Over the years, I have inherited 34 daily diaries kept by my great-grandparents, Floyd and Lala Banister, from 1945 to 1980.
I met Floyd and Lala when I was a young child and have a few distinct memories of them. They lived in the house next door to my grandparents and I remember Floyd walking over and coming into the house once while we were visiting. He was very old, very short (compared to my dad), walked slowly with a little stoop, and was dressed in a flannel style shirt and faded jeans. Another time I went inside their house. It was very small, just like Lala, who was there during that visit. Floyd and Lala had that in common – they were both small people. They also had no teeth. They were the only people I knew without teeth in those days so that little fact stuck with me, even though I was very young. When Lala passed away, I remember going to her services, feeling overwhelmed by all the people I did not know, and eating a ham sandwich on a dinner roll. Why do we remember such random facts, anyway? I really don’t know.
To my young child’s mind, Floyd and Lala were simply very little, very quiet and very old people that had probably always been very little, very quiet and very old. I was too shy to talk to them as a child, but they were very much a curiosity to me as I did not know any other people that little, quiet, and old all at the same time. Certainly, as a young girl, it was hard to imagine Floyd and Lala being anything but their 80+ year old selves. Over the years, as I collected pictures and keepsakes of Floyd and Lala, it was fascinating to see and imagine them in their younger years.
I am fortunate that Floyd and Lala’s daily diaries have survived until now and that as a family, we can use the diaries to preserve their memory. The earliest diary I have is from 1945. I don’t know if Floyd and Lala kept diaries before this, but I suspect they did. Several years ago, many items of “family history” were destroyed at my grandpa’s house in Florida after severe hurricane flooding, so it’s very possible there were more diaries like this that were destroyed at that time.
Daily diaries like the style Floyd and Lala used generally had pre-printed dates on the pages, which encouraged the writer to keep entries succinct and to the point. Many entries consist of the weather, hours worked, chores done, errands run, bills paid, visitors, and so on. They were more a brief record of daily happenings that the writer wanted to track, rather than a collection of stories, thoughts, and emotions. Even so, the diaries record many items of personal interest such as birthdays, outings, local and national news, and notes of what other people were doing. Occasionally there is even a bit of reflection or an opinion expressed, which is particularly interesting to the reader.
I have debated what to do with the diaries and how best to share the info recorded. In spite of the short and at times repetitive entries, there are bits and pieces of every day life recorded that flush out the story of Floyd and Lala Banister. But how do I efficiently and effectively share that information with the Banister descendants and others?
I am still trying to decide if transcribing, scanning, or a combination of both would be the best way to share the what I have. I recently transcribed the 1945 diary as a test. As I worked through the pages, I thought that maybe it was a waste of time and I should just scan the pages with information people might like to know. However, as I made my way through that year, in spite of the succinct and repetitive entries, there were enough hidden gems of info recorded that I began to see the Banister family during that time almost like a story unfolding in my mind. It was quite a surprise, really, when I finished and thought back about all I had learned about Floyd and Lala and life in 1945. I will share what I learned in an upcoming blog post to show how we can glean info and stories about people even from sources that may seem sparse if we put in a little effort, study the whole document, read between the lines, and look at the big picture.
Nuggets of information nestled in the pages of these daily diaries really do tell the story of two hardworking, family oriented people. The diaries are both a treasure and a tease. Even so, they are a record of the lives of Floyd and Lala Banister, and proof that they were much more than just little, quiet, old people.
(To learn more about the 1945 Banister Daily Diary, click here for part 1 of the 5 part series.)