“The Everyday Diary, 1934-1935”

Jul 12, 2012 | 3 comments

She wasn’t my grandmother and I don’t believe I ever met her, but “Grandma Biggs” has always been a familiar (if shadowy) part of my early Oysterville memories.  She and “Grandpa Biggs” lived out on Skating Lake Road.

They came to Oysterville in 1938, and it wasn’t long before a good number of their relatives, including grandchildren, came here as well; hence, the “Grandma and Grandpa” monikers.  They had left Joplin, Missouri, in 1934 in a pickup truck filled with all their possessions.  First they headed to California and then on up to Oregon, working in the fields and orchards as they went.  They were among the first escapees of the Dust Bowl to find their way to Oysterville.

The other day Ron and Corky Biggs loaned me a copy of Grandma Biggs’ Diary which is actually a transcription, not the original, of several notebooks and diaries. At the same time, they clarified that Ron is a great-nephew, not a grandson.  And they gave me a copy of their family tree which is complicated.

I’ve known about ‘The Diary’ for a long time.  My friend, Memi Sherwood Anderson (who was a grandchild) has included excerpts from it in articles she has written for the Sou’wester magazine.  However, this is the first time I’ve seen the transcription in its entirety.

What a treasure!  Although the title is “The Everyday Diary, 1934-1935,” it includes other information as well.  There are sporadic entries for years beyond 1935 – clear up until 1942 which is the year Grandma Biggs died at age 61.  There are recipes, counts of the eggs collected, and summaries of important events for some years:

What happened in 1938:
We moved Feb, 8th.
Millie sued for divorce May 31st.  Neal came about the 12th but went back.  Divorce was to come up July 9th, postponed till July 13th.
Trial lasted about 10 mins.
Fred Biggs and Sylvia Davis was married July 6th.  Kellogs came back a month ago.  We had a small danc3 July 4th.
Fern’s house burned to the ground April 25.
Geo Roly went to the T.B. hospital in Jan.
Milly and Ed married Sept 9th.  Gladys Grant’s baby came Oct.26th.  It’s a boy, Phiip Ray.  Dick’s baby came Oct. 27th, a boy, Joseph Arnold.  Mike was in the hospital in Oct. or late Sept. with blood poison in his hand.  Fern moved in Sept. to near Stayton.

            I have one photograph of Grandma Biggs which is about as dim as my memory.  It shows her on Ted Holway’s dredge, the Dorothy Ellen, along with three little girls, perhaps some of her granddaughters.

All of it is great stuff!  Nothing beats primary material when it comes to understanding our past.  Thank you for the record, Grandma Biggs!  And thank all of those who have kept it safe.


  1. Memi

    Sydney, I was gone for two weeks to Oregon visiting my son and I was delighted to read this article when I got back!! I am the little short girl standing next to Grandma
    Biggs in the picture, next to me is Corinne (Corky) Sherwood, and next to Corky is my sister, Betty. I am so pleased that Cousin Ronnie loaned you Grandma’s Diary. Many years later, my husband Bob and I traveled the exact route from Joplin that Grandma and Grandpa and my Uncle Harry took in 1934. We had a much easier trip with good highways and air conditioning and motels! Eventually, the Biggs’ arrived in Oysterville and Grandma SO loved the ocean but still yearned for the Ozarks.

    • sydney

      Oh, Memi, I”m so glad you wrote. I was pretty sure that cute little blond was you and I was hoping you’d do an I.D. for me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people would jot down their daily experiences like Grandma Biggs did? I am SO enjoying reading what she wrote!

  2. Penny Wray Kramer

    Sydney ~
    With many thanks to Memi I too have a copy of “The Everyday Diary” in my collection and still enjoy reading it. It is full of ‘history’ and gives us a glimpse of what life was really like in the ‘old’ days. Sadly, Grandma Biggs passed away before I was born but I get a sense of knowing her when reading her diary. I found the wages they were paid for picking fruits and vegetables throughout their migration west very eye opening — it gives a true picture of the hard times they faced.


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