Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not Living in a Box Car!

My oldest sister Jane told me once that, before she started attending school, she lived with Daddy and her mother in a box car. But, according to the newly-released census, they weren’t living in a box car when the 1940 census enumerator came to visit! They were living with Gram at 129 Harbor in Houston, Harris County, Texas. Here’s the page:

1940 U.S. census, Harris County, Texas, population schedule, Houston, Enumeration
District (ED) 258-38, household 44, Mamie Spurlock; digital images, 
( : accessed 11 April 2012); citing National Archives and Records
Administration publication T627.

This is the first time my grandmother was listed as being divorced. My grandfather left her sometime in 1912. She was listed as being widowed on both the 1920 and 1930 censuses. My grandfather was listed as being married to another woman in the 1930 census, although I have yet to find a marriage record. Hmmm…

In 1940, all of my grandmother’s sons were living with her. Neither Uncle Bill nor Uncle Toe (Arthur B.) had married yet. Daddy was living there with Mattie Lee, his wife of about 5 years, and my sister Jane who was almost 4 years old. Aunt Dot had married in the early 1920s and I have not yet located her on the 1940 census.

Daddy was SMART (yes, all capital letters!), but I had always thought he never finished high school. According to the census, he had attended four years of high school, as had his mother and two older brothers. Attending four years doesn’t necessarily mean he graduated, but I think I will start researching school records to see what I can find.

The household employment situation was good. All three men had been employed for 48 or more weeks in 1939 and worked 40 or more hours in the week prior to the census date of April 1. All were engaged in private work. At $1,200, my father’s wages as a machine operator for a railroad company were the highest of the three. But Uncle Bill’s wages were nearly that and Uncle Toe earned $720 which I believe was on the low side of average. My uncles both worked for a sheet metal manufacturing company. Now I understand how Daddy became a sheet metal worker.

Since the census shows that Daddy and his wife lived in the “Same Place” in 1935 as opposed to the “Same House,” it appears that he was not living with Gram when he got married. Maybe he and Mattie Lee lived in a box car then! I don’t doubt that what Jane told me is true—I previously posted a picture of her in a railyard—I just don’t know when they lived there!

© 2012 Denise Spurlock


  1. I remember the boxcar post. This is an interesting sequel. I wonder about your grandmother being listed as widowed rather than divorced -- do you chalk it up to social stigma or simple error in recording?

    1. I definitely think my grandmother was listed as widowed because that was socially acceptable. Another story my sister told me was that Gram always thought my grandfather would come back, maybe by 1940 she realized he wasn't going to.