Thursday, March 15, 2012

The 1940's and Losing My Cool Factor

There comes a point  in middle-age when you suddenly realize that you have lost "it".  Very gradually, while you weren't looking, popular culture moved on without you.  Suddenly there are musicians you know nothing about, movies you have never seen and buzz words that you don't get.  You are no longer cool.  Okay, okay...I was never cool....geeky bookworm that I was (and still am!).  But you get the idea.

But that's not the worst part.  It occurred to me recently that I now have more in common with my parent's generation than with my children's.  When did that happen?  Think about it.  If you picture my parent's childhoods in the 1930's and 40's, substitute a family television set for the radio, throw in a better economy and air conditioning and have MY childhood in the 1960's.  Both generations played outside and read books for entertainment.  Telephones were attached to houses, not people. They had actual busy signals.  We had a milkman. Term papers were written on a typewriter.  We wrote letters because long distance calls were expensive.  Our cameras used film and flash bulbs. Granted there was that whole walking-on-the-moon thing in 1969 but basically our daily lives weren't that much different.

Contrast that with the world of my children.  I don't think any of them have ever written a personal letter.  Certainly not to me. Why would they when they have email?  They never hear a busy signal or fight with their sisters to use the phone.  Milk comes from the store not the front porch.  They have remotes. There is not only a television in the house but probably one in their bedroom.  Usually next to their computer.
Anyway, you get my point.
So I'm thinking, as I'm looking forward to the release of the 1940 census in 18 days, that the lives of the people that I will be indexing in that census were not so much different than mine.  Technology marches ever on. It just marches much faster now!

P.S.  If you haven't signed up to volunteer to help index the 1940 census, click on over.  They have some simulated pages to practice with.  There are even some nifty videos to help you get started:

Disclosure: As part of ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for Amazon gift card.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who's Waiting for You in the 1940 Census? Aunt Martha

L to R  Aunt Martha, Dad, Mom.  Presumably the photo was taken by Uncle Stan.
The next relative waiting for me in the 1940 census isn’t a relative at all.  Not technically anyway.  Martha Hempstead was born in Oklahoma City and grew up there.  In the 1930 census she is living with her parents and older brother Jimmie.  Her father was a bookkeeper.  My parents met Martha and her future husband Stanley at church in the spring of 1951 just a week before Stan and Martha's wedding.  My parents were newlyweds themselves having just been married the previous fall.   They all became great friends and spent much time together as young married people unencumbered by children.  After a few years though, my parents became ‘encumbered’ by yours truly.  But the day I was born,  my father was out of town so it was Stan and Martha that drove my mother to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, coincidently the same hospital where Martha herself had been born in 1928.  From the beginning they were known to me as Uncle Stan and Aunt Mar ( Apparently I couldn’t say ‘Martha’ and it came out just ‘Mar’).
A year or so after my birth, Stan and Martha adopted a daughter of their own whom they named Sarah.  Two years after that my mother had twins, my sisters Sally and Jenny.  Like the good 1950’s housewives they were, Martha and Mom would go to one another's houses to share chores like polishing silver and waxing furniture.  Occasionally they piled all of us into the car and went shopping together. How they managed to do all that with four little girls underfoot I’ll never know!  Sarah and I being close in age were also together a lot without my sisters.   Sleepovers, birthday parties, Saturday afternoon movies.  Sarah was daring and bold and imaginative.  Quite the counterpoint to my shy, quiet, anxious personality.  She had great ideas and was not afraid to carry them out.  Sarah was a walk on the wild side for me. Tragically, Sarah died when we were in our early twenties.  Seven years later my mother also passed away.  
Stan and Martha lost their only child.  I lost my only mother.  
But God in His mercy had provided back-ups.  And so Martha became my mother and I became her daughter.  We still grieve for those irreplaceable ones we have lost but find much comfort in our shared memories.  Aside from my father, Aunt Martha is the only person on earth that remembers my long-ago childhood.  That is a precious gift that I do not take for granted.   As we have all gotten older over the years, it has been my privilege to stand in Sarah's place in that that journey we all must take as our parents age.  In the fall of 2010, Uncle Stan also passed away.  They had been happily married just shy of 60 years.  Now Aunt Mar is facing yet another loss, as well as the experience of living alone (for the first time in her 83 years) with the courage and faith that has always sustained her.  
So I'll be looking for her in 1940 and every census to follow and praying that a little of her grace has rubbed off on to me, her 'daughter' in every way that matters.
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