They’re there – in black and white.
I found my parents on the 1940 Census. Somehow that makes them a part of history in a way I seldom see them.
My mother was right there with her parents and her younger siblings in Marlboro County, South Carolina.
The Census was taken in April of that year. Grace Jackson, my mother, graduated from Winthrop College in about June of that same year. So she probably was concerned about final exams and where she would work after she graduated.
“Being able to go to college was the fulfillment of a dream,” Grace said. “Not only was I able to go to college, but I was accepted and given a full scholarship to Winthrop College, Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“I have no idea when I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, nor do I know how I thought Papa could afford to send me to college,” she said. “I never thought about the money; I just knew I was going.”
The year Grace graduated, her yearbook summed her up: “Chronic worrier … infectious laugh … proud of being a good cook … musical snore … conscientious.”
Then came the next step.
“Graduation from Winthrop was a big day for me. It would have been better if all of my family could have been there. Only Papa and Leola were in attendance. Mama, as usual, was at home ‘keeping the home fires burning,’ and the boys, Dubert, Larue, and Carroll, were with her.
I also discovered my mother in the 1930 Census and the 1920 Census, when she was a mere four years old.
However, when I looked for my father in the 1940 Census, he was not where I expected him to be. He wasn’t listed with his parents in Columbus, Georgia. He wasn’t at college in Brevard, North Carolina. I didn’t know how to find him if he were already in the military.
So I took a chance. There he was – in Statesboro, Georgia, listed right along with his brother and sister-in-law, John and Doris Munro, and his sister, Carolyn Munro.
What were four young people doing there?
John and Doris opened a photographic studio and were first joined by Carolyn and them my father, who had left Brevard College.
“Tom and John did the pictures,” Doris said.
Carolyn, also a photographer, helped with those and probably was a better-trained photographer at the time than Tommy was, Doris said. In fact, Carolyn and John had worked together although not professionally.
“I sat in the front at the desk and pretended like I was a businesswoman,” Doris said.
“We lived in the back of the studio. John and I slept in the posing room (moving the bed in and out}. Carolyn slept in the entry to the darkroom. Tom slept upstairs over the dark room between the roof and the ceiling. He didn’t have to move his bed every day. Tom had to climb a ladder to where he slept.
“On Fridays we all went to the picture show. You could get in for 15 cents. They were mostly Westerns, and that was OK with me,” Doris said.
Remembering those days, she said, “The stove was in the bathroom. I scrubbed the commode every day. One day we were having spaghetti. There wasn’t any place to drain it, so I set it on the commode to drain.
“John came in and said, ‘Sweetheart, I didn’t know that you’d do that.’
“I said, ‘Well, it’s clean.”
What can you do when you have no kitchen?
I also found Daddy in the 1930 Census, but he was not counted in 1920 although he was born in February of that year.
Sometimes it’s hard to realize that family members are a part of history just as we are. History is not just the wars and generals, the politics and presidents. It also includes the farm wives fixing meals, the young people starting out, the families being created.
History, when all is said and done, is the story of people.