Grace Mellen journals
Grace Temple's journal, which she started on February 6, 1897 when she was 19, describes her wedding just 1O days earlier. She thought 19 was young to be married but she doubted she would ever regret the step although it was not "love at first sight." She continued to write over the next 58 years until Archie's death in November 1955. Sometimes there are several entries in a year, other times there are long gaps. There are no entries at all, for instance, between 1920 and 1927.
The journal is a record of married life - the birth of five girls and then two boys, all but the last born at home. Archie told the doctor after five girls (1907) that if they kept up they would soon have enough to stock a female seminary. Archie first worked for his father on his milk route in South Hadley, then after it was sold in 1911, he ran a poultry farm (1500 chicks in 1928) for Mr. Skinner, a "wonderful man to work for." After boarding with Archie's family for a number of years, they bought a small home and then a few years later, they moved into one of Mr. Skinner's rental houses. Having her own home meant a great deal to Grace; she wrote in 1949 she hoped all her children would be able eventually to own their own homes. Archie worked long hours*and rarely took any time off; his health broke in 1928 and he went to Clifton Springs, New York, to recover. Grace boarded nearby at $25 a week to be near him.
Finally in 1939 Archie resigned from the poultry job and they bought a house in New Lebanon, New York, for $2400 furnished. It needed a lot of repair but by 1940 they were in their own home. Archie tended the garden and his new hen house with 300 chicks, and Grace took tourists, "took in washing", and helped with the strawberry crop; she pedaled 500-600 quarts "all over town!' in July of 1950.
Grace rarely referred to current affairs but she did mention the First War and then there are frequent comments about World War II when some of her grandchildren were in service. Neither she nor Archie voted for FDR in 1944 - Archie thought Roosevelt wanted to be dictator.
Over the span of almost 60 years Grace recorded the ups and downs of married life - the birth, childhood and marriage of her 7 children, the arrival of grandchildren, illnesses, the inevitable heartbreaking disappointments. It was a never-ending struggle to make ends meet through the Great Depression, two major wars, and natural disasters like the Flood of '36 and the hurricane of 1936 or the hailstones which ruined the strawberry crop in 1954.
Archie was content to be at home while Grace always craved a little excitement. Archie was a stern taskmaster about social occasions, but no matter how much Grace complained in her journal about the grind and lonesomeness and her wish for friends and company, she always ended by saying what a good man he was and how very hard he worked. * (i.e. out at 1 a.m. to peddle milk in 1900).
The journal touches Mount Holyoke history in four places. Mr. Skinner, College Trustee and benefactor of the College, was Archie's employer for over 25 years. Claire, the second daughter, worked in the College laundry (May 1918) at $11 week (in the office) and Thelma, the oldest girl, at $9 week. Aileen worked as a college telephone operator before her marriage, sometime around 1927. And Jim, the oldest son, married Elinor Dunnel, member of the Class of 1937, in May of 37.
Dates of Interest:
By: CR Ludwig