Monday, April 05, 2010

Frugal, Wealthy, and Great Beer-Drinkers

Back in the day—before the Internet, before radio, almost before photography, certainly before air travel—when you went on a trip overseas, you didn’t Tweet about it; you didn’t post a travelogue on Facebook; you didn’t put up a slew of pictures on Flickr or Pixagogo or your personal blog pages. You kept a diary—maybe, if you were diligent—and when you came back, you no doubt would chat about the trip with your friends and family. In your trunk you might have packed some souvenirs from exotic locales. Unless writing was your profession, that was about it for sharing.

For a few, however, there was a more permanent way to record impressions from overseas: If you could afford the cost of publishing your memoir, you could order up a private edition, not for general circulation but to pass around to entertain and edify your friends. It was the equivalent of a latter-day slide show, but more portable.

I come from wordy stock. My father’s middle name was Ormsby. His mother’s grandmother, Mary Amanda Bateman by name, was married to a fellow named Edwin Samuel Ormsby, my grandmother’s grandfather. They lived in Emmetsburg, Iowa, but in 1889 they took a five-month trip to Europe. [E.S. Ormsby, born in 1842, would have been 47 on this trip, a well-established citizen and sometime Mayor of Emmetsburg. I do not know the date of Mary A. Ormsby’s birth, but her eldest child was 26 by the time they took this trip.]

When they got back, she published her blog, to the tune of 113 pages of lively narrative, dotted with details about the places she had seen, the people she ran into along the way, some of the stories that today might be scribbled on the backs of postcards, and the other miscellaneous learning one acquires through travel.

Some of the details of specific places have evolved over time, but the experience is immediately familiar to anyone who has taken a long trip to a foreign land.

The following pages are chosen pretty much at random from her story.


Kangamoo said...

Those would make some awesome twitter posts. What a funny writer she was. I can see my family gets their writing talent honestly.

Papa Bradstein said...

One trait out of three ain't bad, right? Although, sometimes I do wonder what being frugal or wealthy would be like. Thanks so much for sharing this. I can see why so many asked her to jot these memories down, and I'm glad they did.