The Doris Diaries

The Doris Diaries

The Monthly’s own Julia Park Tracey—past editor, current contributor, exemplary blogger—is out this month with a peppy read titled I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). The first volume of the Doris Diaries series edited by Alameda resident Tracey and published by iUniverse, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ paints a vivid, often amusing portrait of Tracey’s rebellious great-aunt, Doris Louise Bailey (later Murphy), who died in 2011 at the age of 101.

A Portland, Ore., native, Doris began keeping a daily record of her life as a 15-year-old in 1925. In this first installment, she attends dances, rides horses, and parties hard; in later diaries, she attends college, and moves to San Francisco and works in the war effort. I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do is available at Walden Pond Books in Oakland and Books Inc., as well as online. Here, an excerpt:

Sunday, July 12, 1925

I have decided to keep a diary in which I can confide my dreams, my hopes and ambitions. I went to C.E. [Christian Endeavor, a youth organization] today. There was a C.E. delegate from Los Angeles there. He gave a perfectly marvelous talk. He was only about 18 and so good looking. I used to say that religious boys were silly things but I’ve changed my mind. This boy has done more to influence my life than all of Daddy’s lectures can begin to. I see things in an all together different light than I did before. This boy is just the type I am going to marry. I’m through with all this silliness. Boys kissing you good night and et cetera. It’s the bunk and starting tomorrow, I’m going to lead a straight-forward spiritual life.

Monday, July 13

Hot day. I tried to think uplifting thoughts but (I must be truthful), ice cold lemonade and a book appealed to me more.

Friday, July 17

I couldn’t resist the temptation to call Jack Freidel up today. He knows who I am and said he was going to call me Billy Bailey. Oh, he was so nice, I almost loved him. I was ashamed for calling him up so I told him that a girl bet me I wouldn’t like him if I knew him. I was trying to get acquainted with him. He believed me and said that he would help me win the bet.

Tonight I wanted to go for a walk with Marjie. I had a heck of a time getting out. Daddy said I had to be in by 8:30. Wouldn’t that make a person mad? Anyway, we went and got a “Sunday,” then walked down to school. Before we realized it, it was 9 o’clock. I decided I’d have to take the bus. I was standing watching for it. When I did see it, my heart jumped in my mouth. Jack F. was on it with another girl. And his arm was around her. Of course I didn’t take it. I pretended that I was just crossing the street. When he saw me, he barely recognized me. Oh, death, where is thy sting? Why can’t boys turn out to be what you think they will? I’m off of boys from now on. They’re just a fickle, conceited sex that aren’t worth looking at. And I shall put Jack F. out of my life. Close the doors of my heart and forget that he was ever alive.

Ancestor adulation: Alameda resident Julia Park Tracey plans to publish several volumes of her great-aunt Doris’s diaries, which she calls “a gem of Americana.” Photo courtesy Julia Park Tracey.

Sunday, August 23

Went to C.E. with Marg S. She’s falling for Hal. Oh well, who wouldn’t fall for those baby blue eyes of his. I did once myself. But thank goodness I got over it. The boy I mentioned on the first page of my diary was there also. I had forgotten all about my good resolutions. Oh well. You’re only young once. Why not make the best of it and have a good time. There’s plenty of time to be serious when I’m middle aged.

Monday, August 24

I stayed all night at Margie’s. About [midnight] we went for a walk around the block. We heard some music in one of the houses and crept up to listen. We soon discovered that a booze party was being staged. We listened for about 45 minutes and some of the things they said! Oh boy.

Saturday, August 29

Mr. Dixon and Mrs. Van de Carr were here from California today. Mrs. Van de Carr brought me the loveliest purse. It cost seven dollars. Um. Mr. Dixon had his son with him who is 19. He stayed to dinner also. He was very good looking. He was awfully nice to me. After dinner we sat on the porch a while and then danced. He said I danced like a little feather.

