User Research Findings

These interviews make me lament what could have been. Even 10 years earlier, there would have been more subjects, and I could have focused more on what Plainville, Connecticut–Gordon’s and my hometown–was like before and during World War II. Gordon’s drawings, while amazing, give me a limited perspective on what he thought/felt about the Depression and war in Europe. However, I was able to glean some useful information, even if it comes from one or two new perspectives instead of a wider array. World War II means something different to a small town. I don’t know why that surprised me–it really shouldn’t have–but it reminded me to put things in perspective and to stop thinking that everyone was hellbent on taking down fascist regimes in faraway countries. 19 soldiers from Plainville died during World War II, most of them in the North African and Sicily campaigns. Gordon is one of two soldiers buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in France, so presumably, one of two who died during the Battle for Normandy. However, while 19 soldiers dying is certainly sad for other towns, since Plainville is on the smaller side, that impact is felt far more. Relatives of these soldiers still live in town, and everyone in town at the time felt like they knew someone who had died or been injured. While I wanted to talk about Victory Gardens and V-Mail and all of the fancy stuff I’d learned about active citizen participation, the interviewees focused on the sorrow of losing so many lives, especially those of men who never had the chance to have careers or families. Once again, I was swept up in the big events of the war, or the things to be proud of in retrospect; I didn’t want to think about the consequences of having fallen soldiers. More than anything, the interviewees stressed how great growing up in Plainville was, which was hard for me to wrap my head around. They, after all, grew up during the Great Depression and in a post-World War I world full of ennui and cynicism–at least according to historians. However, they stressed growing up with family and hanging out at the soda fountain and everyone knowing each other. Maybe it’s nostalgia as the years go by, but it was revealing to hear how they chose to focus on the hardships of war and the benefits (Great Depression notwithstanding) of peacetime, whereas I was focused on the opposite. Also, as someone who was determined to leave my suburban life in Plainville, I couldn’t understand why someone who lived through so tremendously hard times would want to stay in town not only until after the war but for decades after that. While I can’t do a comprehensive review/exhibit/website on what Plainville was truly like during the 1930’s and 1940’s, I now understand how important it was to interview these people, since, more than anything, they reflected how Gordon would’ve felt more than I can understand from my modern view.

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