I couldn't resist checking out the 1940 census. Actually the most interesting part is the detailed maps of towns that I know. Seeing which additions were built at that time, which additions were platted but never built, where the streetcars ran, and how the roads have changed.
Tried to locate both sets of grandparents. One was easy, the other is a complete fail. I knew ... or thought
I knew ... where both were living in 1940. Both were in small towns. Father's side in Okla, mother's side in Mich.
Father's father lived on a small semi-farm close to town, and a scan through the pages for that town found him quickly. Didn't expect any surprises, and didn't find any. The only new info was his income: school janitor, $1100 per year. That's about $18k in today's Bernanke counterfeit, which doesn't seem impressive. But inflation doesn't tell the whole story. In a very small town where you can grow your own crops and chickens, $1100 was pretty good. Well above the national median of $956, and the 'proprietors' of various 'retail establishments' in town had similar or lower incomes. Verifies the assumption I'd already made, that Grandpa was wise and responsible to grab and keep a gummint job. Only oil company employees and teachers
earned much more than average. (The notion that teachers have always been underpaid is wildly untrue.)
Mother's father (who I barely knew) wasn't listed anywhere in the town where he supposedly lived. I know two approximate addresses from that era, and I'd seen both houses when we visited there in the 1960s. I've even found one of them on Google Street View and pinned down the address. The subdivision containing that house is present on the census map, but the census zone written on the map in that area isn't listed as a valid enumeration zone, and the written lists don't include the street.
Well, that side of the family is already packed with myths and mysteries. Many dates and names have already turned out to be wrong. Maybe this is yet another mystery. I'll look again later, to see if the census fills in the missing zone.
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August 2012: Checked again, through one of the newer non-gov't 1940 census sites. This listing includes the missing suburban enumeration zone, but it turns out that mother's father hadn't yet moved to the suburbs. Found him in the earlier in-city address after all. Maybe I simply overlooked it before, or maybe that part of town was also missing from the gov't site.
His job was listed as Engineer, and his income was $5000. That's about $80K now by strict inflation, but probably more like $150K in terms of relative rank. (Median * 5). So my mother's stories of a comparatively wealthy household, with a live-in maid, were probably accurate.
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Both grandfathers were barely educated, quitting school around 6th grade. Both ended up earning decent incomes in the Depression. Mother's father, who was trained as a steam engineer in the Navy, did much better monetarily ... but it didn't give him a happy life. Around that time he started drinking, and things fell apart quickly.