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Scrapbooks and diaries reveal much about history

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Now keep on writing what you know
About the things you do,
And share with us your memories
So we can learn from you.

Have you ever thought about the importance of writing in a diary and keeping a scrapbook and what this process has done for history?

One hundred seventy five years ago, emigrants wrote letters home to Germany telling about their journey to Texas. We know a great deal about early New Braunfels from those letters and from prolific writers like Roemer, Seele, Sörgel and others. Prince Carl’s papers give us yet another interpretation of the political side of the settlement.

A new exhibit called “Bon Voyage” inside the Sophienburg Museum this month will highlight the era between the two world wars, WWI (1914-1918) and WWII (1941-1945) and is based on the diary and scrapbook of Marie Rose Remmel who traveled through Europe in 1930. Twenty-eight years old at the time, she traveled with a group known as the Christian Endeavor Friendship Pilgrimage, for which she worked as a writer.

The scrapbook and diary were given recently to the Sophienburg. Remmel volunteered at the Archives and in 1982 at the age of 80 she was honored with the “Volunteer of the Year” award.

The Christian Endeavor group with whom Remmel traveled was on its way to a convention in Berlin. Before and after the convention the group did extensive travel through the Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, Austria, England, France, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. Remmel’s keen observation is apparent through her description of the visited areas and her skill as a photographer.

The 80-year-old scrapbook is even a good example for today’s scrapbook enthusiasts. Wonderful, clear black and white photos were probably a result of a simple camera. Adding souvenirs here and there, she put in edelweiss flowers long before those flowers were made popular by “The Sound of Music.” A melted candle that was used while going through the catacombs of Italy has lost its lighting ability.

When reading the diary, one cannot help but realize that the places Remmel visited in 1930 are the same places that tourists visit now — London Bridge, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, windmills, castles, University of Heidelberg, the Black Forest, the Alps, Oberammergau, Neuschwanstein, St. Peter’s Square, Sistine Chapel, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and on and on. Who would have known that Europe would look so different just a few years later? The Sophienburg will supplement the diary and scrapbook with period articles taken from its historic collection.

If you kept a diary or you were a letter-writer in the past, you have probably discovered that many of the details that you wrote you don’t even remember. There’s just too much for our conscious brain to retain. My mother, Cola Moeller Adams, was the ultimate in journal and scrapbook keeping. I have books of photos and remarks about the things she thought and did in the 1920s. In 1924 my mother graduated from N.B.H.S. and kept a book of all the senior activities, including a plan of the dresses that she was going to have sewed her senior year along with prices and swatches of material. She told of her speech as salutatorian of her class on graduation night. To her horror, her long ruffled skirt got caught in a fan on the stage and was almost ripped off. I’m going to give the Sophienburg a copy because of what they can learn about the “Roaring 20s.”

I’m sure Marie Rose Remmel never dreamed that her writing would be read eighty years later, and yet diaries, scrapbooks, journals, letters, are the best ways of preserving memories.

And still remember present time
Will only shortly last,
And then will be, however lived
A memory of the past.

—Anonymous

On board the S.S. Aurania, August 31, 1930. L-R is Lillie Schultz, Marie Remmel, and Lillian Elmendorf.

On board the S.S. Aurania, August 31, 1930. L-R is Lillie Schultz, Marie Remmel, and Lillian Elmendorf.