Sunday, October 26, 2008


The Autumn Sketch Book
of Bess Stanhope
October 26, 1925

This past weekend I did something I had never done before. I got a substitute teacher and took the train east for four days back home in St. Paul. Last year, I never even went home for Christmas.

Now that I have a year of teaching under my belt, I felt confident that the students would do well with a small change. The substitute was Irene Bitz, a good friend of mine who was, in fact, the previous teacher before she left to get married. The students all love her so they were fine while I was gone. (In fact, last fall I had to persuade them to accept me – the upstart young teacher who took Mrs. Bitz’ place!)

Very early Friday morning I drove my Ford to Bismarck and boarded the train. I was so happy to get inside and settle into my seat. The wind was whipping the autumn leaves about me as I got on the train. I must say, I felt very snappy in my new "city dress" and cloche hat.

Before I left, I bought a couple of the latest magazines. I seldom purchase magazines anymore as they are now a luxury, but I felt like splurging a little. The stories and articles provided me with ample entertainment as we traveled across North Dakota. Not long after we left Fargo, the landscape began to change to my beloved lakes and woods. It seemed like we were in the Twin Cities before I knew it.

My parents are on an auto tour of the Southwestern United States to buy Indian artifacts, so I stayed with my best friend from home, Ellen Morrison. Her husband Elliott is such a dear and they were terrific at making me feel at ease in their home. They are gracious hosts whose only concern is for their guest. Ellen and I had a wonderful time catching up after everyone else went to bed.

Saturday morning, Ellen was following her usual weekend routine so I went to my favorite St. Paul cafe near the Cathedral. I used to sit in one of its wooden booths for hours, sipping coffee, observing people, sketching and writing poems.

In the afternoon Ellen and I went to our old prep school to watch a field hockey game. How I remember those crisp autumn days when we were players: the fresh air, the vigorous exercise, the sportsman (or woman)-like competition, and the cheers of our classmates. It was a fine afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After the game, we went for a stroll along the grounds of Macalester College. How striking it was to see the late afternoon autumn sun highlighting the beautiful features of Old Main.

Ellen and I were as alike as two peas in a pod for many years, for after prep school we both went to Macalester. But after college, Ellen got married and started a family, while I carried on like a foolish flapper for several years before finding my true calling.

I have always admired Ellen’s serenity, grace and class. Today she is devoted to her husband, her home and her beautiful children. Her Arts and Crafts bungalow reflects her artistic sensibility and makes me feel utterly comfortable. I am afraid it will take me a while to come back to earth after my wonderful weekend away!
Oops, I find I have made a little error in posting a picture of a 1924 Red Book. I'll leave it though because I love the image. I'll just have to make sure that I cover up the date when it comes to actually making Bess' Sketch Book. I finally found the sketch book I want to use, and am now just waiting for my new printer to arrive so I can start printing off these images. It was supposed to be here Saturday but when I tracked the package I learned it is in St. Paul. (The real, 2008 St. Paul!)


Miss Robyn said...

ha! when i first read this.. I thought to myself: 'I didn't know that Julie was a teacher...' and I read and thought how much your life had changed in the time that i had been away hee, hee

loved reading this post and it seems that I have Mucha to catch up on !

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Oh I do so love reading this and the lovely images! Oh where do you find such beauty? Perfect - thanks for sharing this with us..we'll anxiously await the next entry!

smilnsigh said...

"to my favorite St. Paul coffee shop near the Cathedral. I used to sit in one of its wooden booths for hours, sipping coffee, observing people, sketching and writing poems."

They were doing this, before 1925! Why do we think of sitting in a coffee shop, as not being around *way back then*? :-))) At least, I never considered it.

And I'm a firm believer in having illustrations resonate with myself. Dates and all that... what diff do they make? :-)

Miss Mari-Nanci

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Another great post - I feel like I am right there in the story. Thanks for another installment - hope to see another soon.

Rowan said...

Enjoyed reading this and you have found some lovely images, I agree with you about the Red Book cover, it's a lovely one.

LW said...


I have enjoyed the peek into Bess’s life…

I love anything from the 20’s and really like all of your pictures.
Even your oops…I agree it’s a great cover and a keeper..