Some true… and some not
Geophysics professor, says the occupation entry on line 8.
It’s there on the sheet for the enumeration of the United States census in Golden, Colorado, where The Legal Genealogist‘s parents are recorded.
Chemistry professor for the entry on line 10.
Mining superintendent for line 15.
Petroleum refining teacher for line 21.1
For those from the immediate neighborhood who weren’t at home to be recorded on the same page, there’s a mechanical engineering professor, an engineering professor, a mathematics professor, a geology professor, and the assistant chemist for the U.S. government.2
And then there was the fibber.
Or, shall we say with more charity, the woman who never let the truth interfere with a good story.
Or, as she was more commonly known in our household, Mom.
She was one of the five people recorded on that sheet who was asked the supplemental questions. Among them: “What is the highest grade of school that he has attended?” And then: “Did he finish this grade?”
The answers as recorded are what you see in the image above: S12, indicating for the fourth year of high school. And yes, she said, she had finished that year.
Not even close.
My mother, you see, was a member of the class of 1943 at Midland High School in Midland, Texas. She was a high school freshman in 1939-40,3 sophomore in 1940-41,4 and junior in 1941-42.5 So she would have been a senior in 1942-43.
Except for one minor little thing.
The minor little thing called World War II.
That minor little thing that propelled her out of the classroom and into on-the-job training as a paleontological assistant in the oil industry, doing slide cuttings to help the geologists develop oil fields as part of the war effort.
No, she didn’t finish high school.
But considering who the folks were she was living among and recorded with in that census of 1950… living almost across the street from the Colorado School of Mines where my father taught petroleum refining… is it any wonder that she fibbed?
It wasn’t until later in her life that she gained — or regained — the pride she had in doing what she could to serve the country’s needs during the war.
By then, she wasn’t a young bride with her first baby, married to a college-educated engineer who was working as an educator, surrounded by folks with advanced degrees, with some census taker standing at the door and asking about her education.
She valued education, and encouraged all her children to get as much schooling as they could. But she wasn’t a bit ashamed of the gap in her own resume, not by the time we were old enough to ask about it.
In April of 1950, well, she fibbed.
And that’s just one of the stories to be found in that 1950 census.
Some that are true.
And some that are not.
And every last one of them worth telling.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The stories in the census,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 9 Apr 2022).
- 1950 U.S. census, Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 30-17, sheet 8; digital image, Archives.gov (https://1950census.archives.gov/ : accessed 9 Apr 2022). ↩
- Ibid., sheets 71-72. ↩
- 1939-40 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, freshman class photo 8D; digital images, “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Apr 2022). ↩
- Ibid., 1940-41 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, second sophomore class photo. ↩
- 1941-42 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, junior class photos, alphabetical; image provided by Jim Moring. ↩
Some visitors try to evaluate my local Family History Society and its transcriptions on the basis of educational accomplishment of its members. If she’s in, we get them talking to one of our top experts who never reached as far as your mother in high school. Her quality quickly shines through and the questions disappear. I have academic qualifications, including directly in this area, but I will never be as good as her.
Remember, the people who set up the first course in anything never qualified in it!
Book learning and smarts aren’t always the same thing. My mother was one of the smartest people I ever knew. That doesn’t change the fact that she dropped out of school and fibbed about it.
My father (born in December 1923), about your mother’s age, graduated from high school after 11th grade. High school in his NC town only went up to 11th grade, and when they added a 12th grade for what would have been his “senior” year, he got to choose not to do it, just take his diploma right then. So, we should not assume that high school meant what we think it does today….
We should also not assume that a high school didn’t refer to its classes as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, even in the years before and during the transition to the 12-year school program. The post makes it abundantly clear that my mother was “a member of the class of 1943 at Midland High School in Midland, Texas. She was a high school freshman in 1939-40, sophomore in 1940-41, and junior in 1941-42. So she would have been a senior in 1942-43.” The terminology is from the high school yearbooks for her freshman (1939-40), sophomore (1940-41) and junior years (1941-42) — including the specific reference to her being a member of the class of 1943. The yearbook for Midland High School was first published in 1929. It’s available online, and the students were divided into freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors even then. Yes, the freshmen were eighth graders and the sophomores were ninth graders if we use that terminology. You can see that in the yearbooks of 1938-39 and 1939-40: the sophomores were photographed in groups with the images labeled as 9-A etc. and the freshmen in groups labeled as 8-A etc. So my mother’s photo is in a group of freshmen labeled as image 8-D in that 1939-40 yearbook. In the 1940-41 yearbook, each class is specifically identified by its year of graduation: the seniors as the class of 1941; juniors as the class of 1942; and the sophomores — where my mother’s picture appears, still in a group — as the class of 1943. In the 1941-42 yearbook, her photo is as an individual member of the junior class. Clearly, her answer to the enumerator conveyed that she had finished four years of high school (whether 11 or 12 years total) — in other words, that she had graduated high school. She did not: she was still a year away from graduating when she dropped out of school to work in the oil industry.