A Window in Time, April 11, 1940

The Szerejko Family, Circa 1940
(Digital Image.  Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Years ago I read and loved Jack Finney's time travel classic, Time and Again.  In the story, the main character looks out his apartment window at The Dakota, and over a period of time the landscape changes from contemporary New York to the New York City of 1882. It's kind of like how I feel when I look at a census record. Except now I'm the time traveler. The window opens, and I get a glimpse of my ancestors' lives on one particular day in time.

On Thursday, April 11, 1940 my grandparents lived in a relatively new (built in 1925) three-decker in Worcester's Vernon Hill neighborhood.  The weather was cloudy with a light easterly wind.  Rain was predicted for Friday.  Spring bulbs peaked through the ground.  The smell of spring was in the air.  For two cents the Worcester Telegram was a good deal, but the news was discouraging, full of the war raging in Europe.

To Bomb City Unless Nazis Surrender
F.D.R. Bans Gold Withdrawals

Allied-German Naval Battle Continues of Norway Coast

English Warships Force Way Into Harbor After Long Battle With German Fleet
Reich Cruiser Emden Reported Sunk

And a little closer to home:

WALL STREET: Markets Swayed by War News

Newsprint Prices Hold: Canada Furnishing Supply Cut Off From Scandinavia

Thankfully the local news was a bit more positive:

Journalism Classes of High School of Commerce Visited T-G Plant

South Worcester Branch Library Gets New Books

Layouts advertised that Sherer's department store was wrapping up its fur sale.  Furs regularly $119 to $189 were on sale for $55!  Teens could shop for saddle Oxfords at Barnard's for $4.19, while their parents ran over to Denholm's to check out new Hotpoint refrigerators for $114.95 on the 5th floor.  Brockelman's Worcester Market enticed shoppers with sales on pork and beans (3 for .22¢), a dozen eggs (.23¢), a peck of potatoes (.27¢), cube steak (.21¢ a pound) and two rye breads for .11¢!

In entertainment news Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, was held over at the Warner Theater.  The kiddos could look forward to Walt Disney's Pinocchio which was starting on Wednesday.

There was joy in Mudville!


When census enumerator, a Mr. William F. Foster, finished talking to the Samuel Alpert family at 27 Fairfax Rd. he knocked on my grandparent's door.  He was probably in a rush.  Or was he just careless?  In his haste he wrote down the wrong house number in column two on the census form. Mr. Foster also forgot to write down who answered the door. Was it my grandmother or my grandfather?  We'll never know.  Glenn Miller's In The Mood was the number one song on April 11, 1940.  Was it playing on the mahogany cabinet radio in the living room that day?  Mr. Foster quickly filled in the columns on the census form, eager to move on to the next house on his route.

Do you own or rent your home?  Own.  What is the value of home? $8,500.  What's your name? Adolf Szerejko? (Pause)  How do you spell that? Shzeregko, Adolth.  Age? 45.  Highest grade of school completed? Eighth.  Where were you born?  Poland.  Occupation?  Machinist. Industry? (Illegible.)  What was your residence on April 1, 1935?  Same place. Income in 1939?  $1456.  Who else lives here?  Anna.  Wife.  Age? 43. What is her highest grade of school completed? Eighth. What's her place of birth? Poland.  Occupation? None. Anyone else? Christine.  Daughter. Age? 18. Highest grade of school completed?  Four years of high school. Anyone else?  Coleen.  Daughter.  Age?  17.  Highest grade of school completed? Three years of high school.  Is that it?  Robert.  A son.  Ten.  Highest grade completed? Fourth.  I need to ask you a few supplemental questions. Name, again.  Szireko, Adolth.  Where was your father born?  Poland.  Where was your mother born?  Poland.  Mother tongue?  Polish.  Are you a veteran? No.  Social Security number?  Yes.  Usual occupation?  Machinist.  Usual industry?  (Illegible, again.).  Thanks for your time...

By New Year's Eve of that year much would change.  Mom would graduate from the High School of Commerce in June of 1940 and be attending Becker College by the fall of 1940.  My grandparents and their children would leave their old home and Vernon Hill behind to move to their new home on Grove St., to the neighborhood where my family would live for the next sixty years and to the house where I would later grow up.  By New Year's Eve Pearl Harbor would be less than a year away.  But no one knew it.  In November of 1941 Glenn Miller would still be playing on the mahogany cabinet radio, but life would be different.

Have you looked at the 1940 United States Census yet?  Push back the curtains, and take a look.  What do you see?  Is that Glenn Miller I hear playing on your living room radio?  I think it is...

A Note on Errors:  Much of the information on the 1940 United States Census record is either incomplete or wrong.  The house number is wrong.  The 1940 census lists the Szerejko family house as 33 Fairfax Rd.  The Szerejko family actually lived at 31 Fairfax Rd.  My grandfather's name looks as if it is spelled Adolth Shzeregko, and their daughter Helene's name is given as Coleen.   Also, the enumerator did not note who furnished the information  per the instructions (by circling an X) for my family, or for any of the people enumerated on the page.  In the "Supplementary Questions" section my grandfather's name is spelled Adolth Szireko, and he WAS a veteran of World War I.  "Industry" is illegible on both sections of the form.

Submitted for the 117th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

(This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Robert A. Szerejko (05 May 1929-04 May 2012).  He has joined his parents and sisters.  We will miss you.)

Other Posts You Might Like:

A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
My Family Tree: A Literal Interpretation
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women


Nancy said...

Cynthia, we've done our posts on this topic similarly but it's interesting to see the difference several hundred miles makes on movies, prices, etc. I enjoyed reading about your family on April 11, 1940. And thanks for the book suggestion. It's not one I've read yet.

Kristin said...

I love the picture of live around the country in very different yet strangely similar families in April of 1940. Love the way you wove the news in. and arrrgggghhhh! those errors! We're lucky in this one because we are close enough to know they are errors.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

I loved your post! What a good idea to take a peek at the local newspaper to get a snapshot in time and round out what the enumerator wrote down in April, 1940. What a terrific story!