For example, my grandmother tells an anecdote from her days as a young nurse about being taken to task by her superintendent, at her sister’s “instruction,” for dating a Greek! She writes, “I was called into the Supt. office and given a lecture on going with a Greek. One statement she made I’ll never forget. Quote – ‘some Greeks are heap better than some white men.’ I came away thinking What is a Greek?” She concludes this reflection, “It’s a wonder they didn’t disapprove of intermarriage with Northern Europeans. To each their own inherited country. ‘I, a Swede.'” We may feel like our society stubbornly resists evolution, but the distance here between our culture and this truly astounds me:
1) That her sister tells her boss to tell her who to date.
2) That her boss tells her who to date.
3) What a wonderful example of a social construction of race. We are not actually that far away from the days when Greeks were not white, as well as the days when Northwestern European Americans still held tight to their affiliations with their country of origin. (My grandmother’s parents were born in Sweden.)
She also illustrates the vast gulf daily technology between then and now. She explains with some pride that in her youth in Utah, “My father had electric lights, telephone, bathroom, and an electric washing machine. This he invented by putting a large belt around the wheel of a hand-worked washer, connecting this to a motor under the washer, using a cord to attach to an electric outlet. We burned coal in the winter, but had a gas stove for cooking in the summer. And he had a car. This was 1913.” However, she remarks that when she went to live with her sister in Idaho, they had no electricity or indoor bathroom. Of this hardworking farm lifestyle, she says, “I wouldn’t have missed it ever. But neither would I go back to it if I could. Two and half years were quite enough.”
My grandmother was always a great lover of animals and her closeness to them, both emotionally and in daily life, is evident here. She talks of riding her horse, being genuinely frightened by the howl of coyotes (which she spells “cayote”) and generally enjoying the out of doors. (Trigger warning for non-graphic animal cruelty–>) She closes with a childhood recollection of watching a rabbit cull in performed by local ranchers and being horrified by the unnecessary cruelty of their assaults. She states she understood rabbits ate the ranchers’ crops and were an economic problem, but she did not understand why the ranchers would not shoot them humanely. Apparently, they avoided guns in favor of more grisly methods. She declares she will never write of that incident again and has no wish to ever revisit it, though my mother recalls that she did tell her about it. This passage, which is described more graphically than I have here is upsetting. I suppose, though, it is a sign of progress that for all our continued plunge toward terracide, this kind of wanton cruelty seems rare today. At least, if there is a cull, my sense is that animals are usually shot fairly humanely, so again we have signs of some progress.