This is National Autograph Collecting Week, and as we know, the hunting of celebrity autographs -- on every conceivalbe surface, from baseballs to the backs of hands and tee shirts still on their owners's backs -- has never been more frenzied. Back in the late 1800s, one of the fads among young people was the autograph book, and with it came the art of writing tokens of affection for one's friends in these small, cherished volumes.
The spirit of this craze is kept alive on the inside covers of school
yearbooks and in the gossipy "slam book" that pre-adolescent
girls circulate among themselves to dish the latest middle school romantic
and society news. Boys certainly aren't expected any longer to sign their
names with a rhyme, unless they're rapping. But a hundred years ago, a
young man had to have a flair for the quatrain, and a good steady hand
with a fountain pen. In my then teen-aged grandmother Mary's autograph
album from 1894, for example, Charlie Klecatsky wrote in his flowing script:
A line of my writing
A good number of the rhymes are serious, like Annie Smolik's
Beauty may win, but virtue must retain
And then there are old chestnuts like Ruth Sindelar's:
Leaves may wither,
Others teased and joshed, like this from her pal, Annie Suchan:
door is locked
Evidently, something was in the air, because, tucked away in the album, next to a comic post card from the young man who would later become her husband and my grandfather, was this rhyme, from her "loving friend" Agnes Kaspar:
Apples are good
Not too many months later, Agnes would have gotten that note.
Copyright 2005© John Cech
|Search the transcripts by date or keyword.
Wednesday, 23-Feb-2005 15:18:02 EST