Creativity Magazine

Diary Of A School Marm

Posted on the 09 January 2013 by Shewritesalittle @SheWritesALittle


I’ve lived in Martha Dobie’s head for so many weeks now, that it is starting to become weary.  Have decided to bust her out a bit, to explore a more unedited version of her psyche, by doing a little exercise…taking a look at what her “diary” must have looked like, at the beginning of the first year of their lives at the school.

…Because, lets be real…she wants to be here about as much as Aunt Lily.  It’s not HER fault the woman she loves is all obsessed with children and crap.  She’s only really come along for the ride, cuz that’s what you DO when you love someone, but can’t admit how much, so feel bad about it, and can’t tell them, so instead forge an unhealthy codependency with them, until you both grow old and die…or the “other” thing.

…Anyway: here is a sampling. (As a warning, I’ve found she’s not really consistent with her entries.)  Words from a plain, poorly-bound, book…kept in the bottom of her knicker drawer…next to a secret fifth of off-label whiskey.  And a pack of Lucky Strikes.

Pg. 3

May 5th, 1931

Signed lease on the Farmhouse today. K was overjoyed, I was…relieved? Anxious? Enthralled? 

…Skip it.

We split a bottle of warm beer on the porch to celebrate, giggling like school girls.  And speaking of  — The place is a disaster and it’ll take every waking hour to have it ready in time for Fall term.  But K is determined we begin at once, and already has a short list of promissory pupils, c/o her debutant days.  Connections with the “well-to-dos” come in handy every once in a while, I suppose.

…Another wire from Aunt L:

“Dress allowance: impossible. Opening: Boston on 15th.  Cannot possibly attend without top trends. Send funds c/o Rodchester Hotel, etc.”


Pg. 10

June 18th, 1931

Dear God, will this place ever start to come together??? 

It’s been well over a month, up before the sun: to bed long after its gone down. Every time we tear up a floor board or into a wall, some NEW horror awaits us. 

Put bluntly: the plumbing is shit. 

…The kitchen stove is something out of ancient prairie days and smokes incessantly, no matter what you feed it as fuel…needing constant tending…so I’ve taken the back “Servant’s Quarters” for my own rooms, while K (mercifully) claimed “Housemother” from her roost on the second floor… and is busily fussing and fretting on what will be the dormitory.

Managed to finally finish the canning of the sparse orchard crop and get it put into the cellars, which will save a bit on breakfast and dessert bills, but not for long.  K is sewing all the home linens and curtains by hand, and we’ve two handymen about, rehanging doors,  settling up the stables, reworking the framing and tiling the roof.

K teasing me incessantly about the fat one.

…Apparently, she thinks he’s keen on me.

As if I need more goddamn nonsense to deal with…


Pg. 12

June 25th, 1931

Did the accounts last week.

Not good.

Had to let one of the workmen go.

I picked it be the fat one.

At least new walls have been completed, and the stable nearly-just.

…As for the roof: an entirely different story.

Have done my fair share of quick fixes in dressing rooms and hotels on the road, so am not completely useless with a hammer. Unfortunately, K is. And a bit of a klutz…(darling, that she is.) She took a nasty tumble off the lean-to roof while working on the tiles, Saturday, and sprained her ankle pretty badly. Had to call up into town to have the doctor in. Nice enough man, I suppose…very attentive. Helpful to know, with a soon house-full of girls about the place.

…Incidentally, his aunt is something of a Grand Dame about the town…knew her name by reputation, just from shop visits and such. He’s invited us to her 4th of July picnic next week. K accepted before I had a chance to decline. Hate party’s, and so much still to do here at home. She knows that. But it would do her good (I suppose) to get a rest from this place. We’ve been shut up for weeks and weeks.

Off to whip up a bit of something to eat and take it in to her. She’s propped up just now, like the Queen of Seba, on the chaise in the drawing room, foot on a pillow…and should be resting…but more likely making more lists of “things that need tending.” She has of ceaseless appetite for “to dos.” Nice, for once, to see her stay put and have it done for her.


Pg. 23

July 18th, 1931

K out with Cardin again.

Smoked three fags, openly on the porch. Put them out in the potting soil.

Must remember to sneak in another pack from the grocers.

I promised her I’d cut back, but all these damn nights alone in the house make me fidgety and nervous.


Pg. 38

August 1, 1931

K: “…Joe, this. Joe, that. Joe, such-and-such. Joe, here. Joe, there. Joe–”

Me: “–Can we please have perhaps a five minute discussion about the school or weather, or anything, without Joe Cardin being brought into it???”

K: “I don’t know what you mean?”

Me: “…Forget it.”


Pg. 40

August 9th, 1931

…damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, shit, shit, damn, damn, damn–etc.

Pg. 46

August 15th, 1931

Aunt L phoned from the station today, without notice.

