Edna Tohulka’s 1952 Diary

My grandma on my mom’s side liked to keep things. Scratch that, she liked to keep EVERY thing. This meant that cleaning out her house was a fascinating undertaking that resulted in the discovery of at least six separate sets of china dinner sets, loads of photo albums, handkerchiefs galore, enough retro clothing to last many hipsters many lifetimes, several pieces of antique furniture, baby teeth, and some truly inexplicable stuff.

My mom hates to keep things. The best presents to give her are greeting cards and candles, because they’re both flammable (and, therefore, disposable). Things she considers flammable (or at least does not appreciate as gifts) include stuffed animals and cow-themed merchandise (long story). Perhaps inevitably, this means that I am, true to rebellious offspring form, a pack rat. Not surprisingly, this means that I have wound up with many of the things that formerly inhabited my grandma’s house.

One of these things (of the inexplicable variety) inadvertently bequested to me was Edna Tohulka’s diary from 1952. According to her own account, in 1952 Edna lived and worked in South Bend, Indiana. How did her diary wind up in my grandma’s house? It is truly a mystery and so it seems it shall remain.

On the inside cover, she mentions that she worked at H.D. Lee Company beginning in 1947. Apparently, the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company location in South Bend “produced Lee Unionalls (overalls), shirts, and jackets until 1964.” The Internet (aka “The Google”_ tells me that Edna E. Tohulka of South Bend, Indiana, was born on 19 July 1916 and passed away on 25 July 1990. She is buried alongside her family members at Sumption Prairie Cemetery and her Social Security Number was (is?) 313-24-0290. She also might have gone by the name Edna Elizabeth Pratt, but I’m not sure.

It seems she had a fair bit of dental trouble – the only expenses she lists in her memos are for the dentist, and she had to get 14 teeth removed during the year!

She also had a kitten, which she loved dearly. Pre-kitty-litter, it seems that one would use dirt for the litter box. In the winter, when the ground was frozen, Edna went without! (I wonder what the kitten did.) About once a week, Edna took a bath and put up her hair. She enjoyed ice cream, radio programs, and hanging out with her friend (?) Helen at the Walgreen’s soda counter.

It also sounds like she had a sort of lousy boyfriend, named Roy, whose one redeeming quality was his new four-door Buick. She reports that he was an argumentative guy who got drunk and slept over at her apartment on occasion. She enjoyed watching John Wayne films with him (when they weren’t fighting). On 24 April 1953, after six years and four months of dating (by her tally), Roy asked for his rings back and the couple broke up.

I wonder how Edna’s diary came to be in my grandma’s house in Chicago, and I wonder if Edna would mind that I read her (fairly personal) daily accounts from 1952. It reminds me of my mom’s warnings not to ever write anything down that you wouldn’t want the world to read – a particularly prudent warning for the age of l’internet. I wonder who will wind up reading this blog. And I wonder where Roy wound up.

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