The Census - 1
119 2nd St NE
I am so excited I have to write this down right away. Here I am, aged 62, Nan Whitehill
Elder, wife who normally doesn't do anything much except keep house for my husband, son, daughter, granddaughter, and lodgers. I now have a job. My first one ever.
There was an ad in the Jamestown Sun a month or so ago, asking for people willing to do work in April to help with the census. I wanted to apply. Byers was very skeptical. “You don't need to work. I make more than enough to provide you with a comfortable life, don't I?” he said.
“Yes, of course,” I said, “you do, but this is something I could do – it's just going around our neighborhood and finding out about who lives where on a specific date. And I would be paid $5 a day for doing it.”
“Well, apply if you must, but be prepared to be disappointed,” he said. Then he added, “They probably want younger women, and those with some sort of secretarial or clerking experience.”
I was somewhat put off, but Zelman, encouraged me to apply. “You'll never know if you don't apply, Mom, and I for one, think you would be good at it. You don't mind talking to strange people, and you have often said you were bored, being here at home all day.”
“Nothing wrong with being a housewife and cook,” put in Byers. “Maybe you should be the one looking for a job,” he said to Zelman. “Now that you're a widow, you should be thinking ahead. We won't be here forever to look after you and Nanette, you know.”
We've lived here almost ten years now, I can't believe that it is as long as that. But last time there was a census, we had not officially moved. Byers was here, scouting out the situation, and living in a boarding house. He had Earl Bahenburger with him at the time, and they were looking to see if they could make a living as livestock buyers. Things in Chicago were bad in those days, the middle of the depression. I know you'll remember it as well, but we really were finding it tough. So this
move seemed like our salvation. And now we own our house, and Byers has William and Earl and has hired another man to help, Arthur Peterson. Both the men are lodgers in our house, and
I like them both.
I am raher hoping Zelman, who has been a widow for a year now, might take a fancy to one or the other of them. But our son, William, who is now 34, doesn't seem in any hurry to marry. He wants us all to move back to Chicago. H thinks the women here are very simple and countrified.
Going back to my job. I did apply and was called for an interview. The interviews were at the court house, and although I was nervous, I knew that I was in with a good chance, My handwriting is neat and clear, and as Zelman says, I am good with meeting and talking to people. And as luck would
have it, I got the job. My territory is very close to home – just the streets between 1st street and 4th street and between 1st avenue and 7th avenue. That is ward 1, here in Jamestown. About 1000 people all together and the boss reckons it should take me a week or so to do the job.
We have a get together on March 30th to talk us through the procedure. I understand there are about 20 enumerators in all, because our section includes a lot of farmland in rural Stutsman county. Mostly it is men with cars who will be doing that job, although I do have a few farms on my list too.
I wonder what stories I will glean from my work. I love writing, so will make notes on any really interesting people I come across, and write to you about them. We have promised to keep the things we learn a secret, but telling you in Pennsylvania doesn't really count, does it? And I have to tell somebody.
Lote of love,