Updated April 21, 2014
Someone put this little book on ebay many moons ago. I saw the Emma’s Flower Shop at the bottom and thought I should have it. It didn’t go for much and I was the only bid, but I thought it might be an interesting item to have in my Nashville history collection.
I recently re-read it and re-discovered the insights into a simple and sometimes difficult life of an ordinary wife and mother of the late 1940s. Her name was Frances Louise Engel Byrd. I thought it would be of interest if I posted some of her notes as she talks about her daily life and references some local Nashvillians and places in Middle Tennessee.
Nashville historian and friend Debie Cox did some research into Frances Byrd and here is some of what she found:
“Her father John, was a brewer and most likely worked for William Gerst. At times the census shows that the two families lived near one another. William Gerst was married to an Engel, possibly an older sister or aunt of John Engel. Finding the names of Frances’ siblings helped explain some the names listed in her diary.”
“John D. Engel was born on December 23, 1872, in Ohio, the only child of his father. He married Lillie Bordieson/Bordieser on October 17, 1894, in Davidson, Tennessee. John died on August 9, 1949, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 76.
His children were:
Lillian married William Bellinger
Katie married Lester Knox, son Albert
Margaret married Mr. Tittle
Barbara married Harvey Wright, sons Allen and Johnny
George married Johnnie Ann
Josephine married Mr. Moss
Agnes may have died young
Frances married Felix Byrd
William Gerst Sr., owner of the Gerst Brewery in Nashville was married to Mary Engel. She was likely a relative of John Engel father of Frances Engel Byrd. At least three of the Gerst children were born in Ohio in the 1870’s and 1880’s, as was John Engle.”
Notice the 5 digit phone numbers. Vivian Hackney (sp?) lived at 1302 Stainback Ave and was the “Good News Weekly” writer. There is an incomplete reference to this at the Library of Congress website here. The newspaper ran every Thursday.
There’s a Dr. J.J. Ashby and a Dr. W.J. Case. These two would be important to her this year.
Byrd’s Grocery was the family business where mom and dad worked and lived, probably above on a second floor. Here is a listing in the 1947 City Directory courtesy of Debie Cox. *This was somewhere on 7th between Shelby and Sylvan St. Frances probably did the usual things necessary in a small grocery store and “made calls”. Don’t know if these were collection calls for people behind in their credit or calls to get people to come by the store and make purchases. According to Debie, the “h” in this listing shows that they also lived here prior to moving to South 17th.
According to a copy of a deed Debie found, the Byrds had just purchased their house on S 17th the previous December for $8500. So they are in a new-to-them house. Best I can tell, the Byrds had one car and a motorcycle. Juggling three kids and a business was quite a handful as we’ll see.
Other listings in the phone numbers are her mother-in-law, Mrs. Byrd, Katie Knox, Margareuite Tittle (sp?), Barbara Wright, Josephine Moss, George Engel, Josie Gerst, Aunt Katie & Lizzie Gerst are listed. I wonder if there is a Gerst haus connection there?
The Byrds lived at 112 South 17th St. just across from Lockeland Springs school. She was Born May 5, 1914. making her 34 in 1948. Her Husband was born September 6, 1910. He was 38, They were married October 20 1932. She was 18, he was 22. They had three children. Oldest son William was born July 18, 1933, Barbara born September 10, 1937 and Richard born March 20 1941. The 1940 census said she had a 9th grade education and formerly lived on East Side Avenue. Her husbands name is Felix Clifton Byrd, but the census has a spelling of Philix for his first name. He went by his middle name, Clifton.
For the first two months of 1948, there aren’t many notations. Most of her time was probably spent unpacking boxes and setting up her new home. A birthday for Josie Tittler, who was 8, is noted for January 15. Barbara Wright turned 44 on February 3. March 6 she noted “I gave Josephine a lace tablecloth for her birthday.” Josephine was 38.
Then, on April 10, in big letters…“William Hurt His leg”. William was 15. She never says what he did to hurt his leg, but he would be in a full leg and hip cast for most of the year.
April 11: William went to hospital Room 369
April 12: William in good spirits can walk but limps – hates to have cast put on so do I. Cast to be put on tomorrow
April 13: William had cast put on leg and hip. Very sick & uncomfortable. Mother set up all night
April 14: Willliam not so sick but very uncomfortable. “mother set up all night” Mrs. Pulleycutt & June Gwin came by with cake for wife & william.
