A hundred years ago, Helena Muffy was a 15-year-old girl growing up in McEwensville. A hundred years later, her grandaughter, Sheryl Lazarus, decided to start a project called "A Hundred Years Ago."
Lazarus knew she had her grandmother's diary hidden among other family heirlooms, and when her children asked, "Who's the old lady in the picture?" while looking through family photos, she knew it was time to let them know.
"When my grandmother died, our family was going through her belongings, and they found her diary. It was passed around to all of us, and when I had it, I made a copy of it. I was originally going to make a scrapbook out of it, but then I thought of the blog idea, and that's how it started," Lazarus said.
Lazarus said the blog has been a great way to stay connected with family, who join in on the reminiscing on the website. She said that the blog is mostly read by family, but there are some other people who read it.
Lazarus started the blog Jan. 1, 2011, beginning with an entry from her grandmother from Jan. 1, 1911. Helena Muffy (Swartz) was 15 when she started the diary, which contains entries from 1911 to 1914.
Lazarus explains on her blog, "My memories of Grandma Helen were of a feeble, elderly woman - Helena (the name she used in the diary) was a fun-loving, self-absorbed teen. Helena wasn't an Anne Frank - and most days she only wrote three or four lines. Some days she wrote that 'nothing of importance' had occurred. Yet as I tried to decipher the handwriting, a fascinating young woman emerged, and I wanted to learn more about her and how she evolved into the grandmother I remember."
The entries describe daily chores, school activities and whatever Helena felt like writing for that day. She also would write a poem at the beginning of each month.
Helena lived in the McEwensville area, but the diary also mentions Milton, Turbotville and Watsontown. Lazarus includes recent pictures of the places that her grandmother mentions.
When Lazarus posts the entries, she includes commentary from her point of view. She has included pictures, magazine clippings and recipes that she has tried, all from the time of the diary.
Lazarus, who resides in Minnesota, and is a research assistant at the University of Minnesota, had access to all types of archives for the recipes and pictures that are featured in the blog. She also grew up in the same area where her grandmother did, so she found it interesting to research her hometown as well.
"I can see a bit of my elderly grandmother in the entries. I always remembered that she worried about money, and I can see her doing the same in her diary," Lazarus said.
Helena even interjects humor in the diary, for example in the following entry: "Pa and Ma and Jimmie went away today. Ruth [sister] had invited Helen Wesner and Blanche Bryson to come and do justice to her very excellent cooking. I rode home from Sunday school with them. I choked at the dinner table which displayed my most excellent manners."
Lazarus counters with her comments saying, "It sounds like Grandma's sister Ruth had fun cooking a meal for friends - and that Grandma displayed her sense of humor by pretending to choke on the food."
Lazarus explained that her grandmother was always one for practical jokes, such as gluing the newspaper pages together and putting it in the family's mailbox.
Sibling rivalry also can be seen between Ruth and Helena; she has different names for her sister such as "Rufus" and she pokes general fun at her.
There are names mentioned in the diary that Lazarus can identify, such as Ruth, Jimmie and Bess Muffly, who are Helena's siblings, and Helen Wesner (sometimes called Tweet), and Carrie Stout, both classmates of Helena's.
There also are people mentioned in the diary that Lazarus has yet to identify.
Helena mentions an important person that comes to their school and also comes to their house for dinner, but there are never any names mentioned. She also refers to "M.C.R." whose identity has not been solved.
Another interesting fact is that Lazarus found the graduation invitation inside the diary, and Helena's future husband, Raymond Swartz, is listed in her class. Helena never mentions him by name in the content of the diary.
"My grandfather was 12 when my grandmother was 15, so I wonder if she never paid him any attention because he was younger. There are a few instances where I think she was talking about him, though."
Swartz and Muffly married 10 years after the diary was started, in 1921.
They stayed in the McEwensville area, and had four children.
Raymond Swartz was a farmer, president of the Farmer's National Bank and a businessman, and Helena was a homemaker.
Lazarus found many of the pictures that she uses on the blog from Robert Swope Jr., who is the author of "Watsontown, McEwensville, and Delaware Township: A Real Photo Postcard History." Swope grew up in Turbotville, and like Lazarus, attended Warrior Run High School.
Lazarus enjoys the fact that sometimes she can relate her own life to her grandmother's diary entries.
Helena wrote an entry about her frustrations with final exams, and at the same time, Lazarus's daughter was going through similar circumstances at school.
The blog can be found at ahundredyearsago.com.