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The girl’s grandmother goes by the name of Elaine because
1) it is only natural to go by one’s first name for a girl.
2) she didn’t like her real first name and changed it when she grew up.
3) she wanted to avoid confusion with other female members in the family.
Interviewer: My grandmother grew up on a farm in Nebraska. I wanted to interview her not only because she has a great story, but also to learn more about her past. I will try to make it a real interview, not just a chat with a grandma. So, my first question: What is your name and birthplace?
Grandmother: I go by Elaine, but my real name is Helen Elaine. I was born April 8, 1933 in Guide Rock, Nebraska on a farm. I had an older sister and two younger brothers.
Interviewer: Why do you go by your middle name?
Grandmother: My mother, my dad’s sister, and my uncle’s wife were all named Helen. Can you imagine the chaos! I chose to be called Elaine so that I wouldn’t be confused during family get-togethers.
Interviewer: What was your school like?
Grandmother: Well, the stories you hear your parents tell were actually true... we walked three miles to school and three miles back! During the summer the walk wasn’t bad, but in winter our feet would freeze! When we got to the one-room schoolhouse, I remember my teacher would always bring me a bucket of warm water to soak my feet. Boy, was I lucky! Since it only had one room, we interacted with the older kids, which was nice because we got to hear them recite.
Interviewer: When you got home, did you have chores to do?
Grandmother: Of course! We all had specific tasks. My sister and I cleaned the dining room, which had hardwood floors like every room in the house. I was always upset because I had to wax the floors on my hands and knees and dust the furniture! My sister, since she was older, only had to dust the shelves. After our chores were done, we sat down as a family to eat. Then, I had to dry the dishes. My father always sent me to my room for bed at 6:30. I was never able to figure out what you would call my room. I guess you could call it a closet!
Interviewer: What was high school like?
Grandmother: Well, we finally had a bus to ride that I caught every morning at seven a.m. In high school there were no athletics for girls. Boys had football, basketball and track. There were school dances, but not quite as fancy as the ones you have. I never really had enough rhythm to dance, but I tried!
Interviewer: Did you ever get to go to college?
Grandmother: My parents never mentioned college to me because we had no money. After high school I worked at the Farmers Union Creamery as a secretary. One day my boss came to see me and told me that I was going to
college. I was confused and said, “No, I’m not, we can’t afford it.” He made the arrangements and drove me to a college 150 miles away. I still do not know where the money came from. My major was home economics education. As a student, I worked at the creamery, and also at the cafeteria at the school.
Interviewer: Did you follow through with your teaching career?
Grandmother: Yes, I was a home economics teacher for 30 years.
Interviewer: After all your struggles, did you build a family?
Grandmother: Yes, I married a nice man and had five lovely kids and I now have nine beautiful grandchildren. I am very proud of my family. There were many funny times when my children were growing up. Once your Uncle Danny told your Aunt Cathy that the cigarette lighter in the car smelled
like cherries and she burnt her nose. At the time those moments weren’t as funny as they are now when we look back on them. All of this was worth the problems I struggled with growing up.
Can you imagine the chaos! I chose to be called Elaine so that I wouldn’t be confused during family get-togethers.