- the questions i asked

interview plan

interviews will be on an individual basis, with MOM and myself directing the questions on the outline. i'm hoping that having MOM participate in the interview will encourage more of a conversation and a comfortable setting. i will give the interview topics/questions to them beforehand if that is helpful. the interview will be recorded.

perhaps a group interview could take place in which mabel, paul, and charles are specifically discussed in terms of the questions on the outline.

preface to interview

"as you saw last year with the short video piece i did about family, i'm interested in finding out and documenting particular information from your life. the time period i'm interested in is pre-1960's. the time in your life when you were making some of the major decisions about education, career, marriage and family. i want you to feel free to tell me anything that comes to mind though, even if it's not related to the questions that we discuss. when i ask a question (for example: how did growing up on a farm help shape your character?) please feel free to answer with an anecdote or specific story or memory that comes to mind."



> interview topics

parents, siblings, birth order, era, economic, farmlife, extended family, community

and their
influences on life choices

life choices: education, career, marriage, children

and their contribution to

character development

character: attitudes, belief system, sense of self, personality

in relation to

family dynamics

family dynamics: relationships among family members

see chart

> the questions

topic: parents

Tell me about your Dad.

Can you talk a little about the relationship you had with Paul.

Paul obviously valued education. How did he get this message across to you?

Did Paul ever give you advice or direction on a career choice? What about farming or politics as a Choice?

Did you feel supported in your career choice by Paul, in what way? Was that important to you?

Did Paul ever talk to you about Marriage and Kids? Did you feel marriage & kids were expected of you?

How did your spouse and Paul get along? Are they at all similar?

What kind of attitudes that you have about ________ did you get from Paul? (farming, conservation, religion, money, family life, etc.)

What was it like for you to be around Paul when you were little, growing up, in your teens, as an adult?

What kind of experiences did you share? What activities did you do together on the farm? What did he enjoy talking about with you?

Do you have any specific memories or stories you'd like to tell about Paul?


Tell me about your Mom.

Mabel was a teacher before marriage. What was her opinion about your education and career choices?

You are all such creative people. How did Mabel encourage you creatively? Do you recall specific incidences? Were you read to at a young age? Was reading a frequent activity in your life on the farm?

What kind of activities did you do with Mabel on the farm or in the house? Did you have chores?

What did Mabel teach you about ___________ cooking, sewing, running a household, marriage, raising kids?

Did Mabel (ever) talk to you about personal stuff - relationships, hardships, disappointments, hopes? If no, Why do you think that is? Would you say she was sentimental?

What did you enjoy doing most with her? Did you feel close to her all the time? Did you ever disagree with her?

How would you describe her personality? Looking back at photographs of Mabel as a young woman, it seemed as if she had some good friends and like to have fun. Would you say she carried this with her all her life? How did her ________ personality carry over into your own life?

Do you have any specific memories of stories you'd like to tell about Mabel?


topic: parenting

As a parent and grandparent now, if you were to reflect back on your life, what would you say were the main messages you learned from Paul and Mabel as parents?

When Paul and Mabel were babies the attitude towards children was most likely "seen but not heard." How do you think this affected their characters? How do you think this affected their attitudes about parenting? Do you feel that attitude existed in your childhood?

Do you have any lessons about parenting you'd like to share?



topic: siblings

Tell me about your experience of growing up in a family of 6 kids.

Did your siblings have any impact on the kinds of choices you made about education and career?

As a younger sibling in what ways did you find guidance from your older siblings?

As an older sibling how did you provide direction for your younger siblings?

How would you describe your sibling relationships growing up? Were you a close family? What did you fight about (if anything)? Did you share bedrooms, clothes, books etc. when you were living at home?

What kinds of activities did you enjoy doing together? What was a special occasion for you with any of your siblings? What were the holidays like?

As you grew up and left the farm how did your sibling relationships change?

As a younger sibling what was it like having your older siblings leave the farm? How did your relationships change? Did your older siblings moving away have any affect on your chores? Your relationship with your parents?

When you returned to the farm on holidays from school/work/war what was it like? Had any of your attitudes changed?

Do you have any stories you'd like to tell about you and your siblings?



topic: birth order

What was it like being the ________ (oldest girl, oldest boy, youngest girl, youngest boy, middle child, baby) ?

How did being the _______ affect what opportunities you had at home, away from home?

What were your chores on the farm, in the house? How did being the ______ affect what chores you were responsible for on the farm or in the house?

How did being the ____ affect your relationship with Mabel, Paul, other siblings?

How did being the _____ help build your character? How did being the _____ make you who you are today?

Do you still feel like the _________ ? In what ways?

Do you have any stories about being the _____ that you'd like to share?



topic: era

Tell me about your experiences living through the depression, the war ...(other important events - pre-1960)

How did growing up during the depression affect your character? What would you say are the messages that you learned from that experience?

If you were to reflect back on the messages you learned during the depression, how do you see them reappearing in your attitudes about life?

How old were you when the war started? Where were you in school? Had you begun a career? Were you married at that time? How did it affect your relationship with your fiancé/spouse?

How did the war impact your education, career, marriage?

How did the war alter the farm activity?

Do you have any stories about living through the historical events of your lifetime that you'd like to add?



topic: economic

Tell me about the financial situation at home when you were growing up.

Depending when you came along in the family, how did the financial situation at home impact your childhood? How did it impact the relationships you had with your siblings? your parents?

How were your education and career choices impacted by the money situation?

How did the financial situation at the farm help build your character?

How did the financial situation at the farm affect your lifelong attitudes about money and opportunities?

Would like to add anything to your stories about the financial situation on the farm?


topic: farmlife

All 6 of you kids chose not to go into farming for your careers. Why is that? Did you miss being on the farm? Do you ever regret that decision?

What did you love most about living on the farm? How have you continued to do those things throughout your life off the farm?

What was the most difficult about living on the farm?

In what ways did growing up on the farm help shape your character? Your belief system?


topic: extended family

Tell me about your extended family.

Was there any one in particular in your extended family that had a great influence on you? That you were particularly close to? That you shared a similarity to? Was there a particular cousin(s) you were close to in age?

How much did your family get together with your extended families on Paul and/or Mabel's side?

What kinds of differences existed between your family and others in the extended family?

How did growing up relatively near to extended family impact your ideas about family life?

Your family spent a fair amount of time in Minnesota at the lakeside with family. What memories do you have of this time?

Do you have any stories you'd like to add about your extended family?


topic: community

You all have a very strong sense of community, not only in regards to your family life but in your professional lives as well. You are all very active members of your communities. Tell me how you got this way.

In what ways did you learn this from Paul and Mabel?

Why do you think this is important to who you are as a person?

When and in what ways did it become more important to you?

How has this message been passed onto your children?

What kinds of messages did you get from the community when you were growing up?

What kinds of differences existed between your family and the rest of the surrounding community?

Do you have anything else you'd like to share about your ideas/experiences of community?



Do you have anything else you would like to add to this interview?

I really appreciate your taking the time to reflect on these topics. I'm am sure that your children will love to hear these stories. I will be combining the information from these interviews with photographs.


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