April 15: “William is better” mother set up all night. Mr. Pulleycutt & Joe Brown, Bro. Smith came by to inquire about William.
April 16: Happy William is home and feeling fine.
The next week goes by without comment. Probably busy getting William settled in and getting back to her normal routines. The quote marks above are hers. Probably for emphasis.
April 24: (Saturday) Fair days business Howard (can’t read last name) quit. Evidently an employee at the store quit.
April 25: Mama, came over. met Lucile, Jim, Frances at Grace Naz. Church Wonderful song service Saw Mr & Mrs Hunley. Came home felt bad, went to afternoon service at church, Bro. Tunstill Babtized Bryan Jones. talked, was good. fair attendance.
Grace Nazarene church at this time was on 2536 Gallatin road across from Cahal Ave. It was a church started for Trevecca Nazarene college which was where the auto/diesel college (Lincoln, I think) is now and where Percy Warner’s Renraw mansion was. That is why there is a Trevecca avenue one block north of Gallatin in this area. Grace Nazarene church moved to the Pennington Bend area along Briley Parkway in the 1970’s.
April 26: Late to work. no help. except Johnson Came home late tired went to show Papa came over to store bought motor cycle schield. Paid him $5.00 He was sore from fishing Sunday 25th
She bought a motorcycle shield from her father. She evidently rode the motorcycle to work occasionally. If the show she went to see was after she got home, more than likely the theater was the Woodland St. theater.
April 27: Got to work on time. Had help fair. Broke chain on motor cycle., Home late, good supper. Legs tired as usual.
May 5: Today is my birthday-My Honey gave me $25.00 and I bought a suntan lounge so Wm could enjoy a little out of doors. (He’s still in a cast). He gave me a box of candy and Bobby gave me 2 Pyrex Pie Pans and a cute Pickle or nut dish. Josephine came over and brought me 2 beautiful pictures for my bare walls. I got 7 birthday cards and enjoyed a quiet and pleasant birthday.
Just like a Mom to use her birthday money on her kids. The bare walls reference makes sense with Debie Cox’s info on the recent house purchase.
May 9: This is Mother’s Day and Bobby gave me a falcon of Evening in Paris Perfume. Clifton spoke at the church tonight on the subject of “How shall we be judged”. Sure did make a good talk. Mrs. Byrd and Frances went to church with us and Christie, Wayne and Mr. Byrd stayed with Wm. Was real proud of my “Honey”. He sure is a good man and a swell father and husband.
From Debie Cox: I think the word she meant to use was flacon http://www.thefreedictionary.com/flacon I remember buying Evening in Paris for my mama at the 5&10.
May 11: To-day I am taking wm to Dr. Ashby for an Xray Picture of his leg. Don’t think he will cut any off the cast but here’s hoping it won’t be much long for Wm.
The Doctor didn’t cut any of the cast off. Also told Wm. he would have to stay in the cast at least 3 months. It’s been a month today. Dr. wants to see him in another month.
Yikes! 4 months in a cast!
May 16: Harvey Wright went to Protestant Hospital his nose bled off and on all night Saturday and all night Sunday night. They gave him 2 blood transfusions Sunday.
Protestant Hospital 20th & Church Street
On December 12, 1918, as a result of a devastating flu epidemic and the need for more hospital beds in Nashville, five men incorporated Protestant Hospital. The first patient was newborn Margaret Anita Kilby Lewis, daughter of Gladys Kilby, and she arrived on March 20, 1919, two days before the official opening.
The ten-and-a-half acre plot consisted of two adjoining city blocks, bounded by four city streets: Church Street on the south, 20th Ave. on the east, 21st Ave. on the west, and Patterson Street on the north. There were two buildings–one became the hospital and one became the dormitory for the School of Nursing. Protestant Hospital began with 100 beds, and the construction of the East Building in 1924 increased capacity to 210 beds and 18 bassinets. Because of the Depression and a generally weak financial condition, the hospital experienced no more growth.
The hospital transferred ownership to the Tennessee Baptist Convention in April of 1948, and its name was changed to The Mid-State Baptist Hospital, Inc.
May 17: Went to see Harvey at Protestant hospital and he was feeling better, although his nose was packed to capacity with cotton. Felt right sorry for him.
Margarite gave me a beautiful lace table cloth.
