About the diary writer

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Kansas City, Missouri, Alexandria, Virginia, United States
~ About: A 1961-65 Park College Diary ~ As a high school girl and then a college coed in the first half of the 1960s, I wrote nightly entries on the pages of one-year diaries. In January 2010 I began transcribing the entries into a blog and gave each one a title. I grew up on three farms within 30 miles of Iowa City and the University of Iowa with its Iowa Writers' Workshop. As the oldest of four daughters, in my diaries I sometimes referred to my sisters as "the kids" or "the girls." We helped our parents, but we also had good, wholesome fun - a characteristic I took with me to Park. Park is 300 miles southwest of West Chester, Iowa, in Parkville, Missouri, on the Missouri River 10 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri, and across the river from Kansas City, Kansas. In 2000 Park College became Park University. Today Park's flagship campus is in Parkville and there are an additional 41 campus centers across the nation. Park was one of the first educational institutions in the United States to offer online learning. My last post was on May 22, 2018. I may be followed on Twitter @BarbaraMcDWhitt.

September 30, 2017: A Student and a Typewriter, A Blogger and a Computer

Sometime in the 1990s, when I was taking a writing class on the Kansas side of the Kansas-Missouri state line, I yanked a sheet of paper from my husband's manual typewriter and thought, "there has to be a better way." The better way came, and it was the Internet with my personal computer. No more typewriter erasers, onion skin paper, correction fluid and carbon paper.

In the summer of 1961 my parents bought a Smith-Corona Sea-Mist Blue portable typewriter in a carrying case for my high school graduation present. My mother used light blue paint and put my initials BSM - for Barbara Sprunger McDowell - on the lock of the carrying case. She cautioned me to carry it so that the typewriter side of the case was next to my leg in case the case should pop open.

I used my gift to do the typing of my mom's University of Iowa graduate School of Education thesis that she had written for her master's degree that summer. She called it Counting Abilities of Three, Four and Five Year Olds. She had driven to the homes of preschoolers in our farming community of southeast Iowa and tested the children on skills such as counting backward from 10. Included in the thesis was what one little boy said: "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-Blast Off!" Together we worked with the guidelines for formatting, and produced a result that was accepted.

My mom told me two things before I left for Park: "Don't gain more than ten pounds," and "write home once a week."

At 110 pounds, not going past 120 was the easy part. Typing a single-spaced (my choice) letter home every Wednesday night was time consuming. My letters were each a full page and often continued on the back side of the paper.

I loved writing at Park (and endured my 40 words per minute typing speed). Reviewing some of my diary entries I've found an example of an instructor's or professor's feedback for each of my years at Park:

Saturday, September 30, 1961: I got an A on my audience characterization paper for speech.

Friday, December 14, 1962: I got an A- on my religion paper. When I got it back and read what Dr. Johnson had written on the first page, it appeared to be "too damn long." I thought, coming from Dr. Johnson, that was pretty bad. I then realized he had written "two days late."

Thursday, October 31, 1963: Mr. Gibson gave me an A++ on a sociology paper and wrote on the front of it: "Kudos, kudos and more kudos to you. You have no idea how gratifying it is to receive writing of this quality."

Thursday, March 5, 1964: After I wrote my author outline for my geography for elementary teachers class so fast last Monday, Mr. Reynolds wrote on mine that it was one of the best he received and it looked as if my paper had great possibilities.

Monday, March 8, 1965: The others in the seminar in education class and Dr. Pai were pleased with my Soviet education paper. I had read enough to be able to talk intelligently on the subject. I typed rapidly from 4:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., skipping The Family class and part of work to get it finished by class time.


During an event on the Park campus a reader of A 1961-65 Park College Diary asked if I wanted my blog to be the basis for a book. "Yes," I told her, "thank you for asking. I would like to have it become a memoir." Since I began transcribing my diary entries one night or day at a time in 2010 - 50 years after the content of each entry had happened - I have also followed the writing advice and examined the techniques of numerous individuals who also have blogs. Many of them have had webinars (seminars conducted over the Internet). One author/blogger - Theo Pauline Nestor - whose blog and book of the same title, Writing is My Drink - said in her August 5, 2017 webinar, "Memoir is the story of the transformation of yourself." I think A 1961-65 Park College Diary fills the bill. Thanks, Theo.                                            


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