Chuck Bino: Thoughts on keeping diaries

Jun. 08, 2013 @ 09:28 PM

Several weeks ago I began reading a daily journal penned by a gentleman born in 1888 named Maurice Brubaker from Somerset, Pa. This hand-written “diary” from the year of 1950 was dedicated to his granddaughter, Frances, and meant to be a collection of his thoughts and an abbreviated family history.  Fran Bellardine, living in Trinity with her husband Augie, allowed me the privilege to view her “Pappy’s” writings.
Most of us who grew up as kids in the post-World War II era recall it as very carefree. Yet, making a living the hard way (manual labor), caring for his family, and minimal social contact was the order of the day for the average father.  Mom was called a “homemaker.”
A sense of reality on how times have changed was one effect of reading this intensely personal book.  Another was how it triggered my latent memories.  Third, it served as one man’s recollection of “history” as it evolved for him. It was “good stuff.” His 1948 diary resides in the history section of the Somerset, Pa. library.
Maurice Brubaker was a Baltimore and Ohio railroad man, with much of his livelihood dependent on transport for the coal industry.  He wrote how the United Mine Workers “wildcat strikes” in 1950 caused layoffs and reduced schedules for railroads.  In defiance of their union president, John L. Lewis, and President Truman, they struck from January to March.  Then, strikers settled for wages of $14.75/day (striking for $15). Imagine what wages they never recovered and what our economy lost.
His diary triggered my memories about coal.  As a kid, I sat on my bike and watched autos waiting as far back as the eye could see, while a slow moving Reading R.R. train with 200-plus coal cars blocked the main road in/out of Port Reading, N.J.  In the early 1950s my dad used a coal fired furnace, which needed a coal storage room in our cellar.  My father-in-law to be (I was 10 at the time) would make a monthly delivery from his old truck, down a coal chute, following which our cellar was uninhabitable for at least three days from coal dust.
Sue’s dad, Andy, would drive that old coal truck for a load to W. Virginia from New Jersey and back, navigating the mountains without headlights as World War II blackouts prevented it.  Like most of us, he didn’t think to keep a written diary.  The old photo album was a worthy substitute, sometimes with handwritten notes in the margins.
There can be both intended and unintended consequences of diaries.  Maurice’s became a fine gift to his heirs, as he intended, as well as providing a small inspiration for me.
Let’s consider the current Facebook phenomena. It qualifies as a global “public diary” of sorts.
Starved for virtual friends, users are more concerned about cell phone broadcasting minute to minute trivia than recording the “significance” of what happened during one’s day.  Less concerned about how written comments in almost zero security and privacy can possibly affect their future situations, they carry on.
One need merely see posts from today’s teens, as well as their parents, to understand the trend in “diaries” today. Any mention of politics, religion and you get tuned out. However, implied sex remains OK, with pictures of paragons like Anthony Weiner of New York even making headlines.  There is very little provocative thought involved.  For instance, we’ve all seen these: “Hey, I’m having a pedi with (name),” or perhaps a cell phone shot of a dinner entre. 
What will viewers 65 years from now make of our “online” diaries?

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.