Harvard Square Notebook, late 1960s-early 1970s

This notebook has a lot of sentimental value for me, as it belonged to my father. I remember seeing it in his desk when I was a kid and wishing he’d give it to me– my notebook lust started at a very young age. But I wasn’t supposed to be poking around in Dad’s desk, and I never saw him actually writing in this notebook– so to ask him for it would reveal that I’d been doing something naughty! But when I was going through all Dad’s papers after his death last year, I found it again, still in the same drawer where I’d remembered finding it 30 years earlier.

The notebook was bought in the Boston area, I’m guessing in the late 1960s or early 1970s based on a few dates noted within. The cover says that it was distributed by Brooks, of Melrose, MA– this was a drugstore chain which has now been absorbed by Rite Aid. I love how the notebook was marked down from 29 cents to 23 cents!

What’s most fascinating to me about the notebook is the window it provides into my father’s mind. He was always compiling lists of numbers– data on various things such as the economy, household projects, etc.– and jotting down books and music that he wanted to buy.  This notebook was no exception. The page below was gas mileage tracking:

The next one has a company address, and seems to note that they sold a certain type of ring binder for holding film negative strips, which he must have bought as he had several that held old negatives and slides.

My dad was pretty obsessive about his lawn, and obviously did extensive research on the topic, though I’m not sure if his huge book collection actually included the title noted below:

There are lots of other weird things like this– notes about rainfall, distances between streets in our neighborhood, the heights and diameters of various food product cans, and lots of other cryptic numbers whose meaning I’ll never know.

But the best thing about the notebook are the pages below (click on the images for a larger view). My father always liked to tell stories about the funny things I said as a toddler, and this was where he wrote some of them down. The dates indicate that I was between 3 and 5 years old, and I have to say I’m kind of impressed by some of my attempted vocabulary! I’m also a little embarrassed by a few things– how did I manage to think there was a fairy tale called “Pencil and Gretel?”

My mom was pregnant with my little sister when I was about 4, which is where the “baby might be ready to blast out” and “open your mouth so I can talk to him” comments came from. Notes on other pages have me talking about my dad’s “poundcake check jacket” (i.e. houndstooth) and saying I was going to “deject some blood” into a patient while playing doctor! (But I don’t know who “Dr. Turnoff” was.)

Inside the back cover were more quotations, and a slip of paper where I’d done my best to write the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme.

My father was not a very emotionally expressive man– though I always did know that he loved me and was proud of me, it still means a lot to see these concrete signs of it. This will always be one of my favorite examples of the way notebooks can preserve precious things.

5 thoughts on “Harvard Square Notebook, late 1960s-early 1970s”

  1. What a great post! I love the insight into the life of a “record keeper”. In a few weeks I’m going to be teaching a short workshop on journaling to group of mostly non-journalers. One of the questions that I will be posing to them is:

    Where is your record/history? & Does our history even matter? {I think that your post shows that yes, our bits of recorded life, however small, have much value.}

    I expect that some of them will be surprised to find that with lists, numbers & notes they engage in “journal keeping” already.

  2. Wow, that is so neat. I love stuff like that. I don’t have any old notebooks, but do have a cookbook from my grandmother that had lots of little recipes and notes stuck in it. I treasure it!

  3. Lovely post, Nifty. What a treasure for you to find and share with us, an unexpectedly poignant entry that brought back memories of my own. I would probably trace my notebook obsession back to my not-very-emotionally-expressive-but-I-always-did-know-that-he-loved-me dad too. He kept track of the weather and his bowling league scores among other things, and often gave me notebooks as gifts when I was little. Here’s to the ’60’s notebook dads!

  4. How sweet and funny your post is! I laughed all the way through. How neat to be peeking into someone else’s notebook, never mind a 30-year-old one! I LOVE your dad’s recordings of your verbal childhood inventions. Such things are really best written down! My brother is 4 years older than me, and my mom has told me about the many funny things he said about me being inside my mom, as well as right after birth. (The first thing he said when seeing me was “When’s the baby going to die?” – But he said it in German and made a grammatical mistake, which I can’t translate, making it even funnier.)
    Without notebooks, we tend to forget most of these memories.
    Thank you for sharing this precious piece of personal history.

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