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Education and Outreach|American Heritage Center

Wyoming History Day: Skill-building for Journal Writing


Wyoming State Board of Education Content & Performance Standard

  • Language Arts--Reading
  • Language Arts--Writing
  • Social Studies--Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Social Studies--Processes and Skills

Learner Outcomes

  • Students will review journal entries and describe details the writer provides about her life and environment.
  • From their observations students will be able to draw conclusions and develop questions about the journal, its writer, and the historical importance of personal written records.

Related Points of Discussion

  • What are their limitations?
  • How can other sources be used to supplement them?

Suggested activities

Have students bring in the journal of a relative or copy journal excerpts from an example found in a county or local historical society.

Have students compare and contrast Verba’s journal entries in 1962 with her journal entries in 1965.

Historical Background

Verba Lawrence and her husband, W.C. "Slim" Lawrence lived on the AMK Ranch in Teton County, Wyoming beginning in 1929. In 1929 Teton County was still mainly a rural agricultural area but would later become a major tourist spot with the development of Jackson Hole, Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Verba kept an almost daily journal from 1931 to 1968, which covers some of this shift from agriculture to tourism. The following entries cover sections of February and July from her journal in 1962. Although the entries were generally only a few lines long, they reflect the daily schedule of a rural woman in 1962 and what she considered important.

Here are some important themes that you should be able to identify:

  • Weather: Several entries discuss the temperature and/or amount of precipitation.
  • Work: Many entries mention Verba’s work or her husband, Slim’s, work.
  • Entertainment/Recreation: Verba regularly writes about going skiing or visiting with various friends.
  • Transportation: Often times, transportation was dependent upon the weather and road conditions.

Instructions

Read the journal entries below. Answer the questions by combining what you already know with what you learn from your reading.

  • Feb. 9, 1962. Very warm - but packed the hill and had fine skiing. Slim went to town. Worked income 2x [two times] this evening.
  • Feb. 10. Pouring rain. No ski meet. We went to Jackson shopping. The streets are a mess. Several stuck.
  • Feb. 11. Rained all night and it is very warm. No skiing. Threat of flood in Idaho.
  • Feb. 12. Still raining; serious flood conditions in Idaho, parts of Wyoming, and Nevada.
  • Feb. 13. Quit raining but still warm. The flooding has reached the disaster stage.
  • Feb. 14. Still thawing. Manderson, Hudson, Ethete, parts of Lander and Riverton are hard hit. Idaho is still flooding.
  • Feb. 15. Has cooled off for which we can be thankful. The floods are about over. Now they have to face cleaning up.
  • Feb. 16. Had the Lodge folks in for hot rums and to hear Mrs. Miller’s old Edison phonograph and our new one.
  • Feb. 17. Big crown in town. But did have a fine afternoon of skiing. Roads are bare most of the way to town.
  • Feb. 18. Lovely day . Had fine skiing in town. The hill was perfect.
  • July 14, 1962. Saturday. Worked until four. Never seem to catch up. Slim went to Jackson. Ada’s mother is here. Stayed 9 week to Jackson.
  • July 15. Sunday. Just worked. Ada’s mother, Betty and Jimmy come up. John Bradford spent the afternoon here. Worked at the P.O. [Post Office].
  • July 16. Worked at the P.O. Was sure a record today. The are making a movie at the Haggaw place.
  • July 17. Ada has done a marvelous job on the houses. Everything in order.
  • July 18. Slim is busy getting the Chrysler in order and all the last minute details. Lots of people in the Museum.
  • July 19. Slim and I went to meet Willie Gilbreath the cook. She seems very nice. We bought a refrigerator for Mrs. B.
  • July 20. Ann Marie arrived today. She is a sweet little girl. Hope she will be happy. Slim, Ada, and Willie went to meet her.
  • July 21. Saturday. Storms nearly everyday. Dear Shepperd arrived. Help is hard to find. Chuck was over.

Follow-Up Questions

  • What are the main topics Verba writes about in her journal? What are her greatest concerns?
  • Why is this journal an important historical record? What does it tell you about rural Wyoming people in the 1960’s?
  • What were some of Verba’s daily activities? Do you think her lifestyle was similar to other people in Wyoming/ the west/ the United States in the 1960’s? Why or why not?
  • How could you find out more information about the people that Verba mentions in her journal? Why doesn’t Verba describe them in more detail?
  • Describe how a journal kept by Verba’s husband during this same time might contain different information. What do you think he would write about? Using information from Verba’s journal as a guide, write three journal entries from Verba’s husband.
  • List three questions raised by this journal that you need more information to answer.
  • If you kept a daily journal, what would you write about? How would it be similar/different from Verba’s journal?

Appendix

  • Feb. 9, 1965. The road to Jackson is a slick rutty mess everyone reports. Slim went to town. Was glad when he got home.
  • Feb. 10. Has turned cold, 15 degrees below this AM. Heavy fighting in Viet Nam. Several planes shot down.
  • Feb. 11. Slim went to Jackson. Visited with Monte Wright. Carl Reggins is now the Ski Doo agent in Jackson. 26 degrees below.
  • Feb. 12. Cross balance: stormy and cold. The war in Viet Nam is bad.
  • Feb. 13. Saturday. Stormy so didn’t go up home. Went to Jackson. Had supper in town.
  • Feb. 14. Sunday. Took a Ski Doo trip across the Cattleman’s Bridge, down the Snake River Pot Holes, Sig Mt., Stip Jim Williams, Ed Holme, Slim, and I.
  • Feb. 15. 28 degrees below this AM. I shoveled the car at the P.O. [Post Office] and widened my trail.
  • Feb. 16. So cold. 15 degrees below. Slim went to Jackson. Cold wind this evening so didn’t go up home.
  • Feb. 17. Beautiful day. Slim went to Dubois. I ran up home this evening. Perfect traveling. Laurence Williamson died yesterday.
  • Feb. 18. Packed a ski hill with Slim’s sled. Then Jimmy Pope and I skied. Lovely evening. Slim got his Wyoming 75th Medal.
  • July 14, 1965. The lake is more than full. Betty and Dell have gone fishing, but I not much luck. So much high water.
  • July 15. Pilgrim Flat is a dust bowl every evening and morning from the campers.
  • July 16. Betty has the houses looking very nice, has made all the old floors look like new.
  • July 17. Slim went to town. It is so crowded I didn’t go. Kept busy at home this afternoon.
  • July 18. Such a busy Sunday. I went fishing with Dale and Betty this afternoon. Caught one.
  • July 19. Monday is a rough day. Really busy, so many people.
  • July 20. The Bug outfit has really ruined every place they touch. Our pasture is surrounded by them.
  • July 21. Put things in place at both houses. Doesn’t take long when they are clean.

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