A Glimpse into my Grandma’s Life: 1941

Besides the wonderful picture that I was reunited with last week, the woman who contacted me also gave me a glimpse into my Grandma Eleanore’s life in 1941, when she was 18-19 years old. (when this picture was taken)

Her mother kept a diary, which thankfully mentioned my grandmother quite a few times.  This is very helpful to me, since I don’t have any diaries to read through.

What a treasure!!!!  I am so thankful that this woman took the time to find me, to send me the picture, and to write out the diary entries which mentioned my grandmother.  I can’t thank her enough.  It makes you wonder how many hidden sources are out there, just waiting to be found, doesn’t it?  And it really makes me remember that I need to be better about paying attention to who my ancestors were friends with – because they could often have pictures or diary entries about my ancestors!!

One of the interesting things that I discovered through this diary, is that my grandma appears to have attended the University of Washington for a while.  My mom had no clue that her mom had ever gone there.

Here are a few of the diary entries and some of my thoughts on them:

  • April 30, 1941.  “Elinor Bergman and I are going to “The Penthouse” tomorrow night to see “Holiday””.   The Penthouse Theatre was on the University of Washington campus.  It was a 172-seat theater with an elliptical stage and a domed ceiling. The following picture was found on Flickr.com

RPPC Ellis 1146 Penthouse theater

  • May 22, 1941. Ellie came over and we went to song fest….Bill showed us the back stage of the Showboat and we drove around until after twelve. I believe that song fest was an annual spring event at the UW.  Here is a picture of the Showboat Theatre.  I never imagined my grandma going to plays and driving around until midnight.:)

RPPC A363 Showboat theatre

  • May 27, 1941.” …Ellie came to the Commons at noon and had lunch with me.  We had 1:00 quiz and lab from 2-4.   Ellie met Paul at 4.” It appears that my grandma was in class at the UW in May of 1941, which confuses me a bit since she didn’t graduate from high school until June 10, 1941 (according to her diploma).  Maybe she started college classes early?  Any ideas?  I wonder who Paul was….:)
  • May 28, 1941. “I skipped my swim class and ate lunch with Ellie. Nan and Bill were there too – Paul asked Ellie to go out Friday night”  My grandma had a date!!!
  • June 2, 1941. “Ellie told me that she and Paul missed the bus after the show Friday night and he took her home in a taxi.”  I wonder if they missed the bus on purpose….
  • June 9, 1941. “Ellie made reservations at the “Penthouse” for Friday night.  It looks like grandma attended plays quite regularly!
  • June 10, 1941. “We all sat under a tree at the Commons and talked.  Ellie and I went down in the evening and got “Cokes” Fun!”
  • June 13, 1941. “…came by this afternoon and took me for a drive.   We went to Ballard and after much trouble found Ellie’s house!  … We went to the Penthouse.  Good show!…Ellie is staying here all night. Lake tomorrow”  My grandmother lived in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle.  It had a large Scandinavian population – and her parents were both from Sweden.  Her friend lived in another part of town.
  • June 15, 1941.  “At Pine Lake. We slept late, about 1 o’clock….Ellie and I went swimming before we ate.  The water was fine…Ellie, Dad and I were going to stay all night but 11:30  and decided to come in town. Val, Rex, Charlie, Ellie, and I saw a beautiful view of the lakes.  We went to Dave’s and then danced at La Pine.  Ellie is sleeping with me tonight.”  It sounds like grandma was having a great time with her friends!
  • June 23, 1941.  “Ellie called me up and she got an A, C, and D on her grade sheet. I got a C, C, C.”  It sounds like grandma was having more fun than studying!!!:)
  • July 9, 1941.  “I called Ellie this evening.  I haven’t seen her in a long time.”
  • July 12, 1941. “Ellie came over this afternoon and we went to town and saw a show. When Mom got home from work, we went to the Lake and got there after midnight”. 
  • July 13, 1941.  “We got up rather late.  Ellie and I went swimming twice.  John Isaacson went in too.  We had a bonfire on the beach this PM…It was a lovely day and this PM too.  We didn’t get to bed until 1 o’clock.” 
  • July 16, 1941.  “This was the hottest day in Seattle’s history. 99 degrees.”  No wonder why they were spending so much time swimming at the lake!
  • September 22, 1941. “Ellie called this AM and came over.  I gave her the little souvenirs I had bought her…”
  • September 29, 1941. “I started back to school….I saw Ellie in Chem.  I had lunch in the Commons and met the old crowd.”  Apparently Grandma continued school into the fall.
  • October 6, 1941.  “Ellie, Adele and I had lunch at the Chalet this noon…”
  • October 9, 1941.  “I studied in the library with Ellie and Adele until noon today.”
  • October 25, 1941. “I slept late and then got ready to go to the football game… Ellie and I waited for Adele.  We walked down to the stadium.  We lost 13-7 but it was a good game.”  Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that the Huskies were playing the Stanford Indians this evening.
  • December 7, 1941.  “This may be the Most Important Day in modern history. Japan has declared war on the U.S. and has attacked Hawaii, Wake, Guam, and the Philippines.  The whole west coast is in a state of emergency and it is all so frightening…”  I can’t even imagine what a scary day this must have been!  Especially living on the West Coast.
  • December 11, 1941.  “I worked at the phone company again this PM.  I came home with Ellie and Don.” I believe that this “Don” is actually my grandfather, Donald Sanchez.  They were married in July of 1943. 
  • December 16, 1941. “…Ellie came home to dinner with me and then we went to work from here. Then Don and Ellie brought me home again.” I wonder if she also worked at the phone company.
  • December 31, 1941. “I got up rather early this AM and went down to meet Ellie and Adele at the Paramount and saw Louisiana Purchase.  Wow was it good.”  Louisiana Purchase came out on this day, so it sounds like they went to the opening show of this Bob Hope movie.  I think I might have to add this one to my Netflix queue since I’ve actually never seen it before.:)
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  • Wendy - October 13, 2011 - 6:15 am

