Diary of a Diamondback

Alum’s Entries Give Glimpse of 1930s Terp Life
by Annie Dankelson | Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Prom prep back in 1930 looked a lot like it does today: buying a dress, getting ready with friends, receiving a corsage from your date. Ruth M. Finzel ’31 added meeting with a bootlegger to her list.

With the United States in the midst of Prohibition, just months after the stock market crashed, the adventurous education major wrote in her diary nearly daily, providing University Archives with a rare snapshot of student life during the Great Depression.

Amid her comments on the Maryland prom and crushes—“Oh boy—shrills + heart throbs”—and snide remarks—“John Lemonert played a clarinet; and talk about sour notes!”—the pages offered signs of simpler times: riding up College Avenue on the back of a Buick, exchanging frequent letters with family back home and seeing “all-in-colors” movies.

But not everything has changed. Nearly 90 years ago, Finzel wrote of familiar Terp topics like Homecoming, lacrosse games and sorority functions, and popping over to D.C. on the weekends.


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