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Century brings a world of change

December 27, 1999

Mary ShankBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Mary Shank's memories come to her in fragments, much like the pieces of the jigsaw puzzles she loves to construct.

Yet retaining 100 years worth of life experiences isn't easy.

cont. from front page

On Jan. 1, 2000, the lifelong Hagerstown resident will have lived through parts of three centuries.

Shank was born on Sept. 1, 1899.

She has raised four children and survived a husband and six siblings.

"I'm getting along pretty good," said Shank, who stays away from alcoholic beverages and hasn't smoked a cigarette since her father caught her with one in her mouth too many years ago to remember.

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She's seen the advent of cars, movies, television and zippers. She's lived through both world wars and the Great Depression - though Shank said she paid little attention to those events.

She recovered rapidly from a broken hip in September, and still enjoys accompanying her live-in daughter, Maude Myers, 72, to functions at the Living Lord Worship Center in Hagerstown, doing word searches and jigsaw puzzles, and playing bingo.

Shank has lived in her home on crowded George Street for more than 50 years, and remembers when only carnival grounds and fields flanked her house.

Unlike now, she wasn't afraid then to walk alone at night, she said.

"I think it's an awful world - all that killing and stuff. It seems like the world's getting worse and worse. Not the world, but the people in it," Shank said.

She said she doesn't expect it to get any better in the next millennium, and wished things were more like they used to be.

Shank remembered buying a dime's worth of candy- similar to the hard sweets she keeps in a bowl next to her favorite living room chair - at a downtown shop, playing "I spy" (hide-and-seek) with her friends, and walking down dusty streets to her all-girls school.

Her eyes twinkled when she recalled the many recesses that she and her elementary school girlfriends missed due to misbehavior, and the familiar sight of the schoolhouse cloakroom where her teacher, Mr. Poffenberger, sent the mischievous youngsters.

"I don't think we got out very much," said Shank, who has a fifth-grade education. "Them was the days, though."

She couldn't remember the name of the school.

Shank smiled as she remembered her father's horse-drawn surrey and the spotted dog that always ran along beside her as she sat on the seat next to her daddy.

She frowned as her wedding date escaped her.

Shank remembered disobeying her father's advice to stay away from the pregnant cow in her uncle's barnyard, and the childhood fear that drove her to the top of a haystack after she looked into the beast's "one mean eye."

"Yep. Them days was the good ole days," Shank said. "I know I got many a lickin', but I've been a pretty good girl."

She recalled sneaking out to see a Gene Autry film but remembered the incident as happening decades before it actually did.

Shank took her children to the film against her husband's, not her father's, wishes, Myers said.

Shank said she will never forget the feel of the undertaker's hand as he led her to her mother's graveside.

Shank was 12 years old when her mother died, and her eyes still mist over when she talks about the loss.

"I still miss my mother," she said.

Shank said she is grateful for her youngest daughter's daily companionship.

"I don't know what I'd do without her," she said.

The duo will continue to care for each other, and don't have any extraordinary plans to celebrate the year 2000, they said.

"I'll take what comes," Shank said.

Related stories:

- Oldest Washington County residents

- Farm life kept century's events far away

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