Cha Cha: Ace investigator, household heroine.

Today, I’ve been Productive. Like, not messing around. I have gotten shit DONE.

I’ve written a bunch for some clients. I’ve vacuumed and changed beds. For the love of all that is holy, I even did some laundry. I am uh-MAY-zing!

I sometimes feel like taking care of the house is a full-time job. Miraculously enough, I found proof.

The 1940 census is online. You can look up any address and find its occupants … along with personal info like age, race, occupation, income, and place of birth. It’s pretty personal stuff, which is why the info is released 72 years after it’s collected. It’s a lifetime.

So, my house was built in 1938. And in 1940, Howard and Gladys lived here, along with their 8-year-old daughter, Shirley … and their live-in housekeeper, Effie.


That little bedroom upstairs was Effie’s room. She was a 50-year-old widow lady.

Now, God love Gladys. She worked for an insurance company and made almost as much as her husband! Lady made bank. I picture her like Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday,” all sharp suits and witty comebacks, holding her own in a man’s world.

But I hope she was nice to Effie.

Was 50 really old in 1940? I’m guessing that as a widow, Effie didn’t have a lot of options. She was born in a rural Missouri county, but she completed 2 years of college, which would have been crazy amazing in 1910.

I wonder if Effie stuck to the housekeeping schedule I learned from my grandma. Wash on Monday, grocery on Friday, clean in between.

I can’t find any record of Effie’s marriage or her death. Mostly, I hope that she was happy in this little stone house, that she and little Shirley took a shine to each other.

I’m thankful, too, to have a sanity check, and the kind-of imaginary friends. I’m sure Effie got sick of washing these floors, too.

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  • Reply cookingwithgas March 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I love house history and hope that you do have a coffee with Effie now and again.
    We live in a house that the grandparents had built in about 1959 but there are times that we are haunted by bad carpenters. Mark once told me that if he meet the "crew" that built the house he might take up target practice on them.
    My mother is in a house that was built in 1915 it has stories…

  • Reply Gary's third pottery blog March 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Yep, 50 was old then…but SHOOT, i am nearly 50 now, sheesh!

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin March 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Wow! What a fascinating thing to learn–
    So glad you're rocking it with the clients and the home management. People don't give that second job enough credit–it's a LOT to manage the washing, cooking, cleaning, general maintenance.

  • Reply Cyndi B. March 26, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I love the stories that come out of looking through a census.

    I wonder if Effie was the kind of live in housekeeper that Thelma Ritter played back in the day. Wisecracking, smart mouth who didn't take crap from anyone, but who was loved by all.

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