Back in 1970, I was newly married with my Beloved in his last semester of college and I took a job as a census enumerator for the Decennial US Census. My assignment included multiple rural areas in Arkansas and a few small town/suburban areas.
In completing my assignment, I learned a great deal about life in parts of the county vastly different from the city of St. Louis where I’d spent most of my life prior to my marriage. Some of the things I learned were surprising. For instance, many of the rural folks whose homes I visited had yet to experience the pleasure of indoor plumbing.
One lovely woman eagerly invited me into her kitchen where a single spigot was ensconced on a pedestal in the middle of the room. This was her running water (only cold, no hot) and she was absolutely tickled to have that faucet and share her good fortune with me!
At another location, I arrived (in my car) at an address and as I surveyed my surroundings, I noted a man waving frantically at me from his open-door outhouse. When he saw me acknowledge his wave back, he briefly shut the door, completed his business and exited the outhouse. With great eagerness, he hurried my way. (No, I didn’t shake his hand.)
Needless to say, the two or three months I worked as an enumerator were memorable and enlightening! When I’m researching online census records as I work through my genealogy, I’m often reminded of those adventures. In addition to the amusing experiences mentioned above, there were also poignant occasions like the day I knocked on the door of a grieving dad who had just returned from the funeral for his seven-year-old daughter. He sobbed and though I told him I’d return another day, he urged me to complete the questions that day. Continue Reading →