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March 26 , 2009

Estella's Diary: Catholic or Cousin, Woe is Mine (Volume I)


It’s the summer of 1915 when Estella begins her diary. The golden years of the early twentieth century are about to come to an end. Unaware of the events to follow, Estella, twenty-one years old, is enjoying life. Boyfriends are driving automobiles, everyone is dancing to a new jazz beat, women are showing their ankles, and she can come and go as she pleases as long as she tells her mother where she is headed.
Using Estella’s authentic diary entries, family stories, and actual historical events, each chapter covers a single day in Estella’s life.
Volume I, Estella’s Diary: Catholic or Cousin, Woe is Mine, starts on June 20th, 1915, the day her father, Robert, gives her a little red leather diary. The family is living on a farm a few miles outside Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The trolley line runs a quarter mile from the farm and for just five-cents, takes her to “Dear Old Bethlehem” where she is a member of the famous Bach Choir, attends the Bethlehem Dance Academy and meets her friends for a popular film, shopping or the Sewing Circle Club.
You’ll meet the Harwi family as they sit down for Sunday dinner on a beautiful day in June. The eldest daughter, Pluma, twenty-four and her husband, Ollie, have just come back from Georgia. Ollie, an engineer for The Bethlehem Steel Company, has been working in Georgia for the last two weeks. Estella is the next in age and living at home. Currently she is helping with the farm, housework and children. Ethel, at twelve is the quiet one. Minnie, three years younger, is the “wild child.” Robby, just six and the only boy, is bursting with energy. The fun begins when Estella’s older sister, Pluma, asks her about Walter Geyer. Walter, the same age as Estella, is her father’s cousin. He just purchased a Buick and is coming down to the farm to visit the family and in particular Estella. The couple has been taking rides and going to films. Hattie, Estella’s mother, is not pleased with this arrangement. Estella insists they are “just friends.” Estella does have another beau she meets at the Bethlehem Dance Academy. His name is Dan, but he is a secret because he is an Irish Catholic. And there is George Eck who meets her after church choir practice and walks her home.
So, woe is mine, Catholic or cousin is Estella’s dilemma. In 1915 the thought of a Lutheran woman dating a Catholic man was frowned upon. And marrying your father’s cousin was completely out of the question.
This is the first part of a 3-volume trilogy – a diary filled with a young woman’s secret thoughts that will span seven months of her life in 1915. Included are favorite activities of the day including church picnics, popular parlor games, lyrics to the hit tunes they sang and danced to, as well as the proper way to pick potatoes and husk corn. Volume I, Estella’s Diary: Catholic or Cousin, covers the months of June, July and August of 1915.
The author, Gwen Pierce-Jones, is Estella’s niece. She found Estella’s Diary, wrapped in an old silk handkerchief, in a bedroom dresser drawer as she was cleaning Estella’s home after the family moved her from Coral Gables, Florida to a nursing home in “Good Old Bethlehem.” Estella passed away at the age of ninety-four in 1987.

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