1944 Diary of a Lubbock, Texas High School Senior Who Juggles Soldier Suitors and Bucks Societal Norms

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On offer is the 1944 diary of 17-year-old Frances Arline Farmer (b. Sept 18, 1926 - d. March 6, 2017), a senior at Lubbock High School. Arline plays piano and fiddle. She is best friends with a girl named Pody. However, much of her writing centres around the boys who are fighting for America. She has multiple suitors (including two men she would eventually marry). Her fixation on the war effort means that she often writes of what she learns from friends and family via letters they receive from their own boys. Arline also discusses selling War Bonds, working a part time job, her daily life at school, and her many social engagements. 

Arline was a real trailblazer, charting her own course to happiness. She was a working woman and became a pilot in her spare time [see listing #0012065 for her flight log]. Her free spirit and big dreams are on full display in this diary. She is an endearing writer seamlessly tying in the high school experience with the highs and lows of life on the homefront. [SEE FULL BIO NOTES AT THE END OF THE LISTING].

Arline writes long, newsy entries almost daily from January 1 through July 31, 1944. Her entries become more sparse in August, and her final entry is August 19, 1944, which is her wedding day to her first husband, William E. Stephens. Some excerpts follow:

“...M.L. called - she got a letter from Steve. He said Johnny and Bob got washed out…Also Millard was telling me about a train wreck in L.A. - cadets going to Primary. I only pray to God it wasn’t my dear friends Ed Downing, Declan and Kyle (?)...I think I’ve finally found out I love Bill so much. I’ll figure out a solution, or things will turn out alright before it is too late I know…” [Jan 10, 1944]. 

“...Bill graduated today. I’m so proud of him. I sure hope he gets to come see me. Bond sales up to $63,000 and more…went to West Texas Hospital to get my blood typed - I’m Type II…Went over to Letha’s…Got a letter from Bill C….” [Feb 8, 1944]. 

“...Got a letter from Bill Stephens. He’s in Big Springs and he’ll be up soon to see me. Goody goody gum drop…Went to school for commencement exercises. It was swell. I’ll always remember it…Class 44-Es graduation. Dance tonight” [May 22, 1944].

“...Pody called at 9:00 and said they had received word that Sonnyman was missing in action. Katy called and asked me to come over…It was so hard for Mrs. Louder. Everyone was so nice to them. Bob called Pody and made her feel better…Went to a show to see Buffalo Bill…” [May 28]. 

“D-Day Invasion…Pop woke me up and said Pody had called at 3:30. The invasion started at 2:23 our time, 9:23 English time. The sirens went at 2:45AM. It was wonderful. Went to school at 7:45…” [June 6]. 

It’s quite the mystery how Arline ends up marrying Bill S. All through the summer of 1944, she is talking to a guy named Jim as well as Bill C, who invites her to visit him in Alabama. Arline never writes of an engagement, simply of a Ouija board reading that says she will marry Bill. There is a break in her entries from Aug 14 through 18, which must be when they became engaged. On August 19, Frances writes:

“My wedding Day - I married F/O W.E. Stephens Jr. at 10:55 o’clock in the parsonage of Rev H.G. Gantz - 2/21-13th. Mairnell, Pody, Letha, Sheila [?]...were there”. 

And with that, her diary ends. We know from our research that Arline and Bill Stephens (1924-1977) would have one child together, Frances Barbara Stephens, born June 9, 1945. We know that Arline and Bill Stephens divorced some time before December of 1946, as Arline married William T. Curlee (1924-2005) at that time. Bill Curlee remarried in June of 1947, so the marriage of Arline and Bill C was short-lived.

This diary is filled with insights about young womanhood in the 1940s, the role of girls on the homefront, and the challenges of having loved ones away at war when communication presented significant challenges and word traveled through the grapevine. This diary would complement a gender studies course and make a great discussion piece in any sociology program. 

BIO NOTES: Frances Arline Farmer was born in Missouri to Claudia and Arlo John Farmer. She had two siblings, Sheila and Letha. Her family lived in Colorado and New Mexico, moving for Arlo’s job with the Civilian Conservation Corp, before settling in Lubbock, Texas. Arline worked as a PBx Operator and became a Private Pilot. She went on to work at Texas Tech University, where she met and married her third husband, Darrell Dawson (Buck) Rogers (1927-2002), a pilot of B-29s who flew 64 successful missions during the Korean War. Arline and Buck moved around for his job in the Air Force, before settling in Houston. Arline and Buck had four children in total. Their eldest, Frances Barbara, was born to Arline and her first husband, Bill Stephens. They had three other children: Mark Deane, Keri Dawn, and Michael Jerome. Sadly, Michael died in infancy as the result of an accident. 

The diary measures 8x5.5 inches. It contains 365 pages plus memoranda and is approximately 70% complete. Aside from some age toning it is in VG condition. The writing is in pen and pencil, highly legible. 

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