Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Writing Inspiration from Old Autograph Books

by Suzanne Lieurance

Are autograph books still a thing?

With today’s modern technology, I fear young people these days tend to mostly use their cell phones to communicate, so autograph books may have gone by the wayside.

But I hope not, so I looked on amazon.com to see if autograph books are still available, and luckily, they are.

Why do I care about autograph books so much?

Well, here’s why.

My mother passed away several months ago, and I’ve been going through her big pulldown desk—full of all sorts of keepsakes—that she had for years and years.

It’s taking me weeks to get through all the drawers of paperwork.

Among mountains of other things, I found two small faded autograph books.

One was my grandmother’s (her name was Bell) from her final year at the State Teacher’s College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1926.

It was fun reading through the pages to see—not just the messages—but all the elaborate penmanship, especially since cursive writing is becoming a thing of the past nowadays.

The other book was called My School-Day Autobiography, and it was a Christmas present to my mother (her name was Mary Ann) in 1942.

It is full of sweet, fun little messages from my mother’s elementary school friends at the end of the school year in 1943.

I found it interesting how the style of the messages in these two books was somewhat different.

The messages in my grandmother’s book were written by her friends of college age, of course, while my mother’s friends were much younger, so naturally, the messages would reflect the age differences.

Still, I think the autographs were also reflective of how times changed between 1926 and 1942.

In 1926, writing was a bit more formal or “flowery” as we might call it.

Here’s an example from my grandmother’s book:

“Dearest Bell,
In the garden of my heart, there are found dear flowers for friendship and thoughts of you.
Beatrice”

OR

“Dear Bell,
Adieu, it shall not be farewell.
We hope again to meet.
But happy hours are ever short
And days of yore are fleet.
There is much to learn and much to do.
And may our aim be high
And ever lead to that bright land
Where none shall say goodbye.
Always remember me,
Your friend Jessie”

OR

“Bell, Dearest,
Your friendship has been a great pleasure to me and I wish for you a very happy life, much sunshine and joy.
God Bless You and Yours to be,
Gladys”

In contrast, here are some of the messages in my mother’s little autograph book:

“Dearest Mary Ann,
Your hair is made to curl,
Your cheeks are made to blush,
Your legs are made to whistle at.
Your eyes are made to sparkle.
Your lips are made to …..aw, hush!
Yours till hairpins get seasick from riding permanent waves,”
Kathaline

OR

“Dearest Mary Ann,
If you get to heaven before I do,
Punch a hole and pull me through.”
Yours,
Dorothy

OR

“Dear Mary Ann,
When you slide down the bannister of life,
Be sure not to stick a splinter in your career!”
Your loving classmate,
Marie

OR

Dear Mary Ann,
If a mountain should ever grow between us
And we should ever part,
May my name in golden letters be written on your heart.
Yours til’ butter flies,
Love,
Norma

I found these little messages quite inspiring, and I thought you might, too, so here’s a fun writing exercise.

Create a few short autograph-book-type messages to a friend in a more flowery style, as if you were living in the 1920s.

Then, come up with some short, rhyming messages, reflective of more modern times—today’s world, or imagine you’re living during the 1940s or maybe even in the future.

Try it!



Find more inspiration for writing as well as free resources and helpful articles about writing and the business of writing at writebythesea.com, and don't forget to sign up for The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books and a writing coach.

4 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Suzanne,

What a great article about old autograph books. I have a small collection of autographed books on my office book shelf. One of them is from a famous Kentucky author Jesse Stuart who autographed the book to my grandfather. I have several books autographed from authors who are no longer living like Ken Taylor, who founded Tyndale House Publishers and translated the Living Bible.

Terry

Karen Cioffi said...

What an interesting article, Suzanne. I still have my junior high and high school autograph books. I would love to try to write like they did in the 1920s. Not worrying about writing tight.

deborah lyn said...

Thank you Suzanne, what an absolute treasure these two small faded autograph books are and how wonderful you are for sharing them. I had never heard of autograph books, and found your samples quite inspiring! So glad you suggested the writing exercises :)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

What a lovely memorial for your mom. It made me think about my childhood experience learning to write cursive in the 1940s; I had trouble reading my mothers cursive notes. They were teaching my generation different ways of forming some of the letters than mom had learned. I worry about the generational divide that the trend to not teaching cursive at all might create! This is a lovely share!
❤️,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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