[Missouri and California: 1916-1935]. Eleven manuscript diaries, totaling approximately 1,280 pages and about 165,000 words, recorded in a variety of contemporary quarto notebooks and slightly smaller composition books. Minor to moderate expected wear. Very good. Item #4680
A fascinating and comprehensive collection of diaries recording almost twenty years in the life of Isabel Brinckerhoff (1898-?) who started her life in Fort Scott, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri, and moved to Hollywood, California in 1919. Brinckerhoff attended Christian College, a boarding school in Columbia, Missouri from 1916 to 1918, where she married Philip Brinckerhoff (whom she often refers to as "Sunny") in July 1918. The couple then moved to Hollywood in 1919, where they appear in the 1920 census, living with Philip's parents (where they are still living at the time of the 1930 census). Isabel's diaries document a young woman's numerous experiences as a precocious boarding school student, young wife and mother, constant reader, aspiring musician, and philosophical soul. Brinckerhoff seems to have been married only once, though she also chronicles two later relationships, the last marred by the man's drunkenness and abuse.
The archive is comprised of eleven handwritten diaries starting in 1916 and running to 1935. The first four diaries document Isabel's college years from 1916 to 1919; the final seven diaries emanate mostly from the Los Angeles area, but Isabel spent 1931 in Reno, Nevada and 1932 and 1933 in Oakland, California before returning to L.A. later in 1933, where she remained through 1935. All but one of the diaries are completely filled with Brinckerhoff's entries in which she records her thoughts and feelings in great detail, though she writes much less during the middle years of the 1920s and at the turn of the decade. The diaries are accompanied by a small group of letters, papers, and other ephemera, and most of the diaries also contain varying amounts of ephemera laid in.
In the diaries for her college years, Isabel records legions of typical campus experiences -- course work, dances, parties, lectures (one concerning the League of Nations), and much more. The texts of her diaries are occasionally decorated with drawings or supplemented with cards or other ephemera relating to her college life. A sampling of quotes from her college diaries give a flavor of Isabel's experiences in school, as follows:
1916: "Now let me tell you about last night and yesterday. Yesterday afternoon we went to the game -- football -- between Missouri and Washington U. It surely was exciting and Missouri won. 15 Rahs! for Missouri!! When we got home we were so excited we had a mass meeting out on the campus. Eat 'em up Tigers! After dinner we had a long mass meeting.... Being yell-leader I stood up on a bench and led all the yells. About seven o'clock we all assembled on the front porch awaiting arrival of the parade."
1917: "Even though I did feel perfectly dreadful I went to the picture show with the 'Sissies' -- they are all going to help me keep that date to-morrow nite. O! how I loathe to have people tell me what I can and may do -- oooooooooooo! I hope that I never will have to meet another human in the whole world that I hate like I hate the Dean of this college."
1918: "I was married July 9th, 9P.M. - 1918 at Grandma's house - 119 S. Judson - Ft. Scott, Kansas.... I wore white and a veil to please mother. I wore the dress I had worn in the concert at the end of the year and had had such a wonderful ride that nite with Bob. The morning of the day I was married I had a dreadful scene about wedding - picture - wearing white - getting married, etc. After the ceremony I changed clothes dressing in my new blue dress to travel in.... Think of it! On my way to Sunny California married to Phil Brinckerhoff, who I had laughed and laughed about and then accepted him by saying, 'I'll take a chance on it.' Where will a reckless girl like that end? God above alone knows that.... I am back in C.C. -- teaching, playing for gym work -- taking a business course and journalism at the University."
January 7, 1919 (mere months into her marriage and before permanently relocating to California): "I am so unsettled, unhappy and as restless as can be. 1919 doesn't feel very good to me -- and I am wondering just what this year is going to hold for me -- Goodness! Isn't it strange how people live. They say there is a place for ev'ry one in the whole world. I don't know about that. I feel very strangely as if I have not found my place yet and all the while it seems as if I am on such a futile search -- seeking, seeking to know why? When? Where? How? am I supposed to be. I have always been very much in love with ole C.C. and I am yet -- but somehow this semester things don't seem right. There is something lacking -- whether it is within me or not...but here lately I feel as if I were undergoing a complete metamorphosis."
Isabel continues her diaries after moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 1919, where she and Philip initially moved in with his parents. Isabel writes of the struggles she and her new husband have living with their in-laws ("think of five people (2 families at that) trying to live in a five-room bungalow -- why you know the best people in the world couldn't get along under those conditions"). The remaining diaries for the next fifteen years record Isabel's life on the west coast, with Philip and during two subsequent relationships, her existential crises and feelings of restlessness, going to movies and plays, her travels, experiences with her daughter Joyce, and so much more. While in California, Isabel addresses her diary entries to "Betty," who may have been a sister. Once again, short passages from some of her diaries convey the spirit of Isabel's life in California:
1919: "Tonight we are going to the Morosco to see Thurston Hall in 'Civilian Clothes.' Daddy bought the tickets but now that we have moved I 'spect he won't buy us any more. Sat. night show tickets -- too bad! But I wouldn't take all the show tickets in the world for my freedom. O! the glorious happy feeling I had the first few days I was here -- to think that I was free once more to do and act as I please -- it was wonderful! And I'm sure Sunny feels better too... He is so sweet and good to me -- he makes love to me constantly and such a lover he is, more wonderful than any novel I ever read."
