Thursday, July 11, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday (July 11, 2013) -- One Hundred Years Ago This Month!

The 1913 - 1914 "A Line A Day" diary of Arnold G. Tew, Sr. 

As I have noted in sporadic posts on The Prism earlier this year, I am the very fortunate recipient of the 1913 - 1914 diary of my paternal grandfather, Arnold G. Tew, Sr.  Since the diary (pictured above) is 100 years old this year, I have selected occasional entries to post here under the theme of "100 Years Ago Today" or something similar.  I have gone back and forth on how much of the diary to publish and so have not posted much beyond a few single date excerpts until now.

Today I have decided to share a series of transcribed entries that I consider very poignant and in many ways heart wrenching; but they are also instructive and serve as a reminder that teenage boys are teenage boys no matter what era they live in.  They are caught between the yearnings of and for manhood, yet they are still vulnerable to the loneliness and angst of immaturity as can be seen in the diary excerpts to follow.

A little background is in order for this lengthy (but I hope interesting ) post.  Context and brief identifications will help orient the reader.

"Edna" is my grandfather's sister -- she was eleven years older than he.  "Mildred" is Edna's daughter who was born in 1911.  "Cliff" is Edna's husband and my grandfather's brother-in-law. "Andover" is Andover, Massachusetts where my grandfather attended Phillips Academy.  "South Lawrence" is Lawrence, Massachusetts.

My grandfather was born with a congenital abnormality in one of his knees that left him lame all his life.  The surgery referred to in the diary excerpts below was unfortunately not the cure that was hoped for.  This affected my grandfather in many ways and as a teenager his diary is full of his avid following of sports in which he could not compete.  His diary is also replete with the usual observations of a testosterone-driven teenage boy -- especially with his pursuit of girls.  He was a prodigious writer not only of a diary, but of letters to girls.  He often wrote several letters a day and expected prompt return correspondence.  He suffered disappointment and even resentment when he failed to receive mail and he commented on whether or not he got mail almost every day.  [I think he would have been an avid user of email, Twitter and social media had he lived in this technology rich age!]   One striking aspect of his diary prior to July 1913, was the very sporadic and always casual references to his mother and older sister.  He was wrapped up in school activities, his social life, being a sports fan and the rush to become an adult, so he showed little day-to-day time for or interest in his immediate family [see this post and the link there for further background on my grandfather's nuclear family] . . .  that is until the end of the school year in June 1913 and the events that followed in July.  The selected excerpts below will tell the story . . .

Arnold G. Tew (L) and Fred Swett (R) his good friend and classmate
 at Phillips Andover -- circa 1913

June 11 [Wednesday] :            Got Benner’s Goat!!  We had our final exam in French this morning.  Considering the rotten teaching ability of old Liz Parmelee the exam was darn hard but I guess I pulled a C at least.  We had our final English exam in “David Copperfield.”  I guess I pulled about a C in that also.  I received a letter from Portland, Maine stating that Dr. Abbott [1] could see me the 23rd of June for consultation.  The Juniors got through school at one o’clock to-day.  All the fellows in the house packed all night – No studying!  Lots of rough housing!  [The entries for June 21 - 30, 1913 are missing from the diary for some unknown reason, so there is no summary of the June 23rd "consultation with Dr. Abbott.]

July 1 [Tuesday] :            I had the operation on my leg this morning and I was under ether from 9.45 A.M. to 1.15 P.M. – three hours  and a half.  My leg is now in a Plaster-of-Paris caste and it aches like h___.  I wrote an awful pathetic letter to mother!!! While coming out of ether I debated on “The Annexation of Cuba” and gave a number of brilliant speeches.  Anyway they certainly have swell nurses out here.  I only slept about 2 hours all night.

July 2 :            There is one nurse here I like especially well and her name is Miss Hawkes!  She’s kind and pleasant always.  Was quite a warm day.  In Portland – which is supposed to be a cool city – the temp reach 100°.  I was clad all day in pajamas only!!!  Cheese cloth at that.  I wrote letters about the whole time: among the recipients will be mother, Ruth Hodges, Olive Barker, Lucie Riley and Fred Swett.  I received a very nice long letter from my dear Ruth Hodges.

July 3 :            I had awnings put on my windows here in the hospital.  I didn’t receive any mail to-day!  Was also very warm day.  I am becoming accustomed to the Plaster-of-Paris on my knee bearing it in under 100 lbs. pressure! 

July 4 :            Independence Day  I got two letters from mother one was registered at that!  She told me Edna was coming up to see me to-morrow.  For being such a brave boy to undergo the operation, I am to get a new suit of clothes!  I wrote a letter to Russell Riley, Fred Swett and Alma Bannon.  Miss Hawkes and I had some time to-day.  In the evening I went out on the porch down stairs and met Barbara Jones who is here with curvature of the spine from N.Y. City.  Today was the first 4th of July in my life I didn’t celebrate.

