For as long as I can remember [which is to say, as far back as September, 1950, when I began my undergraduate career], The COOP -- the Harvard Cooperative Society -- has dominated Harvard Square. I never actually spent much money at the COOP even when I was in residence in Cambridge, Mass, but each year I pay the three dollars [it used to be one] for a little black date book -- my COOP book -- in which I keep track of classes, dinners, doctors' appointments and the like. Each page covers seven days, and when I turn the page for a new Sunday, I carefully fold down the upper right corner, so that the book always opens to the current week.
Because the COOP is a college store, the COOP book starts with late August, which is roughly the beginning of the academic year, and ends somewhat more than twelve months later so that one has a little overlap. I never throw old COOP books away, and I have a total of forty-three including the one that is now in operation.
This is something of a family tradition. Among the thousands of papers I inherited when my father died, including letters between my grandparents, letters between my parents, and every letter my sister and I ever wrote home, were several dozen of these little date books in my father's or mother's hand [not COOP books, of course.] They were invaluable when I wrote books about my grandparents and my parents, just as my COOP books were a resource for me as I composed my Autobiography.
Taking several books at random from the box in which I keep them, I find that on Tuesday, January 17, 1978 there was a Northampton Cub Scout pack meeting at which the boys would race their little homemade cars down a long track. I was the Cub Master, and hence the Master of Ceremonies. On Friday, May 24, 1997, I was in Durban, South Africa, where I had gone for my semi-annual visit to the students my little scholarship organization was funding. From 1-2 p.m. in the Music Building there were auditions, and it was then that I first hear the booming bass-baritone voice of a young man from a Black township, Thamsanqa Zungu. Thami sang "The Trumpet Shall Sound" from the Messiah, and I almost fell off my chair when I heard him. Although he lacked the academic credentials [a "matric," as it is called in South Africa] to enroll at the University of Durban-Westville, I was able to fund his studies as a special student until he won a scholarship at Juilliard. He is now on the faculty of a South African university.
Turning the little pages of each book, one by one, I am reminded of how long I have lived, and how many people I have known. Sam Bowles, Milton Cantor, Ann Ferguson, Bob Ackerman, my sons, my first wife, Susie -- there they all are, their lives intersecting with mine.
If you are young and are not completely in thrall to electronic devices, I recommend that you keep your daily planners. I guarantee that a time will come when you are glad you did.