The other day Ernie and I got together with our friend Teri. We're in that period of a friendship in which we sit and tell each other our histories. It's really kind of fascinating. I told her the other day, after relating a tearful story about losing a friendship, that if we were a couple we'd definitely be sleeping together by now....we've shared enough personal stories. It made us both laugh and made me wipe my tears away.
Anyway.....I was telling her about the letter I'd found from Ernie's maternal grandmother and we started sharing stories about our grandparents....she shared stories about the beautiful Stella Kelly that her grandfather, was it Augustus McCarthy?, captured back in the 20's....and Ernie and I talked about our different sets of grandparents. It struck me how deeply they were all defined by the places they lived, the regions, their environment. I know we are today but I'm not sure to the same extent as in that era.
I perused the 1940 census records recently and traced all four families to see how they compared at that time....a time when all our parents were young.
Ernie's maternal grandparents lived in the tiny rural town of Ferron in central Utah, surrounded by mountains. In the 1940 census, his grandfather Thompson reported that he was 47, he was a farmer, he owned his house which he valued at $1,000. He had gone to school through the 8th grade. The other people in the house were his wife Clara, also 47, and five children ranging from 5 to 12, plus his 90 year old mother in law. He reported his income as 0.
On Ernie's father's side, in North Carolina, his Grandmother Blackwelder was head of the family after her husband had headed out on his own leaving her to support and raise the kids. She was 40 at the time of the census, head of the household and had 5 kids aged 9 through 21. She had gone through the 5th grade and worked as a spinner at one of the mills and made $675 for 39 weeks of work the previous year. She owned her own house valued at $1,500.
My maternal grandparents, whom I often talk about here, lived in various small cities in the industrialized north east, moving from town to town as my grandfather worked for different shoe factories. At the time of the census they were living in Derry, New Hampshire. He was 47, superintendent of a factory there and made $3,895. They rented a house for $40 a month. He had gone through the 8th grade and was living with his wife Mildred who was 36, my mother who was 10 and her younger brother who was 3.
I didn't know my paternal grandparents as well. They were a German-Irish Catholic clan living in Rochester, New York. My grandfather died before I was born and my father left home as a young teen to go into the seminary. At the time of the 1940 census my grandfather was 43 and is listed as a traffic clerk, making $1,800. He had gone through high school, 4th year and it looks as though they rented their house for $45 a month. The others living in the house were his wife Anna, 42, and 6 children ranging from 2 to 16. There was also 44 year old man living there with a different name...a renter? I don't know....maybe some of my Rochester cousins will know!
I find it so interesting to look at those four families and realize they have led to our little family here in Champaign. Will my grandchildren ever look up census records and wonder what our life was like?