May 18: I went to Dr. Case today John Ann stayed with Wm. My blood pressure is down again and my hemoglobin test was down low so Dr. Case gave me a bottle of capsules and wants them refilled and to come back in another month.
They took the packing out of Harvey’s nose.
May 30: I went to see Dorothy for the first time since I have been sick. I took her a birthday card with 5.00 check in it. Also some fruit & candy. Bobby went with me and we stopped and got some sandwiches on our way back home.
Dorothy Fisher turned 26 the next day. Fruit and candy were still staples as gifts then.
June 4: William got his 9th grade Diploma Bobby was promoted to the 6th grade Poor Richard got left in the first grade. But maybe he will be put up in the 2nd when he goes back to school. I promise to help him more next fall if my health permits.
If the census was correct, William has graduated the grade that Frances stopped. A proud Momma no doubt. You can sense her disappointment and maybe some fatigue from whatever is ailing her with the promise to help Richard. She has a lot on her plate.
June 8: William went to the Doctor today CLifton went with him. His cast was getting weak so Dr. Ashby put 3 seel strips next to the cast and put on some more plaster. Says he may have to be in the cast 6 or 8 months. Sure will be a happy day when he gets out of it.
June 9: William’s cast cracked around the knee. So I called Dr. Ashby and he is coming out and put some more on between now and Sunday.
Wow. A house call. Poor kid.
June 11: Allen came home tonight with his new Ford.
June 12: Dr. Ashby came over and replastered Wm leg. I ask him if he thought Wm would be able to go back to school in the fall and he seemed to think that he would.
Allen, Barbara, and Leonard came over to see Wm. Sure does have a pretty car.
I think she likes the new car.
June 14: Tomorrow is the day for me to go back to the D. for another check up. I washed clothes today. Expect to iron in the morning.
Bobby & Richard wanted to go swimming.
June 15: Katie and Lester & Albert came over to let me go to the Dr. Allen came over and took me. I hadn’t improved any since the last time I went to him Took 2 tests this time will have to go back when I finished another bottle of capsules. Albert is staying the rest of the week.
June 16: Allen, Barbara & Johnny & Harvey came over last night and we had a freezer of ice cream. This morning Bobby, Albert & Richard have gone to the Bible school and later on I am going to take them swimming.
Tomorrow we are going on a picnic. Red carried Bobby, Albert and Richard to the Woodland.
Woodland would have been the Woodland Street Theater at 1011 Woodland street.
June 17: Barbara and her family and Margarite and Jesse and Mary Sue Brown and Albert and all of us went to the park. Bobby, Albert, Mary Sue & Richard went swimming and the rest of us played cards. Had a nice time. Bobby & Albert went to Bible school this morning. Lucile and Kirby& Jim came over after supper.
The park was probably Shelby Park because of proximity.
June 18: Looks like rain this morning. William wants me to take them fishing. We went but we didn’t catch anything. Except his line in the tree several times. I went to play Bingo with Jo. But we didn’t win anything We also went and put our name in for the new Ford’s they are giving away. Maybe we’ll win one of those.
The Ford dealership could have been Hippodrome Ford, if I’m not mistaken.
June 19: Lester came after Albert this morning. Nothing exciting happened today. Just another Saturday. Mrs. Ehemann & Catherine an Mrs. Ehemann’s sister, Franns , came over and stayed a while. Richard found a puppy and tied his tail to a bush out front which was very unconfortable for the dog. Ha Ha
June 20: Father’s day = We are going to the country-Papa blistered both legs below the knees with coal oil. Sure is some bad places on his legs. The skin is coming off. We went over to Mrs. Byrds from the country. We had a good dinner and supper. Papa sure is feeble. Looks bad.
June 21: William & Bobby, Richard and I went over to Mr. Krafts’- Got Wm a pair of good leather house slippers and a pair of pajamas. Allen came by with his girl. They was going fishing, swimming and picnicking. Allen & Barbara took Pappa to the Dr with his legs. Has to go back to Dr tomorrow.
June 22: Stella came to wash for me today. Have engaged her for five days a week starting next week. Stayed till 3 oclock. Paid $3.00 car fare. Richard went over to see his grand ma to stay until Sunday. I don’t know what is wrong with me. My head feels so funny.
June 23: Stella came to iron 8:00. Didn’t finished left at 4:30 $3.00 car fare. Clifton and Bobby went to church tonight.