July 5 :            We are having one good bunch of sizzling hot days.  Dr. Abbott stretched out my leg a little more this morning.  Suffering is no name for it.  I just simply was in torture.  I never in all my life endured one tenth as much torture as I did this day.  Edna and Mildred who are staying with mother in Andover came up here and spent a few hours with me.  Mildred is quite a girl now; she can say almost anything and answer questions. Edna brought me to [sic] lovely bouquets of sweet peas!  Although I took four dope pills I didn’t sleep an hour all night!  We had a thunder & lightening storm all night.

July 6 :            Pain, torture & homesickness  Oh but I’m in awful suffering!  Can’t sleep, can’t sit down, can’t stand up!  It’s enough to drive me crazy!  I telephoned to mother to have her come up to-morrow or I’d leave here.  I’m all alone in pain!  I’m in Hellish agony!  I took some dope pills to quiet me, and finally they injected some cocaine in my arm.  Frank Hammond and Dick Richards came in for a few minutes in the evening to see me.  I am glad now I’ve undergone the operation but I would never do it again!  I sat out on the piazza for a few hours in the evening.

July 8 :            I went out on the piazza in the evening and sat with Miss Thornton from Atlanta, Ga. for curvature of the spine, talking ‘till about 9.00 P.M.  I received a letter from dear mother this morning.  Mother arrived here at the hospital about 11.30 A.M.  We had a fine talk to-gether.  Her presence cheered me up a great deal.  She left here to do some shopping in Portland and get home early about 3.15 P.M.  She sent me out a new pair of pajamas and slippers.  My pain is easing up now and I’m quite comfortable.  However I only slept about four or five hours all night.

July 9 [Wednesday] :            We had quite a rain storm this evening.  It was cold all day, the temp dropped to 35° and only reached 50°.  I received two nice letters in the morning’s mail one from my ninth grade teacher Miss Alma Bannon and the other from Olive Barker – she had a chance to act for the American Biograph Moving Picture Company.  I received a Gem safety razor and outfit which ma sent to me from Portland.  I sent a letter to Ruth Hodges.  I spent the afternoon talking with Barbara Jones.  As usual I went out on the piazza till 9.00 P.M.

July 10 :            I got a box of Apollo Chocolates and the Cosmopolitan Magazine for August!  Was a rainy day.  I received a letter from Edna.  I sent a letter to mother in return.  My but I’m lonesome and homesick in this cursed Saint Barnabas Hospital.  I visited Barbara Jones in her room this afternoon.  As usual I stayed out on the porch till 9.00 P.M.

July 11 :            I am reading “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” by John Fox, Jr.  Another day of hospital life.  I am just beginning to feel fine now.  I slept about six or nine hours this evening.  I received a letter from my dear mother trying to cheer me up but it’s no use.  I miss her something terribly.  I stayed out on the piazza about the whole afternoon.  I wrote a letter to auntie and one to Helen Mowry.

 July 12 :            I phoned mother this afternoon but she don’t seem to realize my pain!  I didn’t close my eyes all night with the terrific pain.  Dr. Abbott came again to-day and stretched my leg.  It’s getting to the limit now, and it hurts like H___.  I am suffering torture.  My leg is itchy and I can’t scratch it.  It’s as if it were in a furnace with sweating.  I got two injections of Codine in my right arm but it doesn’t ease the pain much.  I wish I really were dead!  I want mother and she’s miles and miles away.

  July 13 [Sunday] :            I tried to get comfort by sitting out on piazza, but I had to come in and cry.  I slept about an hour or two in a chair all night!  God pity me!  I sent a letter to mother telling her the torture I’m in.  She phoned me this afternoon from Andover saying she would be up here Wednesday, as I have operation Thursday.  I’m almost crazy from homesickness and pain.  I got two more injections of Codine which eased me a very little.  I cried and cried but what good?  The caste is almost crushing my leg and my heart keeps tightening up like a knot.  Oh God!!

  July 14 :            I finished “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and it certainly is a great story.  Thanks to the Lord I am feeling a little “let up” in my pain.  Still the caste has fallen down and is cutting the back of my ankle like fury.  However, I must bear it!  I received a letter from mother this afternoon and the poor dear is trying her utmost to comfort me.  I phoned mother about 3.30 P.M. and felt much relieved by merely having conversed with her the few minutes.

   July 15 :            I didn’t leave my room all day.  I wrote a letter to Miss Bannon and one to Frances Purinton.  My pain is almost all gone now.  Thank God!  Last night I didn’t close my eyes for five minutes sleep.  I got a letter from Helen Mowry with two of her pictures on post-cards.  I also got a letter from Frances Purinton of Augusta, Maine whose mother was here a week.  In the afternoon mail I got letters from mother and Edna.  Ma said, “I’ll be up to-morrow rain or shine to comfort my poor dear boy.”  How’s that for affection?

  July 16 :            I got three postals from Cliff to-day.  Mother arrived here about 3.30 P.M.  I feel like a new man now!  She stayed with me until 8.30 P.M. and then went into Portland where she is stopping at the Colonial.  I sent a letter to Olive Barker.  I read the “Cosmopolitan” for August all through.

