Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gowers in the 1940 Census, June 20, 2012

 A family is a unit
composed not only of children
but of men, women, an occasional animal
and the common cold.
~Ogden Nash
Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Anniversary to Nathan and Chenda Shepard, who will celebrate 3 years of marriage tomorrow, June 21. They were married in San Diego overlooking the ocean on the summer solstice in 2009 just a week after Chenda arrived from Cambodia. 

The first picture shows Chenda and Nathan in a picture that was taken recently in Alameda, California where they live with their children Preslea and Logan.

More About the 1940 Census. Several weeks ago I referred the 1940 US Census and the information that I found there regarding our Shepard family who lived in Two Buttes, Colorado at the time. Recently I have found information about my mother's Gower family who lived in Oklahoma in 1940.

As I mentioned before, my Shepard grandparents moved to San Diego from Colorado just months after the 1940 US Census which was taken in April of that year. My Gower grandparents Leroy and Nola did not move to San Diego from Oklahoma until 1942, two years after the 1940 Census. Before their move they were living in the little town of Okemah, Oklahoma, about half way between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The second picture shows Nola and Leroy Gower with their two daughters, Maida and Melva (Vicki). Their other child, Hendrix, is not shown and may have been taking the picture. This photo was taken in San Diego not long after they left Oklahoma.

The 1940 Census records show that Leroy (age 39) and Nola (36) had three children: Hendrix (17), Maida (15) and Melva Bernice (Vicki, 6). What is not in the census, but what we know today, is that they had moved from Arkansas to Oklahoma in 1925, the year after my mother Maida was born. So they had been in Oklahoma for 15 years at the time of the 1940 Census. Family stories that I have heard indicate that times were hard for the Gowers and that Leroy in particular, had a very difficult time finding work.

The census reports that Leroy had only worked a total of 20 weeks in the year 1939, and that Nola had worked 44 weeks that year as a housekeeper, earning a total of $202. It also states that at the time of the Census Leroy had been looking for work for 36 weeks.

Leroy is listed as having completed the 7th grade in school, Nola the 4th grade. Melva (Vicki) was only 6 years old at the time and had just begun her public school education, while Hendrix and Maida had both completed the 8th grade. Maida was still in school in 1940, and was actually in the middle of her senior year in High School when they moved to San Diego in late 1942. She graduated from San Diego High just months after arriving in California.

The third picture I am including shows Maida Gower in a one of the few pictures I have which was taken in Okemah. It was taken shortly before they moved to California. Maida told me recently that she was not in a church choir but part of an Eastern Star program. For just a short time in Oklahoma she had responded to a neighbor's invitation to participate in Eastern Star.

In view of the information given in the 1940 Census regarding the Gowers, it is understandable why the family would move to California in search of work just two years later. It must have been a kind of dream come true when Leroy and his son Hendrix found good jobs just weeks after arriving. Being in California was a time of new beginnings for the Gowers. Their life on the west coast was very different from the difficult times in Oklahoma, reflected in the Census of 1940.
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