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota and can be reached by Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