…Seems her show got cancelled and she needs a place to stay until another set of auditions can be made. K took the news as she always does everything unpleasant, with a reserve calm smile and an instant move into nesting. No idea how long Aunt L is to stay, but with us now at the end of our last moments to prepare the school, it could not possibly have come at a worse time.


Pg. 47 – 52

August 17th -23rd

…I want to kill her, I want to kill her, I want to kill her, I want to kill her, I want to kill her, I want to kill her…etc.

Pg. 56

August 25th, 1931

Aunt L: So when will THAT be settled, then?

Me: What?

Aunt L: Don’t give me that “what?” Karen and that nice looking Dr. Cardin.

Me: I don’t know what you’re talking about. They like to spend time together.

Aunt L: They’d like to do a great deal more than THAT.

Me: Why do you have to be so ugly about everything? Not everyone is so oversexed as you are, you know.

Aunt L: Not everyone is as UNDERsexed as YOU.

Me: I have a headache. I’m going to bed.

Aunt L: They’ll be married within a year. I bet my best hat on it!

…Dear god, I don’t know how much more of it I can take…


Pg. 58

August 27th, 1931

Miracles DO happen. Aunt L’s agent called today, with a supporting lead in Detroit. Glory Hallelujah!!!

Train leaves at 4.

~ M

Pg. 62

September 5th, 1931

First day of school.

Girls have been arriving since last Tuesday, and I’ve not had a moments rest since the first chauffeur arrived at the door. Children, children everywhere. But I far prefer them to Doctors. So we begin:

First Term Syllabus

Languages – K
Fine Arts – K
Elocution & Literature – K
Needlepoint & Sewing – K
Music & Voice – K
Riding Academy – K

Math – Me
Sciences – Me
History -Me
Culinary Arts – Me
Horitculture -Me
Physical Education – Me


Pg. 83

November 19th, 1931

Nearly Thanksgiving, and the bulk of the girls have been sent home for their Holidays. Only three remain.

…So tired, I can hardly see straight.

Calluses on my fingers from incessant grading of term papers, awake before dawn, to bed nearly every night after ten. Hardly see K at all, except in passing ‘tween classes in the hall. Every moment free of the children, she is with Him.

…Smoking habit, too rich for the pocketbook, I’ve taken to a nip now and then of a horrifying home-brew of whiskey provided by one of our old workmen. Tastes of paint thinner, but calms the nerves, a bit. Which is needed even more than ever. Another disturbing development: a letter from Aunt L. Show ends with the Holidays, and her agent has been unable to secure her an, “acceptable replacement.”

Hate to have to break it to K again.

…She has the patience of Job about it all, but I know Aunt L’s extended visits disturb her so.


Pg. 89

November 29th, 1931

Thank God the Holiday is over. I dread Christmas, but thankfully it is nearly a month yet, away.

J had come with an express invitation from his Aunt at The Big House, for drinks after Thanksgiving supper. I tried to decline, using the girls as an excuse to stay, but J had already thought of that, and had brought Mrs. H with him in the car when he came to collect us, insisting that we BOTH needed a break for a while…with some adult conversation.

Had nothing proper to wear of course, but we pulled on our Sunday best and were pushed out the door never-the-less, by a rosy cheeked Mrs. H, on the way to tucking the girls into bed.

The house if far grander than I thought.

J certainly never acted like he came from that kind of money…but then, I haven’t had a chance to talk much to him really…even when he comes over after shifts to visit for a bit. So busy with grading papers, and such…he understands. Its not me he wants to talk to anyway.

Mrs. T, his Aunt, would make Aunt L drool with delight. She’s very en-fashion and “old money”…proper baring, proper household of attendance, proper this, proper that. Felt like having drinks in a museum. Didn’t talk much. Too many people. Though K made a great collection of admirers across the evening. Could hear them whispering about her while I stood back by the palm plant in the corner.

“Isn’t she lovely…even in that poor, thin dress? Isn’t she a delight of conversation? Isn’t she elegant with her walk, for a little school marm that is? Wasn’t she ‘Finished’ though…I thought Mrs. Tilford had said? Where is the money she must have come from? Lost in The Crash, I bet. Such a waste, for such a pretty thing. Our boy Joe seems very devoted though, doesn’t he? Has he asked her yet? Wedding bells will be the answer to that piece, I bet…”

…On, and on, and on.

K promised we’d return at Christmas.

…Rather be home, beside the fire, the girls snuggled in their beds…and just talk. Talk for hours and hours…lazily…about a thousand nothings…the way we always used to.

Would rather one EVENING of that, than all the posh champagne and crystal glasses and beaded dresses in the world.



…End of exercise. Hm. Even learned some stuff. Now to runs some lines, then go and sign my loan paperwork.

Harriet, even now, in the shop as we speak.


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