June 24: Stella came back to finish ironing. She didn’t charge anything because she didn’t get through yesterday. Bobby had her recital and everything went pretty smooth. Clifton finished the dishes for me and stayed with Wm.
June 25: Josephine had most all of us out to her house for lunch. Barbara, Katie Allen, Johnnie, Wm, Bobby and Albert and myself. Had a real nice time.
If my head don’t hurry and feel better I’m going to change doctors.
Joe Louis fight Walcott. Wow. Joe Louis gave up fighting for his mother.
In front of 42,000 people at Yankee Stadium Louis, who weighed 213½-the heaviest of his career to date prepared for a rematch of Jersey Joe Walcott. Walcott knocked Louis down in the third round, but Louis knocked out Walcott in the eleventh. She listened to this on the radio since Nashville’s first television station, WSM, didn’t sign on the air until September 30, 1950.
June 26: Nothing really exciting happened. Bobby met Christine and had her picture made with her evening dress and corsage.
Don’t like to complain but I’m feeling like an old shoe, maybe some day I will get relief and ease.
June 28: Stella came and washed. Left around 4:00. It was pouring rain. Clifton and Mr. Ed went to Vanderbilt Hospital to see Uncle Walter. Bobby & Richard started taking swimming lessons today. Mrs. Bennett came up for a short visit.
More than likely, Bobby and Richard were going to the public swimming pool at Shelby Park for their lessons. Built in the 1930’s with a Spanish Colonial Revival style, it was heated and had underwater lighting . At this point in the late 40s, the pool would have been segregated; whites only.
July 1: Richard and Bobby went swimming again today. Taking lessons. Stella helped me wash my venetian blinds didn’t get through will finish tomorrow.
July 2: Bobby went by herself to take another swimming lesson. Stella & I finished washing all the blinds. She also helped clean the house.
July 3: I went down to the store and helped Clifton till 8:30p.m. Stella stayed with the children and finished cleaning up the house.
July 6: William went to the Dr.’s He put more cast on and also a piece of steel down his leg. Says it may be 3 or 4 more months. May God give hime strength and courage to endure that cast that much longer. If the Dr. don’t help me soon I think I will change doctors. Clifton went with Wm to the Doctor today. I worked at the store. Stella came.
July 7: Barbara, Allen, Johnny, Harvey came over and I made them stay for supper. William showed his movies after supper. Am going to town tomorrow to do a little shopping. I’m supposed to go to the Doctor tomorrow. Poor Clifton I know he gets tired of us going to the Drs.
July 8: Went to the picture show with Josephine and Mrs.Lafreze’s 2 girls. Took Richard wt had lunch in town. Barbara sent me some soap while I was in town. Have decided not to go back to Doctor’s Am just going to forget myself just now. A little misunderstanding about the money. I promised to give her $7.00 for 3 days. I let Stella go today but gave her $8.00.
July 9: Clifton went to see “Carnival on ice” at Sulpher Dell. I won the tickets over the radio. Nothing else exciting happened.
Sulpher Dell was a baseball stadium North of the capital building.
July 10: Mrs. Jo left for a trip up north. Don’t know how long she will be gone. Margaret went up into the Country to stay with Papa. I lent Mrs. Jo my suit case. She is going to Cincinnati and then to Virginia to see her sister. Wish we could go on a vacation all of us together.
July 11: The Pollycutts came over from church. We stayed home all day. Clifton and Richard went to the picture show. Bobby & Clifton went to Sunday School & Church. We had fried chicken and black berry pie for dinner. Wm Bobby and myself played cards.
July 12: Arose early this morning. started to wash and finished at 11 o’clock. It always took Stella all day to wash. It rained and I had to bring in the clothes before they got dry. But I managed to get them ready to iron for in the morning.
July 13: I started to iron at 7:AM. finished at 11:45 A.M. It always took Stella a day and a half. Just shows you she took her good old time.
Kirby, Lucile & Jim came over and Pete Collis. And Clifton had to go to a board meeting at the church. Talked about Wm. Birthday which is Sunday.
July 14: Today is Kay’s birthday. She is the little girl next door. She is 3 yrs old and very cute.
I cut me a dress and Bobby went to town to get her proofs but they weren’t good. Nothing exciting happened. We stayed home and listened to the Dem. convention.
From Wikipedia: The 1948 Democratic National Convention was held at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 12 to July 14, and resulted in the nominations of President Harry S Truman for a full term and Senator Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky for Vice President in the 1948 presidential election.
