My Aunt Ruthie died at age 98 1/2, so she never reached 100, a goal I sensed she hoped for in her healthy years.

But she did celebrate birthdays on October 4 every year before then.

Some happily in elder days.

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker’s 85th Birthday, 2003


Sister Jean and Aunt Ruthie at the 95th Party


Marian and Aunt Ruthie, 98th birthday party

Other celebrations had mixed results as her diary from 1943 and 1944 written in her twenties reveals:

 I found these diaries nestled at the bottom of her painted cedar chest in a box with a top that looked like this:

Top of box in which diaries were found, spring 2017



The diary entries below report one birthday celebrated with a freezer full of ice cream, and sadly, one that no one appeared to remember.




Ruth M. Longenecker archives, diary October 1-4, 1943


Oct. 1  Fri. & what shall we have in art? You’re asking me. Hectograph doesn’t work – so what…Do a little free hand stuff that is really most [of] the paper. Week nice after yesterday’s rain.

Oct. 2  Sat. – Schoolboard Meeting which I attended once. 1stcheck $ 119. And some cents really should have been $ 140.00 But Income and Retirement Reduction left me the above. Didn’t expect to see Bo after election humiliation but he was there!

Oct. 3  Sunday. & everything that goes with it. At Mt. Joy tonight to hear John Mummau. Had a good chat with Myra and Lois.

Oct. 4  My birthday! And a happy one. Tonight Ray‘s came down with a freezer of ice cream. Pa gave me $ 5.00 which came in handy because I just bought his Xmas present. Fixed up all earthly debts tonight which really left my check on the weak side. Pretty card from Maribel [Kraybill, our pastor’s daughter.]



Ruth M. Longenecker archives, diary October 5-8, 1943


Oct. 5  Tues. & quite a birthday letter from Ruth Brunk [Stoltzfus]. They’re settled at Clearspring CPS camp. Also card from Naomi. We’re selling Xmas cards at school. Sold 2 boxes already which nets us $ 4. Youngsters want 2 more boxes.

Oct. 6  Went to dentist & lo & behold I had only (ONLY) 1 cavity – one of those gum deals – that plus getting my radio cleanup. Pa’s $5 birthday gift – bears the duce Mr. & Mrs. H. R. & Mr. and Mrs. Ray entertained at York (corn meeting).

Oct. 7  This eve Uncle Harry [Horst] was here when I came home. We had supper. Then Ruth, Marian & I took him up to Grandpa’s Home & then to History of Penna. Class. Naomi gave me some books to read.

Harry and brother Leonard Horst had a prosperous Ladder and Scaffolding business in Philadelphia, PA


Ladder sample from the Horst Brothers – Photo courtesy of Howard Landis


Oct. 8  Fri. – oiled school-house floor tonight glad that’s over! Surely is a messy job. Ruth & Ma cleaned Ma’s room today also Ruth & I decided to go to Wolgemuth’s & pick up potatoes tomorrow. It’s Ruth’s idea & I agree.


Ruth M. Longenecker archives, diary October 1-4, 1944


Oct. 1  Communion today. This afternoon Marian came down with her “jammies” but when it got dark she decided to go home & see how the baby was. [My sister Janice was born September 29.]

Oct. 2  Mr. Eshlemen [supt?] was at school this afternoon & said that “things seem to be going nicely.” That’s sort of a nugget coming from him. It’s the 1sthe’s been here in 3 weeks I believe. I had a coughing fit that almost took me right after dinner. Up early & washed – ironed this even.

Oct. 3  Rain today – flat tire when I wanted to go this A.M.colder – fire wood: all day. Jane fell f–t a desk & broke one of her front teeth! Ma & Anna Mae L. helped Mary clean today.

Oct. 4 Yes, dear old diary, another birthday! & no one thought of it! Guess I’m past the “gift, party, cake” day. It was another dreary, cloudy, foggy day – that kind that makes you unhappy even if you want to be happy. Sent a fruit basket to Mildred Shenk today.

Thank you!

The entries above reveal pale pencil marks. Cliff’s photoshopping has brought the indecipherable to life. Thank you!

Whether it’s weekly or every so often, thank you, dear reader, for showing up here to read. I agree with Seth Godin in his conversation with Krista Tippett in 2012:

“What the Internet has done is meant that we don’t have to get on a plane anymore to meet strangers who are like us.”


Did you, like Aunt Ruthie, have a birthday that no one remembered – or, remembered late?

Historically, teachers have received low salaries. Most, however, don’t have to endure janitorial duties as Ruthie described in a two-room schoolhouse. What else stands out in her pages?