Friday, July 26, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Yours Till

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is every family historian’s dream:  the family bible.  That record of births and deaths has been at the core of many a fight when dividing the family treasures.  My sister and I didn’t have that worry because there was no family bible to fight over.  

We eyed a different object of desire – an autograph book.  

Autograph Book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-1941
Autograph book belonging to Mary Eleanor Davis Slade
entries dated 1940-1941

One day while Momma was undergoing chemo treatments, my sister and I sprawled out across the bed with her and pulled out the autograph book.  Unlike most things that were packed away, the autograph book was always nearby in a valet on the dresser.  We had read it numerous times.  Oh, there are no famous signatures, just silly poems written by Momma’s friends back in 1940 and 1941 when she was about 11-12 years old.  Yet we always laughed hysterically as if reading them for the first time. 

That day Momma said, “All the nice things in this house and you’ll probably fight over who gets the autograph book.”

Hmm, wuddayaknow, look who has it.

Silly poems, bad spelling, and promises of devotion penciled on faded pastel pages of pink, yellow, and green reflect the innocence of the pre-teen years and the emerging interest in BOYS.  I don’t know if the autograph book stands on its own or if it’s one of those “you had to be there” to appreciate it.  So at the risk of failing to amuse, I am sharing some of my favorite entries. 

Anne Staples in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dec. 25, 1940

Dear Mary,
When you get married and live on a hill send me a kiss by the whipperwhill.  [sic]
Anne Staples
[a friend who lived one street away]

Iris Budd in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

May 29, 1941
When you get married and move down South remember me and my big mouth
When you get married and married [sic] and have twins.  Don’t come to me for safty [sic] pins.
Three little words
Forget me not
Your Frined [sic]
Iris Budd
[a neighborhood friend in Cradock]

Margaret Jennings in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dec. 25, 1940
Shenandoah VA

Dear Mary,
Do as your mother bids you, and do it with grace.  And when the boys try to kiss you slap them in the face.
Yours till the Mississippi River runs dry.
Margaret Jennings
[a friend who lived next door]

Marjorie Runyon in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dear Mary Eleanor,
Don’t kiss a boy with the eyes of blue
He’ll kiss you once and ask for 2
Don’t kiss a boy with the eyes of gray
He’ll kiss you once and turn you away
Don’t kiss a boy with the eyes of black
He’ll kiss you once and turn his back
Don’t kiss a boy with the eyes of brown
He’ll kiss you once and turn you down
Your truley [sic]
Marjorie Sue Runyon
[a school friend in Portsmouth]

Mary Jane Via in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dear Mary Eleanor
Your heart is not a play thing
Your heart is not a toy
But if you want it broken,
Just give it to a boy.

Yours until the Statue of Liberty trucks down Broadway
Love, Mary Jane
PS Forget me not
[Mary Jane Via, a friend from school in Portsmouth]

Mary Lee Hodges in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dear Mary,
I love you, I love you
I love you so well
If I had a peanut
I’d give you the shell.

Yours until the ocean wears pants to keep its bottom dry.
Love, Mary Lee Hodges
[I think this is actually Grandma’s friend]

Joanne Palmer Stainback in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41
Dear Mary Eleanor,
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes Mary Eleanor with a baby carriage.

If [name has been erased] lived across the sea
What a good swimmer Mary Eleanor would be.

When you get married and move to France
Save me a piece of lace off your wedding pants.

Joanne Palmer Stainback in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41Down in the valley stands a big, big rock
With 3 little words forget me not.

A box of candy, a couple of kisses
Will change your name from Miss to Mrs.

You may fall from tops of buildings
You may fall from far above
But when you fall the hardest
Is when you fall in love.

Love, Joanne
[a life-long friend Joanne Palmer Stainback]

I saved the best for last:

Betsy Ward in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Dearest Mary Eleanor,
I know you like Pearce
But who could help it,
With his eyes that are so fearce [sic];
His black wavy hair
Makes your heart jump in the air.
You have all the boys on a string
But when you get ready to sing

Betsy Ward in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

Well, we won’t say what happens.
There was a boy named Billy
But he was so silly.
With those blue eyes of yours
You knock the boys out of doors.
Then there’s David

Betsy Ward in autograph book belonging to Mary Davis Slade 1940-41

When he looks at you with his brown eyes
You go to him and confess your lies.

This is all s - - -
But who gives a d - - -
Love (Mike)
Yours till this all comes true.

“Mike” was really Momma’s BFF, Betsy Ward.  

Even as I write this, I’m laughing about “Pearce … with eyes that are so fearce.”  What imagery!  What spelling!  But at least it’s original. 

Now I've been inspired to leave you with my own original poem:

When you get married and start a blog,
Don’t ask me to walk your dog.

Yours till Sepia Saturday turns blue.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. They are so wonderful - it's such a shame that nobody would write like this anymore. They all made me smile.

  2. What a TREASURE! I remember the autograph books with the pastel pages...may have even had one. Truly, these poems are very creative and so funny...I can see how you were ALL so entertained every time you read them. A very special memory of your Mother, as well.

    My Favorite is "Down in the valley" by Joanne...hopeless Romantic!!! Thanks for sharing all of them...a great post.

    Sue CollectInTexasGal~

    1. Thanks Sue -- it was hard choosing which to include.

  3. Just delightful! I have a few pages from my great aunt's autograph book. I love having the signatures of her sisters & mother.

