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Sisters recall growing up in quieter time

August 06, 1998

Williams sistersBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer [enlarge]




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The five Williams sisters, who grew up on Washington Street during the Great Depression, reflected on Wednesday about life in a small town in those quieter, slower times.

They were at the Allison-Antrim Museum taping their recollections for posterity as part of Greencastle's Old Home Week celebration.

They sat in front of the video camera chronologically by age.

On the left was Janet Williams, 67, the baby of the family, born in 1931; next was Dorothy Whitmore, 76, born in 1921; then Margaretta Williams, 78, born in 1919; Isobel Hartman, 81, born in 1916; and Pauline Rinehart, 86, born in 1912.

A brother, Orville, the oldest child of Melanchton S. and Lucy Williams, was born in 1910. He died in 1980.

A big part of the sisters' young lives was spent working in Williams Bakery, the business run by their father. It specialized in pretzels and the girls became adept at twisting ropes of soft dough into traditional shapes.

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Pauline said it was her job during her school lunch hour to deliver bags of pretzels to downtown stores. The family also sold pretzels off their back porch on the honor system. Customers picked out a bag ranging in cost from 10 cents to 25 cents and left their money in a box.

The sisters laughed when telling how they made clear candy, popular in their day, by pouring hot syrup into cast-iron molds. They brought some to show to the audience.

About 25 people sat in to hear their recollections.

The sisters all went to Greencastle Elementary School. They all had Emma Eshelman as their first-grade teacher and came home for lunch every day. They also remembered sitting around the dining room table at night studying while their mother crocheted.

All five will attend their high school reunions this week. Janet is going to her 49th reunion and Pauline to her 68th.

Pauline lives in Quincy Village, a retirement home about five miles north of Waynesboro, Pa., while her four sisters live in Greencastle. Isobel lived in Florida for about 20 years and came back when her husband died.

Janet lives in the family home. "I think I'm the only person left in Greencastle who still lives in the house she was born in," she said.

Isobel worked in the local movie theater, then became a local telephone operator in the days before dial or push-button phones. She remembered the phone number at the bakery was 10 M.

"Sunday was always a quiet day," Dorothy said. "You couldn't roller skate or do anything that would make a lot of noise. We used to sit on the front porch and watch the traffic or take long walks. I'm thankful that I was a child in those days."

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