Eleanor Stearns Young (1901-1992) was the daughter of William Hill Young and Elizabeth Abbott Stearns. She was born and raised in Brookline, MA and summered on King Caesar Road in Duxbury, MA. She married Roderic Noyes MacDonald.
In 1916, fourteen year old Eleanor was a faithful diarist for the first quarter of the year, recording her skating and sledding adventures with her best friend, Phyllis Winch Twombly (Phy); her crush on Atherton (Atty); her “peach of dress” and her desire for a “tin lizzy.” But peppered throughout her tales of sunny winter days are hints of a sadder, darker world. Her diary gives us a sense of what it was like to be a young adult during the tumultuous days of WWI.
Saturday, Jan. 1, 1916
Persia sunk December 31, 200 lives lost. No more candy till next Dec. 25. Got ready for coasting and Peg and At didn’t come. Had rather a rotten day, felt rather low in my spirits.
Sunday, Jan. 2, 1916
Went up on Monkey’s roof and plugged snow balls at the people coming home from Church. I had to push up the sky light and near busted my head. I hit a man with a limp and a lady with a red umbrella. They got together and began talking. We were afraid that the man was going to make a fuss, but he didn’t. I wasted eight snow balls on Vogel’s man and didn’t hit him once. Stayed at M’s for lunch. Threw snow balls down the chimneys and the exhaust pipe from the bathroom.
Monday, Jan. 3, 1916
Phy home from Russell Cottage. She had an awfully good time. Went back to school again. Vera was awfully nice to me, she always is. Went over Phy’s and dressed up in Mrs. S’s clothes. Stayed to supper. Had a very good time.
Several other ships sunk. Auconia, an Italian and a Jap. Time said to be critical. Our government is too much Pork Barrel.
Tuesday, Jan. 4, 1916
Went to school. Sally B says to come to make a call. The two Miss Haiges came also oh they are the darndest old maids ever. Perfectly awful. Sally B. had a cold. Wasn’t so spry as she might have been.
Wednesday, Jan. 5, 1916
Went to school. Don’t remember much for today. Several mills have been blown up by some germans. Those germans are absolutely awful. Had my head washed. I was going to Chin Chin but Grandma couldn’t get any tickets. I am going next week.
Thursday. Jan. 6, 1916
Went down to Peggy’s in the afternoon. Saw At just before he and Kenneth went to dancing school. Read a letter. Walked up to the corner and tried to make Peggy stay to supper but she had to do her latin before supper. Went to school. Didn’t see Phy.
Friday, Jan. 7, 1916
Went to school. Went skating with Phy in the afternoon. First time since last winter. My ankles are ?. Atty, Nancy and Henrietta were there. Skated with Hen a lot. Phy did awfully well. She had to go home early and have her head washed for Saturday. Stayed later and came home in the cars. Had a bath. All ready for tomorrow. Mrs. J has a horrid cold.
Saturday, Jan. 8, 1916
Atty came to supper. He was rather quiet. Took Kenneth and Phy over in the hack. Had an awfully good time. Danced the Portland fancy oh it was some swift. Great. Danced a lot with At. Had the German with him. Didn’t want to come home. Phy and I were awfully silly. Laughed and giggled and Atty was terribly inquisitive. He made a beautiful bow when he got out. Took the sleds over to Dover. Skated on the pond with Marion, K and G. K ankles turned horribly. Mine were better.
Monday, Jan. 10, 1916
School. Music lesson. Vera was absent, poor kid. Tried on for Katy. I have a peach of a dress, silk with chiffon waist underneath. Light green and peach pink yellow chiffon blended together. It is awfully full. I am in love with it. Phyllis’ birth day. 14 went over for supper and had a very nice time. Such is life. We are getting awfully old. I will be 15 in five months. Ye gods.
Thursday, Jan. 13, 1916
Had a great time at school. Mrs. Cushman, Josephine Cushman’s mother, told us all about several experiences in London and the zeppelins. She had a Ulans cap and coat of a common soldier. The coat had a great big huge spot of blood on the back. The man croaked in it. I had on the Ulans cap. The scull and cross bones. I also handled the iron cross. It was awfully light. She had a lot of posters, they were great too. Phyllis’ to supper. Did my lesson over there. Papa has a cold.
Monday, Jan. 17, 1916
Phy has taken the picture Loring took of me. Such is life. Went skating with Phy. Saw Buster. Went into the garage to get warm. Phy says she is going to tell Atty that I wouldn’t go to the Masque with him. I am not going to Goose Bruers after all. I am going to Eliot Hall. Joy. Russians driving the Turks north. English shelled Lille. Went to school.
Tuesday, Jan. 18, 1916
Went skating. Went to school. Went over Phy’s to supper. Played ragtime and studied. Phy had lessons. Mrs. Twombly went out. Saw Buster and Nancy skating. Phy fell down 2 trying to skate backwards. I can’t do it at all. Walked both ways. Bought two lovely pairs of high heeled shoes. King Nicolas of Montenegro has given up to the Austrians. Russians are all right.
