On the brink of change


April 8, 1940. That’s when the enumerator for the sixteenth census of the United States visited the Arnold residence in Gladstone, North Dakota.

The census reports nine family members: our grandfather (Peter), his second wife (Margaret), and seven children ranging in age from 2 to 19 years old.

By 1940, four of Grandpa’s children with his first wife (Magdalena) were living elsewhere. The three oldest children had left the farm; the youngest had been adopted by family relatives.

I will never know for sure, of course, but I wonder what they were up to that day. April 8th was a Monday so the younger children most likely attended school, and probably did chores both before and after school. Grandpa kept some livestock (cows, pigs, chickens, and geese), primarily as subsistence for the family, but most of the property was devoted to grain farming. If they were lucky, the weather would have been warm enough that everyone was working the fields getting them ready for spring planting.

On that ordinary day, did anyone in the family, especially the soon-to-be men, guess at the changes that awaited? I’m sure they kept up with news about Hitler’s aggressions and the resulting European unrest, but I doubt they imagined they would end up fighting in a war. At least one of the brothers was already in the military and all but one of the others would follow in due course. My dad graduated high school in May 1944, was inducted into the Army a mere six weeks later, and, after completing basic training, was deployed to the European theater before year’s end.

The war ended, and the Arnold brothers returned to the States. Some went back to their hometown, albeit briefly, but most of them eventually settled elsewhere. The family farm was small, and there weren’t many opportunities in the rural area around it. Of the eight brothers only one lived out his adult life in North Dakota. The others married and raised their families in locations as varied as Arizona, California, Minnesota, and Montana. And, of course, their descendants are dispersed even more widely than their parents.

What was your family’s experience after World War II? Did returning service members stay near their original homes or did they move away? What were their careers and lifestyles like compared to their parents?

Layout inspired by “The Allison Children” by Elizabeth Weaver at Digital Scrapbooking Place. Product info available upon request.

7 thoughts on “On the brink of change

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: #1 Peter Ernest Arnold | Tidbits & Treasures

  2. Wanda, Dad was from Herrin Illinos, He served in the Pacific,and was discharged in Baltimore Maryland. He never moved back to Illinois, he met Mom there in Baltimore, and they were married in Baltimore. His day was retired before I have clar memories, and if I were told what he did I have long forgotten. But the family lived within the boundries of the city, so he wasn’t a farmer. If I were to sit with my sister, she could probably fill in a ton of detail, she was my dad’s sister’s care giver for years and lived to be 98. I am sure Aunt Mary and Nancy talked a lot, and I am sure the Mary must have filled in many of those details. Take care, Bill

  3. I love your digital scrapbook layouts and the care and attention you take with the history of your family. It is an inspiration. I never really asked my Dad those questions – he was in the army at 18 and spent his time stateside. The greatest advantage for him was to go to college on the GI Bill.

  4. Great story, great layout, great question. My Grandfather was a coal miner, but my dad was in the navy during the war and when he returned he got a government funded place at Teacher Training College..so, yes, quite a change in the generations there

  5. Love this ‘human’ take on family history. It’s quite extraordinary to think of everyday life going on against the backdrop of such an epic period in history. Love your scrapbook layout.

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