March 23, 1921: "Party was not a success. Fellows I knew but the girls were mostly strangers and such crude girls. I told Eddie if he ever brought one of them (Ardus Weiss by name) to my house again I would surely slap him good and hard. I don't think he ever will. Served sandwiches, olives, potato chips and coffee. Worked as hard for that affair and my house looked beautiful, and then I had a miserable evening. I was so disgusted with those females. Thank Goodness the A. girls were there, they were the only real girls in the party."
June 18, 1923: "Arrived at Chico, Calif. 9:30P.M. Spent last nite at Marysville.... I was a bad girl. Fried, hot, hungry and cross was the combination -- and I crabbed at poor ole Phil about the room and everything in general. Poor Phil! He catches it when Izzy is out of sorts and I always am ashamed of myself afterwards. In spite of my grouch we went to a drug store for a little food, took a walk and I can't say very much for Marysville. A very small green town in the northern part of California."
June 13, 1924: "I have been practicing my classical music lately and what enjoyment I get from it. I haven't played any 'jazz' for a week. One reason I'm practicing so much is because next week I am going to play at Mrs. Hayes in Culver who is giving a musicale. I'm going to play Polannaise by MacDonnell, one of my favorite recital numbers.... Listen, here is a secret that just you and I will know until after my baby comes; if it's a girl I am to name it and a boy Phil is to name. So I have decided on a girl's name and I haven't told a soul. I read a story not long ago called 'The White Stone' and the white stone in the story meant Peace and the name of the girl in this very interesting narrative was 'Rejoice' but they called her 'Joyce.' And there is my name -- Joyce! Don't you like it? And I'll call her Joy for short because I have had so much joy having her really."
Following her entries for 1928, there is a gap in Isabel's diaries until 1931. During this interval, Isabel and Phil's marriage dissolved. In fact, Isabel addresses this monumental change in her life in her first diary entry in 1931: "Yes, a good day to talk to blank pages once more. After giving thirteen years of a life to a man in marriage -- giving yes -- and still no. The inharmony and discord of the past few years - the lies I have told - the deception I have practiced - evolved themselves then building a most corrupt foundation, into the termination of a divorce in Reno. Yes, I'm about to step further into a new world, and let us hope most sincerely that this tiny small individual world, built in the future upon honesty, sincerity, and faith shall be a small world of Peace. How turbulent I have been - like a high wind with small, short breaks of quiet, then breaking forth in terrifying abandonment...."
Isabel then spends several pages of her 1931 diary writing about the man who would later be her lover, Roy Hall. Isabel writes glowingly about his dependability, generosity, philanthropy, and more. This is, ultimately, sadly ironic because after Isabel and Roy begin their romantic relationship, Roy proves himself to be a raging alcoholic and abusive to both Isabel and her daughter, Joyce. Before she ended up with Roy Hall, however, Isabel spent 1932 and 1933 in a relationship with a man named Virgil, whom she writes about often. An example from 1932: "Virge said, 'Now the night is beginning to talk' and we looked up at the trees and there found silhouetted against the evening sky a group of small trees which made a perfect French poodle dog -- with his mouth opening and closing.... O it was lovely! The thrill of just being alive! How we love life! How we love each other and how happy we are. Sometimes I feel this intense happiness in my life must be a beautiful fragile soap-bubble that will surely break soon...." Isabel's relationship with Virge would deteriorate over the course of 1933 and by the time she writes late in 1934, Isabel is already deep into an unhappy relationship with Roy Hall. From her first entry in November, 1934: "Roy and I are not in harmony...but it all seems so hopeless. Honestly I'm getting very discouraged -- for six weeks I have really tried...." This was apparently sometime after Isabel's real trouble had started with Roy. According to a three-page folio typed document dated 1938 present here, Roy first became abusive on Christmas Eve, 1933. Isabel titled this document, "Brief outline of four years with Roy H. Hall." The document includes numerous long and painfully-personal reminiscences, arranged by date, detailing Hall's drunkenness and abuse of Isabel and their daughter Joyce over the course of those four years. The aforementioned first entry reads: "Met R.H. [Roy Hall] and Peterson, a friend of his on Melrose Ave. Both were drunk. Took them to my home in Westwood. Roy struck me so hard against door, couldn't hear for weeks and had to attend physician, Dr. Nerkes, Hollywood. At this time also threw a bowl of water on piano wires, to destroy -- tone affected ever since." In addition, much of Isabel's 1935 diary is taken up with documenting with her problems with Roy, counter-balanced with the joy she experiences in her relationship with her daughter in numerous entries.
The diaries are supplemented with a grouping of loose letters and documents which include a sheet of typed affirmations, an invitation to Brinckerhoff's 1918 wedding to Philip Brinckerhoff, letters sent to Brinckerhoff in Hollywood beginning in 1920, a typed poem about the "Hell" of abuse, receipts, newspaper clippings, magazine extracts, and assorted ephemera. We have but scratched the very surface of the contents of Brinckerhoff's diaries, which number almost 1,300 pages across almost twenty years, and number as many words as two typical novels. Suffice to say, her diaries provide a wealth of opportunities for deeper discovery regarding Isabel's life and experiences in college, as a young wife and mother, a young divorcee and single mother, a talented pianist, a voracious reader, and abused partner in southern California in the early-20th century.