July 16: I went to town with Josephine and Mrs. Lafuge (sp?) and got some low heel shoes also some cake decorations for Wm cake. We ate lunch in Harvey’s basement. Got a shower curtain & window curtain for the bath room. Joe got 3 new dresses.
Harveys was a department store located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. It was opened by Fred Harvey in 1946. During the 1950s and 1960s, the downtown area of Nashville was a popular shopping destination, with numerous stores and restaurants lining the area around Church Street. As malls began luring shoppers to the suburbs, Harveys, along with many other downtown stores, went out of business. The restaurant in the basement was the Peacock Grill, I believe. The Monkey Bar was upstairs.
July 17: Well I went and got the shower rod today and baked 2 cakes and fried 3 chickens for tomorrow. Guess we will have a time tomorrow at least Wm is expecting a big day. He got a card from Dorothy and Mandy & Frank. Was real tired when I got through tonight altho’ I borrowed Mrs. Hollands Elec. Mixer.
July 18: The Big Day. Mamy Byrd, lucille, Kirby, Jim, Christine, James & Wayne & Frances, Barbara, Harvey & Johnny Josephine & Red Moss came over for dinner & Katie, Lester & Albert came over later for Ice Cream & Cake. We had 2 freezers of ice cream. Kay brought Wm a box of candy. Barbara brought a large sucker, gas pump and 4 molds for popsicyles and Wm got 47.50 in money. William’s Birthday – age 15
July 19: What a day yesterday. 18 to eat dinner & 21 to eat ice cream. I washed today although I put 18lbs in the laundery I had 5 lines full & a rack. Margaret Ann & Johnny come over for supper. We played cards till 10:30. I was so tired I thought I would drop over. Margt ann had some tumors taken off her eye lid today. Had a patch over her right eye.
July 20: I ironed all morning with the cramps. I forgot to send Frank a card for his birthday. Clifton called me and I went down to the store t let him get a hair cut. Then I came home and cooked supper. Another hectic day. I sure hope the sun shines on us some day. Frank’s Birthday-32 years.
July 21: Just another day. The laundry came back & I was trying to put my dress together. I ironed the ones that weren’t ironed and finished my dress all but the jacket I will do tomorrow. We ate sandwiches I was so tired again. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a little pep again.
July 23: Went to town today and bought William his new portable radio with the money he got for his birthday.
Johnny was here when I got home. Mrs. Thompson was too giving Bobby her music lesson. Got a hemstitcher today at Singer’s.
July 24: Bobby went to town Nothing exciting happened. I tried to hemstich some scarfs that had been embroidered , but I guess I will learn how better as I get more used to the attachment. My laundry came back Also my winter coat from the cleaners.
July 26: I washed a weeks wash. Went down to the store and Clifton came out home and cut the hedge. Josephine cam out brought me a mirror for my dining room table. Also gave me some andirons.
Josephine said they are leaving Saturday for a vacation in Florida. Wish we could all go.
July 27: I ironed today and painted the andirons. They look real good. Bobby took a music lesson.
July 28: Put the andirons in the living room. Looks nice. Mama Byrd, Frances, Mr. Byrd, Lucille, Kirby & Jim came over tonight. Lucille & Kirby are house hunting. Sure hope they find something they like. Like to see all young couples have a home while they are able to enjoy it. Kirby’s birthday. Age 32 yrs.
July 29: Went down to the store. Clifton went over to Harvey’s to see the sign he’s making him. We are going out to Katie’s and go fishing. We went but the creek was nearly dry. No place for Wm to fish. We came home 4:00 Wm was disappointed. Clifton went to the show again tonight.
July 30: We went down Shelby Park lake. Bought some red worms and the kids enjoyed it down there better than they did yesterday.
I didn’t feel so good yesterday. Some talk of Bro. Pollycutt resigning Mrs. Bennett said.
Bobby took a music lesson today. Sure will be glad when we know that Wm is ok again.
More to come…
* I had earlier mistook this for 7th ave South down close to Lafayette where the old Sears bldg is. Debie Cox taught me something that I guess growing up in the suburbs, I never knew. “501 S(outh) 7th is in East Nashville near the corner of Shelby Avenue. Lafayette is on the other side of the river and intersects with 7th Avenue South. When the direction is in front it is East Nashville.” Thanks Debie!