1930's Diary of an Isle Royale Winter

November 24, 1932

Well, our Thanksgiving Day on Isle Royale is over! And it wasn’t half-bad! I washed my hair and sat in the big rocking chair and read The Door while my hair dried, in the morning. We had dinner at 2:30—whitefish, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, beets, onions in vinegar, fresh rolls, pumpkin pie and coffee. (Oh, yes—and Isle Royale turkey [moose] for those who don’t like fish as well as I do!)

December 1, 1932

It was such a lovely day that the folks decided to pay their final visit of the year to Rock Harbor. As it is necessary, on Isle Royale, to take advantage of the weather, we agreed to take the day off, and all go.

After we started, we found a much heavier sea than appeared from here, but we kept on rolling and swaying from side to side. Just before we reached Saginaw point, the skiff broke loose and we had to lie in the trough of the sea, after making a sharp turn almost on the side of the boat. But everyone sat still and said nothing, so we managed to get righted and proceed. By this time, the sky had turned gray and lowering, and I, for one, felt like a mighty insignificant atom in the scheme of things, pitching and tossing in a twenty-foot cockleshell on Lake Superior, whose giant fist seemed to pick us up and shake us as a baby shakes its rattle.

We reached Rock Harbor about 11 a.m. and went over to the old lighthouse where we visited until 3 o’clock. Vivian and I climbed the old tower—the view from there is gorgeous. The men decided they’d like to go on to Rock Harbor Lodge and visit the caretaker and his family there, so we loaded everyone on to the boat and started out. It was beautiful traveling through the December dusk over a calm harbor, with the snow-coated trees looking ghostly and vague, as darkness swiftly fell. We finally arrived at the lodge and there they decided to go over to the dining room and have dance. Violet and I furnished the music on a worn-out violin and an awful old piano. We had Scandinavian schottisches galore! It was a great dance—the men all wore their hats, lumber jackets and rubber boots! The little kids all bawled when their mothers danced!

December 4, 1932

What a day! I experimented nearly all day with the shortwave set. Mr. Johnson helped me. It is okay on the receiving end but no good on transmission. I was so discouraged I simply went to pieces—but I’ve done all the work and that’s that. I’ll try Houghton again tomorrow and hope for the best.

December 8, 1932

What a day! Stormy—cold—the school is like a barn and all of us huddled around the stove, which simply gobbled wood. I tried Houghton again—heard half a message or so—then he faded completely. Guess there is still something wrong with our transmission. I did my Christmas sewing in bed with my feet on a hot water bottle!

December 10, 1932

Had a nice letter from Mom and the kids, which was read over WHDF at noon. They are all going to Wyandotte for Christmas—and will we envy them! I’m glad they’ll all be together anyway. We have practically finished the doll’s house, which we are making for our dear little girls for Christmas.

December 11, 1932

We had a lovely, peaceful Sunday—snow fell gently all day long and Bob and I spent the day doing Christmas work in the school. I feel we are truly possessed of the Christmas spirit, for we are having a grand time making many gifts of little cost. Violet, Vivian and I are making a three-room [doll] house and furniture of pasteboard cartons—Violet made the furniture—I made curtains, a real patchwork quilt, etc. Today Bob and I made bookmarks, pen-wipers, address books—everyone has a secret and is working very busily and it’s fun! The boys are doing a beautiful winter garden for their mother—and some hand-tooled leather things (out of an old purse of mine)—for the men. A heavy sea rolling again!

December 13, 1932

I finished making Kenyon’s “Book of Cars” tonight. He will little suspect that my Christmas gift is designed to motivate letter learning!

December 17, 1932

The ice was all gone from the harbor today. Didn’t get our batteries charged in time to get W9YX today. It is so hard to charge them, as the engine freezes constantly. I made the winter garden we are giving Mrs. Johnson—painted various plants, etc. to give it color. It is really pretty. And one of the narcissus bulbs is about ready to blossom. We wrapped gifts in the evening. Our packages look nice—paper is cheap—even if the gifts are makeshifts.

December 19, 1932

A beautiful day! The world was so quiet and beautiful this morning that Bob and I stopped on our way to the house and enjoyed just living.

December 21, 1932

No news—no battery! Bob and I cleaned and decorated the school and trimmed the tree.

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