I have a confession. Sometimes I get frustrated with tagging. Although I appreciate the importance of making documents searchable and sometimes even enjoy it, I have a hard time coming up with things to tag since this collection has so many similar donation documents that all say “Merry Christmas,” or “Here’s $150 for some worthy boy or girl,” or “Sending best wishes and success in your work.” So, to cheer myself up, I decided to look through the tags and find some of the quirkiest tags and letters. Here are a few that piqued my interest today.
This letter demonstrates the downside to working with high school and college kids – they grow up. Martha Berry laments the “epidemic of weddings” that occurred in the spring because she is having trouble finding someone to take Inez’s place at the Schools. I think this is a hilarious description of what usually happens to college seniors. Much like senioritis, weddings are an very contagious illness.
In this letter, Martha Berry asks Alice Wingo to investigate a possible relationship between Usher, the man who delivers coal, and Florence Plum, a student at the Schools and then “let her know about this.” Why did Martha Berry want to know about this? Did she know about all of the relationships and flirtations that happened at the Berry Schools? How did she hear about Usher? She does not sound pleased about this interaction – what happened to the budding romance between Florence and Usher? Apparently, Miss Berry really did have eyes and ears everywhere.
This is notable simply for the fact that there is such a creature as a Poggenberg goat, and someone thought to donate a few to the Berry Schools. (Say it out loud; it really will improve your day.)
Martha Berry was really good at giving gifts. She gave away cotton, angel food cake, homemade candy, lavender sachets and so much more! But only a select group got the fabulous gift of a jar of watermelon pickles. My first reaction when I read this was disgust – who could eat a big slice of juicy pickled watermelon? Then a friend gently informed me that it is usually the rinds that are pickled. I am only slightly more comfortable with the idea now, but the recipients of Miss Berry’s gift seem to have been delighted.
As a sometimes-when-I-feel-like-it-except-for-Chickfila kind of vegetarian, this letter caught my eye. A doctor from The Battle Creek Sanitarium, Dr. Gertrude Johnson, writes Martha Berry to ask if she has room at the Berry Schools for a girl who seems to have had a very difficult life. Dr. Johnson tells Miss Berry a bit about the girl’s life and circumstances, adding “her stomach has also been damaged by wrong habits of eating and living when a child. She has been so greatly benefited by the change in her diet since coming up here that she feels she must continue on a vegetarian diet.” The letter leaves me wondering what the wrong habits of eating this girl fell into and whether or not the Berry Schools could accommodate a vegetarian in the 1920s.
To end on a heartwarming note, I picked this letter from a Berry student to Mrs. Henry Ford. When I originally saw this tag, I expected the letter to be a funny story about someone’s outrageous temper that Miss Berry was reprimanding. It ended up being a sweet letter from a student thanking Mrs. Ford for her donations and friendship to the Berry Schools. The student explains how different her life was living in the beautiful Clara Hall than it was living in her grandfather’s log house. I haven’t seen very many student perspectives on life at Berry, so this is a fascinating find.