    What a wonderful post! Isn’t it fun seeing our parents and grandparents as young people? The Dec 7 entry is especially interesting — gave me chillbumps reading the thoughts of someone there in the moment.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Shoer - October 13, 2011 - 7:01 am

    Absolutely amazing and an even more amazing woman to have shared all of this with you. She is a geneaangel for sure.ReplyCancel

  • NoOceanInKansas - October 13, 2011 - 7:17 am

    Thanks for sharing! This was a great read. Also, love your site!!! I can tell you’ve put a lot of time into it.
    Happy Thursday!ReplyCancel

  • Debi Austen - October 13, 2011 - 8:22 am

    Priceless! I was also especially interested in the December 7 entry – another glimpse into a historic day.ReplyCancel

  • Debi Austen - October 13, 2011 - 8:23 am

    Oh, and since I live in the Seattle area and my daughters both graduated from UW, it was also especially interesting to read about places that I can visualize.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - October 13, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    You are right…what a great treasure!ReplyCancel

  • Robert Sanchez - October 13, 2011 - 5:15 pm
  • Sheryl - October 16, 2011 - 4:23 pm

    What an awesome find! It’s really cool how diaries can provide glimpses of what our grandmothers were like when they were young.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Lee - October 18, 2011 - 3:26 pm

    What a wonderful treasure! And it is hard to believe how much “fun” she was having back in 1941!ReplyCancel

  • Abby - October 19, 2011 - 11:58 am

    Cool! That is a treasure!ReplyCancel

  • Amy Lee - October 20, 2011 - 11:42 am

    And I was just thinking… this was a summer in the middle of WWII! What was she thinking? LOL! As noted in the friend’s journal… it wasn’t really made real to Americans until 1941 when Japan attacked…. So it is not just our era of “not in our face not on our minds” it was even an epidemic in 1941 during WWII.ReplyCancel

  • [...] at “Climbing My Family Tree“,  has a good post this last week about her Grandmother, A Glimpse into my Grandma’s life: 1941. What an amazing treasure she received & shared with everyone. Her grandma seemingly had a [...]ReplyCancel

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