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70 year old Tweets?

November 14, 2009

Journals 1

I recently came into possession of my dad’s journals which he kept religiously for the last 25 years of his life, right up to the day he died (1962) in an explosives accident. I don’t know if you’d call them journals, diaries, or logs. They weren’t used for philosophical ramblings or personal feelings so much as they were just a record of his work activities and expenses with a few other observations thrown in. However, in reading them through you get a good sense of his personality.

The thing about these little pocket work diaries is that the daily entry space is just about the size of the entry space in a Twitter posting (140 characters). So, it’s like getting tweets from my dad to see what he was up to so long ago. Besides work details, he usually would note what the weather was like, or often, if he had any luck fishing. Whatever he could get into three lines of text. He had excellent handwriting…a trait that is not inherited, I assure. I think television and telephones have led to the demise of penmanship in our society.    Click a picture to enlarge.

Journals 2

When my dad started working for the Independent Eastern Torpedo Company he was manufacturing Nitro-Glycerin , a high power explosive used in oil wells to break up the formation sands for better oil flow. They had a small plant in the country west of Tulsa. A typical production day diary entry might be “made 900  quarts of nitro today”. While that sounds simple, that is an enormous amount of explosives. Just a few ounces of the stuff would make quite a mess. Also, my mother would tell of dad coming home with really splitting headaches from the nitric acid fumes.That was an occupational hazard in the making of nitro. I believe that making this compound was a solitary activity, maybe a one man operation. He doesn’t speak of any co-workers in the manufacturing of the nitro. Probably would not be easy to get life insurance for this line of work. Accidents were not uncommon in this industry. After a few years of this, he stopped working in the plant so much and started going to the oil fields and shooting the wells himself. This was to be his career from then on. Here’s a pic of dad in the truck at the nitro plant.


The diaries give a glimpse of a simpler time of family visits and travels. Interesting recordings of financial dealings, like when he loaned my sister Donna money to buy a TV….then recorded her every repayment to the penny over the next year. Or when my other sister Marilyn went to Connecticut to marry at age  17. There were fun entries like vacations in Colorado. Also there were serious entries such as my brothers motorcycle accident that broke his leg or my 14 year old sister Joyce being hit and killed by a car on the way to school. Reading these through has given me a new look at my dad who died before I really got to know him.

Oh yeah, here’s the best entry from 1947. Quite a momentous day!   Click on the image to make it readably larger.

Journals 3

One Comment leave one →
  1. Donna McCray permalink
    November 14, 2009 6:41 pm

    Dear brother, this article made me cry. I inherited the small yearbooks in 1968 when Mom got married again (5 years after our Dad’s death.) I kept them about 25 years and gave them to our sister, Marilyn, who kep them the next 15 years until her death in 2008. Now you have them and have made a wonderful story from them. Thanks! Donna

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