These diaries were written by my grandparents, Carl and Marjorie Smith, from New Year’s Eve of 1936 until early July 1937. The diaries relate their personal and professional experiences during the first half of 1937; there is no indication of the events of the world outside. While Japan invades China, and Germany bombs Spain - preparing the stage for the beginning of World War II - Carl and Marjorie move swiftly from a typically busy day in their furrier’s shop at 130 South Clinton Avenue in the heart of downtown Rochester, NY, to a seemingly endless flow of Theatre-going, motor trips, and bridge parties at their home at 1385 Chili Avenue.
Throughout the diaries we are treated to a nostalgic view of a vanished urban scene: the bustling downtown shopping district of Rochester, NY, including visits to the Tea Room at Sibley’s Department Store, and Rochester’s equally popular array of moving picture palaces. Almost every workday includes an example of their insatiable appetite for the lunches at Eddie’s Chop House and the Manhattan Restaurant on East Avenue. Sadly, of all the downtown stores, restaurants, and attractions described in the diaries, only the Rundell Library and the Eastman and Little Theatres survive into the present day.
Thankfully, we are afforded many glimpses into their family life, both happy and tragic: birthday parties for all three of their sons; Marjorie’s concern while her two youngest - Bradley and Roger - battle whooping cough; the death of Russ, Nanny Loretta’s boyfriend; Carl’s encounter with the "car of his dreams"; evenings spent singing while Marjorie plays the piano; Carl learning to swim and Marjorie learning to drive; Marjorie's mother, Wilhelmina's heart attack; Marjorie’s "Grandma DeNero’s" final illness (she is to pass away on August 28), and Carl’s weekly horse riding sessions.
Carl ends his diary May 31, less than a week after his son Ronald’s 12th birthday, adding only a few more pages in mid-November. Marjorie sets down her pen on July 9th, while waiting for Carl and his best friend Buell Wigle to return for lunch so they can go shopping together.
Marjorie and Carl were surprisingly faithful to their diaries, considering the rather hectic pace they set for themselves. Between them, they wrote slightly over three hundred entries, totaling over 20,000 words. Although they wrote in two separate diaries, I have placed their entries in a chronological alternating sequence, beginning with Marjorie’s entry on December 31, 1936, followed by Carl’s entry on January 1, 1937, and so on. I did not correct any spellings or abbreviations; considering such spellings as "to-nite", etc., to be essential to the "feel" and time of the diaries. I did, however, add punctuation wherever its lack seemed to take away from the flow of reading. Whenever I was unsure of the spelling of proper names, I used the spelling that occurred most often, or was most legible. My apologies for any misspelled names due to this technique.
Michael Scott Smith
January 1937 Carl and Marjorie mark the New Year with their friends Buell and Marion. Carl makes a New Year's resolution. The children contract Whooping Cough. Bradley celebrates his 6th birthday. Carl sees "the car of his dreams," later backs his old car into a ditch. Movies and shows, horseback riding, parties, and work at the fur shop.
February 1937 Children recover from Whooping Cough. Carl buys the "car of his dreams." Loretta's boyfriend enters hospital with infected hand. Winter horseback riding.
March 1937 Marj gets tooth pulled. Carl horseback riding in Geneseo. Marj goes alone to Niagara Falls for rest. Trip to Shrine Circus. Grandma DeNero enters Rochester General Hospital (final illness). Carl overdoes it at Easter party.
April 1937 Nanny Loretta's boyfriend dies. Birthday party for one-year-old Roger. Marj has tonsil trouble. Lots of shows and movies.
May 1937 Marj gets eyeglasses. Mother's Day activities. Trips to Dansville and Niagara Falls.
June 1937 Buell teaches Marj to drive. Grandma DeNero's condition worsens. Picnics at Stony Brook, Powder Mill, and Ellison Parks.
July 1937 Trips to Niagara Falls and Toronto. Marj does the "Jeep."
November 1937 A few final entries from Carl.