Flora Elsie Cardwell Luper
August 29, 1893 – August 13, 1976
This little leather bound journal, a five year diary, was faithfully inscribed every day by Flora Cardwell Luper during the five year period from 1948 to 1952.
I’ve been transcribing her words to be able to share this segment of Flora’s life with others. Flora and her husband, Al, lived in Johnson, Arkansas, a rural area between Fayetteville and Springdale. The parents of four children, the youngest, Dorothy – or Dot – was in nursing school. She graduates about mid-way through this diary, later marries and has her first child during the last year of this diary (1952).
Through the journal entries, I’ve come to know a bit of this woman that I never met. Some of the entries are mundane. She shares what they planted in the garden, what they harvested, what she preserved. She tells when she washed, when she ironed, when she sewed. Some days the entry includes: Washed my hair today.
I’ve learned how important her family was to her. She shares when her children and grandchildren visited, when she got letters from her two daughters, Dot and Margie.
Flora’s life was filled with family and friends. She and Al were very involved in their local church and they rarely missed a Sunday service. She also tells of church picnics and meetings of the women’s group.
For a long time it was a mystery about how this diary from so many years ago got in with the many books at my dad’s house. Neither he nor Shirley knew Flora Luper’s name and didn’t know any Luper’s or Cardwell’s.
As I got further along with my transcription, and started researching some of the names that came up, I found out that the youngest daughter, Dot, had a second marriage to Johnny Hood and died in Goshen, the small town my dad lives in.
When I visited there a few weeks ago, I asked him and Shirley if they knew a Dot, or Dorothy Hood. Oh yes! Shirley knew Dorothy Hood very well. She cleaned for her for years. Dorothy died of leukemia. Prior to her death Dorothy asked Shirley to continue cleaning for Johnny, which Shirley did for many years until he was moved to a nursing home.
Diaries don’t seem to be as popular anymore, except for young adolescent girls. Journaling seems to be the current rage, but that seems to be a different animal. In journals we write for pages and pages, often delving deep into our psyche and consciousness, in an effort of self-realization and working through difficult issues in our life. These tomes are beneficial to us as individuals, but maybe aren’t what we want to leave behind for those in the future.
Because it’s in the mundane reciting of our everyday activities that we end up leaving a snapshot of ourselves and what life is like in that brief moment.
Here’s a few snippets from Flora’s diary, early in 1948:
(Note: Al is Flora’s husband. Children are Dot, Margie, Wade and Thord. Mac and Barney are their horses.)
January 13th: Made Dot PJ of feed sacks. Sent them to her by Margie. She liked them. Wash & iron each day as usual.
February 20th: Cold & cloudy today. Freezing. I walked some. Moped, cleaned. Put more things in the cabinet. Washed some wood work & windows.
February 28th: Mrs. Num came over. Mrs. Sykes came & pruned today. I tied one row grapes. Warm & pretty today. Made cookies for Dot & to take to the church tomorrow.
March 12th: Cold this morn. Apples froze in the cellar. Al gone to work. Saw no one today. Cold & bad weather. Sewed some. Tea towels. Al about sick with cold.
March 26th: Al & I went washed. Wind blowing. Went to the factory at 7 with Al. Worked in the spinach from 8 to 4:30. Ate with Joy. An old dog got my dinner. Cool today. Ross has new truck.
April 5th: Dot been to the dentist. Tied grapes until I thought I’d drop. Crum came after their 2 calves. Num after their cow. Has warm & dry. No mail. Got letter from Dot.
April 16th: Dyed & finished the sacks for a quilt. I go to Carrie after milk about every other day. Warm & clear. Went after polk to eat. Got Barney for Al to plow.
April 27th: Walked to Carrie after milk. 2 qts. Came by Frank. Johnnie Cosand was found dead. Got Mac for Al to plow the garden. Frank came up to get me to help her pick berries tomorrow. Warm eve.
May 2nd: Al & I ate dinner with Joy, Jean, Ross & baby. Went to S.S. & church. Afternoon we went to Johnny Cosand funeral at C of C. Went to training union & church tonite. Warm weather.
May 6th: Worked again today. Made $3.20 pay. Hazel & Joy 30¢ day for riding with them. Joy & I stay together. Cold, cold. Kenneth sprayed for Al.
May 7th: Sunday. I worked today like a slave. Washed, ironed, cleaned picked berries & canned them. Dead tired. Al & I went to church tonite & training union.
May 8th: Made $3.60 today. Al plowed this eve. We went to wash Sat eve. Got home late. So tired. Kate, Mrs. Boone girl riding with Hazel. Took the bus.
May 9th: Made $4.30 at Welch. Letter from Dot. Greeting for Mother Day from Margie. $1 in it. Rained today. I ride with Carrie & Hazel. Cold. Had ham today.
And there’s lots more. A large majority of the days are routine tasks and chores. Flora liked to record whenever she washed, ironed, sewed…a few days even mentioned washing her hair.
When I got further along and mention was made about when she had to pump the water when Al was sick, and one time mentioned bringing water from the creek to wash their hair, it makes one realize how much we take for granted now. We turn on a faucet, take our shower and wash our hair and don’t give it a second thought.
Have you kept a diary? Are there any written snippets of your life that you’re leaving to your descendants?