History Piece

 
Introduction


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Questions about Power and the Land
Not all of the students in Dr. Smith’s film classes have shared his enthusiasm for this 1940 documentary. Indeed, some students invariably asked how it was possible that the Parkinsons, shown initially using kerosene lamps and washing their clothes by hand on a scrub board, could suddenly afford, as shown in the film’s concluding sequences, so many new electrical appliances? And how was it that Bill Parkinson, who came across in the film as a very private person, would permit a film crew to photograph his family at their daily tasks both in the barn and in the residence? This included a sequence of his youngest son Bip taking a shower. Had Bill insisted that the Parkinson’s be paid for their participation? And just how did they get all those new kitchen appliances, the new pump and shower in the basement, and the shiny new upstairs bathroom? Indeed, the film’s conclusion looked like a Sears & Roebuck catalog.

And there were some other questions. What had happened to the Parkinsons after the film’s premiere in 1940? Three of the boys (Dan, Tom, and Jake) were clearly draft age. And Pearl Harbor was little more than a year away! Had any of Parkinson sons served in World War II? Did they come back alive – and to what type of life? And what happened to Ruth, the only daughter, and to Bip, the youngest son? Were any members of the Parkinson family still alive? In November, 1990, Diana Deane, one of Dr. Smith’s students, on her own initiative made a long-distance call to St. Clairsville, Ohio. She talked to Della Parkinson, the wife of Jake Parkinson. Ms. Deane reported back to the class that Bill and Hazel had died in the 1950s and that Dan, their oldest child, had subsequently died in an automobile accident. Although several of the four surviving Parkinson children (Tom, Jake, Ruth and Bip) were having some health problems, they were still living in 1990 in Ohio. (Click here to see Ms. Deane’s 1990 report, reproduced here with her permission)


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