The census - 7
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April 17, 1940
After my excitement with the Polish lady yesterday, all these people I am visiting seem very boring indeed. I will struggle to find anything of interest to write at all. I managed to see 29 people yesterday, and I had to go on till 9 at night, and work through both meal times. But at least I am more or less caught up. There were quite a few store owners, and college professors, and railway engineers, but nobody's house was anywhere near the valuation of Mrs. Suchlas – which based on bedroom size, was not out of the question for the valuation. There must have been eight bedrooms.
I figure I have about four more days work altogether. I am enjoying the is job, but will be glad when it is over.
The biggest salary over these last few days was $2900 from the manager of the telephone company.
One of the people I interviewed today was an attendant at the State Mental Hospital. I'm surprised that he didn't have to live there. His salary wasn't very high, so he wouldn't have been one of the big wigs. I was supposed to do their enumerating too, but when I was sick, and it was clear that I wouldn't be able to do as much as planned, they hired somebody else to do it. I was sorry to miss the opportunity because I'm sure there were lots of good stories to be had there – murder and worse, probably.
The most expensive house ($4500 and the highest salary ($2700) went to a teacher of religion at the college. Doesn't seem right, some how, does it?
I didn't have enough to make it worth sending off the letter from yesterday, so I will add a bit more today.
The first person I saw was the owner of an auto service – I suppose it might have been
called a gas station, but that is what I was told to put down. He makes $3300 a year, and lives in a house worth $5000. Just him and his wife.
I am still trying to find things that spark a bit of excitement. So far these people are pretty much all upper lower to lower middle class people, with the sorts of jobs that you would associate with that. Teachers, shop keepers, nurses, salesmen, buyers, railway men of various descriptions etc. I'm longing to find someone with a story to tell – like Mrs Suchla was. Maybe I will be luckier tomorrow.
My best client today was the president of the bank, who has a salary of $3400, Lewis Ickler and his wife Gwendolyn. They didn't own their house – but rent was high at $50 a month, and it was a very nice apartment.
Finally I've found someone who is proper rich. His house is worth $10,000, more even than the Polish lady, and he has a good salary too, $5000. His name is Louis Denault, and he works in Insurance and Finance in the private sector.
And I had something else exciting too. There was a lady with a very big house, and she had four male lodgers, and two were Mormon missionaries and one of them, no doubt the boss, was from Utah. What do you think of that? I wish I could have spoken to them, not the house owner, as I would have liked to find out how many wives they each had, and how they justified themselves. Neither of them put down that he had made a salary – only financed by private source, no doubt the Mormon Church. It isn't fair that those who are paid privately don't have to state their pay. How can any statistics be worked out when big owners of companies don't have to say how much they are taking out of their companies. I was going to say earned, but that probably isn't the case.
One such is a doctor of internal medicine, owning a house worth $6500, and when it comes to salary, it just says private funding. I'd like to know how much he earned, but I couldn't make his wife tell me.
I found another millionaire, or at least well on his way to becoming one. He is Jacob Stein – and put down as his work, insurance, and makes $5000 plus. I said “Plus how much,” but he said I didn't need to know that. He was from Russia.
Now I've just finished the 600 block on 5th St and one house after the other is owned rather than rented.. One was called the fancy name of Sigurde Grande and is the manager of a Men's Clothing store and makes $2400, and another,other, with a house worth $10,000, is called Moe Flint.
Another's house valued at $6000 is called Russell Chase, the County States attorney, who earns $2000. I won't list any more individually but you can tell this is the richest part of my bit of town with a couple of college professors in there too, with the biggest houses and highest salaries.
Two of my interviewees (not in the same families) were from La Moure and knew the Hollywood singer, Peggy Lee. You must know who I mean. She sings with the Benny Goodman band. Peggy wasn't her real name, she was called Norma Egstrom, born in 1920, and she did live in Jamestown until she was 8 and then they moved to La Moure before going to Wimbledon, about 40 miles north. After high school she came back here and worked at the Gladstone Hotel as a waitress, but also sang on the radio. I used to listen to her singing a lot. Then when her voice became known, she
moved to Fargo, and then Minneapolis, and then of course, to Hollywood. I managed to find out a bit of what she was like.
One of my interviewees said that after her mother’s death, when Peggy was four years old, her alcoholic father remarried and her stepmother was cruel and made her life at home difficult.
Maybe you have heard her singing the song, “Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love”.
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Those salaries do vary a lot
Those salaries do vary a lot don't they? Difficult to see how the different jobs compare financially. How big a town was Jamestown at this time? Rhiannon (btw £4500 – $?)
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I wonder if any of those posh houses are still standing, also I wonder how much they're worth now!
It must have been a real treat to be invited in to see how the other half live, one of the perks of the job I would say.
Still reading and enjoying.
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