Wednesday, Feb. 2, 1916
Liner Appau captured by Germans, had 2,500,000 dollars on board. It has brought here for to be interned. German warships with false sides to hide the guns captured it and ten others. Snow storm, went to school. Sewed, made a petticoat.
Thursday, Feb. 3, 1916
Damn those Germans. The last raid in England they killed almost one hundred people. Mostly women and children. They are planning a new offensive to take Dunkirk and Calais. They won’t get it though. Phy to supper. Got a little cold. Went to be early. Gee, I could smash those Germans.
Friday, Feb. 4, 1916
Parliament House of Canada ablaze feared to be a German plot. Several women burned, Premier escapes. Rotten time to live in. Stayed home from school. Went over Phyllis’ to dinner had a bully time. Mother and Father went out, so did Mr. & Mrs. Twombly. Danced and played the victor. Had a lovely time. Great fun.
Sunday, Feb. 10, 1916
Went to Dover, poor roads. Got there at twelve. Coasted and skied. Didn’t sleep well at all. Great weather, awfully cold. Duke Nicholas captured Ezerum at the caucus mountains. Good old boy.
Monday, Feb. 21, 1916
10 below this morning. Great fun riding lying down. Awful cold. K. and G. went too. Just three of us. Coasted all the afternoon. Slept like a top. The Germans on West Front capturing a few trenches. Nothing new.
Thursday, Feb. 24, 1916
Germans have started a large offensive against Verdun. Duke Nicolas is still marching on. This map is very good. Horrid day. They have caught a thief who has been stealing from the McQuestion Lumber Company. He has taken $300. Police man hid in vault and caught him that way. Went to a fire. Got there as it was laid out. Coming home from Boston we say the engines so we got out of the car and went. Burned 1 whole apartment house. Kenneth and Atherton came an got the costume. I was at M. Rueben’s when they came. Phy saw them.
Friday, Feb. 25, 1916
Grandmother home from New York. Bought me a Chinese wrapper. Great. Went to school. Bad day. Phy came to supper. Dressed in costume I am going to wear tomorrow night. Germans are still giving in. Kaiser is sending them on to slaughter like pigs.
Saturday, Feb. 26, 1916
150,000 Germans have been killed. On Feb. 22 10,000 were annihilated by French in two minutes. French line is bent a little but not broken.
Sunday, Feb. 27, 1916
Germans smash stopped by French. Thank God. Phy and I walked some. Not feeling good.
Monday, Feb. 28, 1916
Verdun demolished by four shells. Shells as big as father. Some size. Stayed at home from school. Read. No music lesson. One tomorrow.
Tuesday, Feb. 29, 1916
Greatest battle in history is being fought. Germans flung back from Douamont around Verdun. Two or 300,000 troops first launched by Kaiser expected – terrific French counter attack. Captors of Fort hemmed in and isolated. Paris declares defeat of Germany assured. Munitions plant blown up in Woburn. Nothing new. Grandma heard it so did almost all the girls in school.
Wednesday, Mar. 1, 1916
Verdun attack calmed down a little. Went to school. Phy has bought some of her spring clothes. One of her hats looks awfully well on me. Striped skirts are all in style. Am going to have one suit. Just wait till I get speeded up.
Friday, Mar. 3, 1916
Germans on fresh drive for Verdun. Oh well. I guess we are very sure of a few things. Katie came. I am having five white shirts made over from mother’s. Such is life. I must be getting fat.
Tuesday, June 6, 1916
Birthday. I am fifteen years old. Lord Kitchener is dead. He was on his way to Russia. The ship was torpedoed in the North Sea. I am afraid this is a very disheartening thing to happen. I never felt this sort of thing but I do now. It seems so awfully queer. There seems to be a black shadow always behind one. The President of China is dead also. This is an awful world.
Shopped all the morning. I got thirty dollars from Gram and Gramp.
Wednesday, June 7, 1916
Am going to spend the night at Phys tonight.
Saturday, Sept. 2, 1916
I have neglected this diary much too long. Went to the dance. Had a wonderful time. The Bowditches, Fred and Ed, came up. I danced with D. Maxwell, A. Canard, C. Lothrop, Ted Young, George Fogg, Dicky F?, Loring Fred, Eddy & Atty. Margaret Benedict was married to Tom Gorham this afternoon. The wedding was very pretty. Margaret made an awfully pretty bride. Terrible headach.
Sunday, Sept. 3, 1916
Went to golf course played four holes with Loring and Atty. I played with Loring, Phy with At. This afternoon we had a two ball foursome. I played with Atty and Phy played with Loring. Had a wonderful time. Atty and I made a wonderful score 57. Phy and Loring made it in 63. We got them 1 hole and 6 up. We were awfully well matched. Mrs. Loring has the blues. She is quite disagreeable. She doesn’t like for the boys to play with us girls.
END OF DIARY