   July 17 :            I received a letter from Ruth Hodges.  Ma got here about 9.00 A.M.  I was under ether from 10.30 to 1.30.  My leg is now perfectly straight and thanks to God I’m not suffering so very much.  While coming out of the ether I kissed Miss Brown, one of my nurses!  Almost “ruined” Miss Marriott etc.!!  Ma stayed with me till 8.30 P.M.

   July 18 [Friday] :            Ma left me to-night about 7.00 o’clock to get a good sleep and come over early.  Was a rainy and dismal day!  Mother arrived about 11.00 A.M. and brought me “Life” and some peaches and plums.  Some good mother!  I guess the weather’s affecting my bones as I had to take an injection of Codine this morning.  Ma and I sat out on the piazza a while.  Only one postal all day!

    July 19 :            I received a letter from Frances Purinton and one from Olive Barker.  I had my last breakfast in the hospital.  Ma and I left at 10.00 A.M. for Portland.  I can walk quite well with my new caste on as it is very light compared with the others.  We went over to Peak’s Is.[2] and I bowled 54 and 64: I got a strike each time at that!  When we returned to Portland we took the electric to Riverton Park.  It is a very pretty Place.  We took the 4.56 P.M. train for South Lawrence and arrived in Andover before eight o’clock.

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Photograph of 1913 - 1914 "A Line A Day Diary" of Arnold G. Tew, Sr. in the collection of the author.

Image of postcard depicting St. Barnabas Hospital in Portland, ME circa 1909 from St. Barnabas Hospital, 231 Woodfords St., Portland, Maine was built in 1904 and torn down in 1938.  It was a private hospital and first in the state to earn an A-1 rating from the National Hospital Association.  It was founded by Dr. William Cousins. 

[1]  “Dr. Abbott” is Edville Gerhardt Abbott, MD.  See,,+Maine&source=bl&ots=x9c9nDECdV&sig=6wK0TSuq8ULpMMXUmpxCECOH2ks&hl=en&ei=5KJdTMCIE8GC8gaC3IG2DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Abbott%20of%20St.%20Barnabas%20Hospital%201913%20Portland%2C%20Maine&f=false  which is Google books posting of the contents of “Maine: A History by the Maine Historical Society, American Historical Society.  Dr. Abbott is discussed in Volume 4.  As stated in this history, Dr. Abbott is “Among the most brilliant specialists of Maine, none has in a shorter time won a higher regard or established a wider reputation, both among his professional colleagues and the people of the community at large, than has Dr. Edville Gerhardt Abbott of Portland, Maine, who is now one of the leading physicians of the State and a recognized authority on orthopedics throughout the country.”  He was born November 6, 1871 in Hancock, Maine.  He was educated in the public schools of Hancock and then matriculated at the Medical Department of Bowdoin College.  He graduated in 1898 before moving to Boston and later New York to do post-graduate work in orthopedic surgery.  He later went to continue orthopedic studies in Berlin, Germany at the Fredrich Wilhelm Universitat. Dr. Abbott was well-known through his mechanical so-called "Abbott's method" of treatment of lateral curvature of the spine. In 1913 he demonstrated his method in England and in other European countries.

[2] From:,_Maine . . .   Peaks Island is the most populous island in Casco Bay, Maine. It is part of the city of Portland and is approximately 5 km (3 mi) from downtown. The island became a popular summer destination in the late 19th century, when it was known as the Coney Island of Maine, home to hotels, cottages, theaters, and amusement parks. Hollywood film director John Ford was known as "The Mayor of Peaks Island" because of his great affinity for the island. He vacationed there from boyhood through the early 1960s, worked as an usher at the Gem Theater and was a deckhand on the Casco Bay Lines ferries in his youth. Ford's relatives still live on the island.   Besides the Gem, which featured famous performers including the Barrymore family, two other summer theaters were located on the island. One, the Pavilion, opened in 1887, is said to be the first summer theater in the country. The Greenwood Garden Amusement Park sported the Greenwood Garden Playhouse. Rhode Island native George M. Cohan tried his productions out at the island's theaters before taking them to Broadway. Circa 1908, D.W. Griffith was torn between continuing to appear in plays produced at the island's playhouses as he frequently did or heading to Hollywood. Jean Stapleton's first professional appearance in the summer of 1941 was in a production at Greenwood Garden.  Martin Landau also made his professional stage debut in a 1951 production of "Detective Story" at Greenwood Garden where for several seasons he was a resident cast member. Most of the hotels were lost to fires over the years. The Gem Theater was destroyed by fire on September 7, 1934. 17 buildings burned to the ground on June 2, 1936, including the new Union House Hotel. The only original hotel structure remaining on the island is the Avenue House, which has been converted into condominiums.  During World War II, the island was home to a large military defense installation, including the largest structure, Battery Steele, which housed two 16-inch (406 mm) guns. When Battery Steele's guns were first tested, windows on the opposite side of the island shattered.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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