    1. I know what you mean about having signatures. That used not to mean much to me, but now they do.

  4. I love that book!!

    Your poem is as good as Betsy's.

    1. Yeah, but I doubt my poem could knock any boys out of doors!

  5. LOL I love your poem!

    What fun! My mom has a book like this, and I love reading all the poems. My favorite one here is the one about the Statue of Liberty trucking down Broadway. ☺

    1. I like that line too - and the Mississipi River wearing pants.

  6. I can't match that autograph book but I have just made this comment on Little Nell's post = Now I am wondering what happened to my autograph book in which someone wrote on the last page, "By hook or by crook, I'll be last in this book. And by the skin of my teeth I'll again be underneath."

    1. Oh yes, we used to write that in people's yearbooks when I was in high school.

  7. Thanks for that post. I love old autograph books.

  8. Very interesting.. I think I have one that belonged to my mother somewhere, but nothing as impressive as that.

  9. I'm intrigued now ... who was the boy who might have lived across the sea, whose name got rubbed out?

    1. I think it was Brett. Seriously, I'm sure we must have asked, but if Momma said who the boy was, neither my sister nor I remember. Maybe Momma didn't either.

    2. I think you left a comma out of that first sentence ;-)

  10. Absolutely fabulous. The poems, the writing - just a joy to read. Betsy must have been a lot of laughs.

  11. It's so true about those family fights over bibles and well everything else, sometimes. My post features my grandfather's everyday bible, weathered, torn, tattered and mostly in pieces from my own use of it now. But I didn't have to fight over that one. Everyone wanted his larger and more lavish bible! It's funny I hadn't even thought of autograph books until now! As always it's so interesting learning about your family history.

    1. We did have one Bible, but it had nothing to recommend it - no notes, no family listing, not the first pencil mark. We ended up selling it at a yard sale.

  12. Another autograph album! And what a beauty. I am smiling from ear to ear.

  13. A lovely post. Autograph books are wonderful for prompting the memory. What are the young ones going to have to provide them with memories. After all we don't remember everything without a bit of a reminder to start us off.

    1. You make a good point. I hope I remember to throw out the scraps around my computer where I've calculated people's ages. I wouldn't want this junk to be my family's memories of me.

  14. From my high school autograph book:

    "When you get old --
    twenty-five or thirty,
    Remember when we
    Got down and dirty."

    I'm still trying to live that one down!

  15. How sweet! My aunt has the bible that she wrote everything in...I remember when our families all got together and there was a dispute over someone's age or when they had been married- (ones not present,) she would whip out the bible and set us straight.
    Happy Weekend!

    1. I've seen disputes settled the same way! That's funny.

  16. Great minds Wendy, although yours comes from a different generation. I don't have my Mum's autograph book, but, like you, I remember reading it as a child. I remember writing in it too - how naughty. This one of yours is delightful.

    1. There are some extraneous drawings and scribbles in Momma's book, and I wonder whose work they might be. I hope not mine.

  17. A super twist on the theme, Wendy. This would make a great photo-puzzle where the challenge is to match faces to poems! It's interesting how previous eras had such a fashion for sentimentality. You can hear it in the song lyrics of the period too.

    1. Mike, I thought too that these poems just FELT of the age.

  18. I'm as curious as Brett. Whose name was erased? Did you ever ask your mother? There's a story there.
    All of these poems are boy related. It sure was a sign of the times, wasn't it. I wonder what kids are writing in autograph books these days. Do they even have autograph books? Probably not. They just text each other and the poems are lost to the ages. What a shame.

    1. I answered Brett about the name, but I have no answer there.

      Yeah, the computer age seems to have changed all those opportunities to pen silliness for the ages. Although on the crime shows, somebody seems to be able to hack into other people' history to uncover clues. Maybe one day, our hard drives will be the Rosetta Stone to civilization as we lived it.

  19. Wendy, what fun you and your sister must have had sharing those moments with your mom. My Aunt Olive has an autograph book of the same vintage that she allowed me to scan. A treasure. Think I might go and have another look-see.

  20. What a wonderful family treasure and so personal.

  21. Ooh! just when mum and dad have arrived with a huge box of memorabilia for me to scan and photocopy, you have made me want to go and find my own autograph book with its funny little poems. Another distraction!
    I wonder, is facebook the autograph book of today's youth? Not nearly so personal though and not usually very witty.

    1. You know what, I think you're right -- FB is the autograph book of today.

  22. It seems like people had a collection of witty things to write in autograph books. I wonder whether anyone still does that or if everything is just online now.

    1. I heard many of those little poems even in my own youth, so they must have been standard and everybody knew them.

  23. And to think I threw all mine away. You are lucky to have scored this gem.

  24. Oh Wendy! These are a scream! No wonder you guys laughed hysterically when you read them.

  25. Nice series you got there,
    Wish there was more to share...
    Lucky for you to have caught this in your snare,
    leaving your sibling in despair!!
    And to be fair,
    All of them made me laugh on my chair.

    I'm no poet, I know!!
    But for something done in a second language...

    1. I've been trying to compose a response in rhyme, but I had to give up. I bow to the master!

  26. Perfect timing as I just came from the last visit to my childhood home and all I cared about were the old letters, photo albums, yearbooks, etc. Leave the jewelry - give me the old paper stuff!

    1. HA -- isn't it funny? It's true what they say about one man's trash!