My Grandmother Lived 50% Of The History Of The USA!!

by

Dr. Jim Freim

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Jim Freim All Rights Reserved

If you wish to use all or part of this essay, please email me for permission.Thanks

My grandmother, Genevieve Junion, bless her heart, was born in 1888 and died in 1995 at the age of 107. In a way, the history of the USA began in 1776 with our independence. In 1995 when Grandma passed, the USA was 219 years old and my grandmother had lived 107 of those years. She had lived almost 50% of the history of the United States!! That bears repeating; 50% of the history!! Almost unbelievable, but true since she lived to a great old age and because the USA is such a great young country.

A little of her history

Her parents came from Belgium, not too far from Mol. Close to the Flanders area. She was born in Spaulding Michigan in the upper peninsula. A feisty 4’10”, she claimed that she could out run all the brothers and sisters. She grew up on a dairy farm where they raised most of their food. I fondly remember her canning vegetables that came from the garden. No electricity, no running water, and a pot bellied stove for heat. In Wisconsin, to boot. Although she learned English in public school, she spoke French her entire life. In fact, when I was in high school and had a pen pal in France, she would read and translate the letters for me. She was the oldest of 10 children when her mother died. Her father remarried and had another 11 children. Being the eldest she helped to raise the second batch.

How many changes occurred in her 107 years? Endless!

The most astonishing fact about her life is the vast array of changes that occurred over her 107 years. Almost everything we know and use today did not exist in 1888!! In 1900, the automobile had just been invented. Electric lights were just starting to come into vogue. And Tesla invented AC current the year that she was born. (http://inventors.about.com/od/timelines/a/electricity_timeline.htm)

On the farm, there was no car and no tractor. Meg and Joe, a pair of Belgian draft horses pulled the plow. No phone. Kerosene lamps for light. In her lifetime, nuclear power was discovered, semiconductors led to transistor radios, integrated circuits led to computers, USA put a man on the moon, the 5 and dime store gave way to shopping centers, and Wal Mart and McDonalds became household names. The list of changes would be overwhelming.

She was 32 years old when women got the right to vote in 1920 (The 19th amendment) and she was 25 when the 16th amendment made income tax the yearly albatross.

Some sobering / interesting facts

Population of USA in 1888 was about 60 million. When she died in 1995, the population was 262 million. In her life time the population had doubled and doubled again, plus some.

(http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/uspop.htm)

Twelve (12) states were admitted to the union during her life time.

State Year admitted to union
Alaska 1959
Arizona 1912
Hawaii 1959
Idaho 1890
Montana 1889
New Mexico 1912
North Dakota 1889
Oklahoma 1907
South Dakota 1889
Utah 1896
Washington 1889
Wyoming 1890

(http://americanhistory.about.com/od/states/a/state_admission.htm)

When she died in 1995, Bill Clinton was the USA’s 42nd President. To put her life in perspective, she lived during the 21 Presidencies listed below. Here’s that 50% number again! She was alive for 50% of the Presidents since the USA elected George Washington!

Grover Cleveland

1885-1889

Benjamin Harrison

1889-1893

Grover Cleveland

1893-1897

William McKinley

1897-1901

Theodore Roosevelt

1901-1909

William Howard Taft 1909-1913
Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921
Warren Gamaliel Harding 1921-1923
Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929
Herbert Clark Hoover 1929-1933
Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933-1945
Harry S. Truman 1945-1953
Dwight David Eisenhower 1953-1961
John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961-1963
Lyndon Baines Johnson 1963-1969
Richard Milhous Nixon 1969-1974
Gerald Rudolph Ford 1974-1977
James Earl Carter, Jr 1977-1981
Ronald Wilson Reagan 1981-1989
George Herbert Walker Bush 1989-1993
William Jefferson Clinton 1993-2001

(http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/)

On a sad note, she saw the USA fighting in the Spanish American War (1898), World War I (1917), World War II (1941), Korean War (1950), Vietnam (1959), First Persian Gulf War (1987), and not counting numerous military operations over the years and all over the world.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations)

While I believe the changes she lived through were more dramatic than the changes we (I’ll lump all Baby Boomers together) have seen, the rapid pace of change was brought home through a conversation I had with my 12 year old granddaughter. As she is grasping her cell phone waiting for a call, I was trying to explain a 4 party phone line and how different rings signaled that an incoming call was for your house. “And if you picked up the receiver and heard someone talking, you put it down and waited a few minutes before you picked up the receiver again.” Deer in the headlight look. “Whats a receiver? And how could 4 houses be on the same phone line?” she asked, holding up her phone that probably has enough power to run a shuttle mission.

The pace of change continues at a dizzying pace as we are bombarded by the latest and greatest technologies in the same way my grandmother was subjected to changes. Perhaps the lesson in this essay is how she dealt with change. We, like my grandmother, can embrace, ignore, or fight change.

Grandma Junion gladly welcomed and embraced changes that improved her quality of life. Electricity, indoor plumbing (must have been a great relief (pun intended) when you live in Wisconsin), and television! She was 65 before she saw TV! Milton Berle and Queen for a Day (hosted by Jack Bailey) were her favorites.

She ignored changes that she didn’t need. But importantly, she did not feel stressed because she ignored changes. For example, she was aware of computers and the latest audio technology, but had no interest in them. She did not comprehend the significance of Armstrong and crew landing on the moon but marveled at the achievement.

I never saw her get upset or fight change. I guess that’s how you get to 107! Mellow.

The lesson in adapting comes from my Grandmother. Embrace what improves your quality of life, ignore what you don’t need, and don’t get upset over change because the new normal is always changing.

But I must tell you that driving a car is one change she adapted to, but never embraced. She viewed it as necessary evil. But she looked quite spiffy in her 1949 maroon Ford two door coupe! And as the Beach Boys say, Go, Granny, Go!

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