Sunday, September 6

I don’t think I’ve ever spent such a dull day in all my life. School starts Tuesday. Bah! Anyway, it will relieve the monotony. Mother managed to restrain her joy when I showed her my new hat. I’m hoping to get a new coat sometime next week.

Tuesday, September 8

Marjie went to get her hair cut today. She had it cut in a boyish bob and looked so adorable that I had mine done. I look perfectly hideous. Rae [Doris’s brother] said that he wouldn’t be seen on the street with me and that I looked cheap and everything else mean that he could think of. Oh, I’m perfectly miserable and I’ve got to go to school tomorrow and stand the gaze of millions. Oh, oh, oh. Death, where is thy sting?

Friday, September 24

I was walking around the block with Margret today at noon and one boy said, “Didn’t I see you at Atlantic City this summer?” I said, “No, why?” And he said, “Weren’t you in the beauty contest?” Um!

There is a boy that lives only three doors from here. I’ve seen him several times at Lincoln. He was awfully cute, wore golf knickers and dressed just spiffy. But he looked like he would be “stuck up.” However, Joe [Doris’s brother] got acquainted with him and liked him. [Joe] also informed me that he had invited him up for tonight. (Mother and Dad were going out.) So I phoned Marjie D. and asked her to come up and spend the night with me. She did. After I was introduced to [Gene], we danced. He is a wonderful dancer. Then we made candy. About that time we were getting real chummy.

And then someone suggested that we tell ghost stories. We turned off every light and sat on the couch. [Gene] put his arm around me and oh, I got a thrill. Well, that was the beginning. He got nicer and nicer, tho he seemed to like Marjie awfully well . . .

Saturday, September 26

I couldn’t keep my mind off of Gene today. I acted like such a fool last night. Just think, to know a boy only two or three hours and then let him kiss you. It’s awful. I hate myself for a sentimental idiot.

Saturday, October 17

Oh gosh! Gene and me acted awfully silly [tonight]. We fought (not seriously) and he pulled my hair, then he would grab me in his arms and dance. He acted so silly that I decided I would, too.

He pretended like he was Rudolph Valentino and oh, I don’t know. He acted awfully funny. I can’t get over it. First he would say, “You’re no good.” Then if I should dance with Lloyd, he’d yank me away. Anyway, he chased me out on the porch once and we were scuffling around. I think he was trying to make me take back something I had said or something, I’ve forgotten. Anyway, we were scuffling on the terrace and all of a sudden he seemed to get stronger. He pinned my arms to my side and I looked up to see what it was all about.

His face was deathly white and he grabbed me and pressed his lips to mine so tight and savagely, I was scared. I’ve never experienced that feeling before. His kisses have always been so timid and shy like a small boy. But the way he squeezed me and held me so tight, I couldn’t breathe. And the kiss was so long. I had the funniest feeling in my spine. I was never so surprised in all my life because he had been acting so silly, and his kiss was so passionate and full of feeling. When he first grabbed me, I struggled to free myself but it was useless.

Anyway, when he finally did release me, I was so stunned I just staggered back against the wall and stared at him. He looked at me a minute (his face was still white and the muscles in it were tense). He said, “You little devil,” and stalked into the house. I can’t understand it. l

Excerpted from I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926), edited by Julia Park Tracey. Copyright © 2012 by Julia Park Tracey.

On Friday, Oct. 12, Julia Park Tracey performs a 7 p.m. reading at Books Inc., 1344 Park St. in Alameda—with, we hear, a visit from Doris (or maybe her alter ego). On Saturday, Oct. 13, Tracey hosts an 8 p.m. Speakeasy Evening at the Swell Bar in Alameda (1539 Lincoln Ave.), featuring Rebel Yell cocktails invented in Doris’s honor, and lively tunes from the lady’s life and times. Costumes suggested. Lovin’ optional. For all Doris event info:

Faces of the East Bay