She grew up undaunted by work, and with love

October 25, 2007|By GLORIA DAHLHAMER

Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of profiles of area residents who share the stories of their lives and experiences.

Millie Grimes grew up working. At 80, she's still at it.

"I don't want to spend my life sleeping," she says. "I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm gone!"

Grimes is self-employed with Home Interiors and maintains her own office and display room in Williamsport.

For 35 years she has shown Home Interiors' line of home decor at "parties" in her office. For many of those years she was a manager with the company, keeping tabs on 16 other salespeople. Heart surgery a few years ago prompted her to slow down and smell the roses.

"I don't work as much now," she says, "but I can't just quit. I'm work-oriented."

The third of eight children, she says, "We all had work to do. We played and scrapped with each other, but we picked beans and peas and pulled potatoes and did all the chores around a farm."


The former Millie Ambrose, she was born on a farm on Walnut Point Road. When she was 10, the family moved to a farm along Jefferson Boulevard bordering what is now Hagers-town's golf course. She says if you travel out Jefferson and look to your left, you can still see the remains of the house and shed.

"There was always something to do," she recalls. "I took care of the younger kids, and at the age of 10, I worked for a neighbor lady earning 10 cents an hour."

Her chores included cleaning house, pulling weeds and polishing the lady's silverware.

"She was a doctor's wife, and my, she had a lot of silverware," she remembers. "But every morning at 9 o'clock she gave me a treat."

"We all worked,' she says. "We didn't have a lot of playtime."

She says that dime she earned working for the doctor's wife "was big money in those days. But we didn't go anywhere to spend it."

On Saturdays, she says, "we went to my grandparents' grocery store in Boonsboro (Summers Grocery) and then I bought some penny candy."

Grimes grew up in a house without electricity, and remembers lighting an oil lamp on her way to bed each night. "The lamp sat on a marble-topped table at the top of the stairs, and I'd light the lamp and then put the match down on the table. I've still got that table, and you can see all the brown spots in the marble from those matches."

She remembers large family gatherings on Sundays when all of her mother's kin came for dinner.

"In the summertime, we'd pack picnic baskets and go down to the (Antietam) creek and spread out along the bank. Families don't do that much anymore."

Butchering day came once a year, she says, "and it was a special day."

Grandparents, aunts and uncles all came to help. "We had fried tenderloin and all the works," she recalls. "It was just like Thanksgiving dinner."

She went to the four-room Huyetts School through the eighth grade. "There were two classes to a room," she says, "but I was never distracted by the other classes. I daydreamed a lot, but I wasn't distracted."

She went to the former Woodland Way Junior High School through the ninth grade, and then called schooling quits.

"There was always something to be done at home."

Her family maintained a stall at Hagerstown City Market, where they sold fresh chickens, baked goods and "lots of land cress." Every Thursday and Friday evening, she says, "we kids were sent out to gather land cress, and boy did it sell!"

She says the children helped staff the stall, but the worst job was "picking and washing those acres of cress."

"Our vacation," she says, "was picking raspberries in Boonsboro. A truck came by and picked us up in the morning, and we were gone 'til all the berries were picked."

Her work ethic has remained strong, and when she isn't busy at her paying job she's busy with volunteer work at Virginia Avenue Church of God. She and her husband, Richard, chair the church's seniors group and host a seniors dinner once a month.

"Sometimes we fix the meal, sometimes it's potluck," she says.

In addition, they plan trips for the church's older members, going anywhere from shopping malls to Pennsylvania's Sight & Sound Theatres and New York City's Radio City Music Hall.

Grimes also is active in the church's Women's Ministry and chairs an annual bazaar that raises funds for the church kitchen. With 30 or more vendors each year, the bazaar is an ambitious project that has provided funds for a dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, ice maker and various other kitchen supplies for the church.

As a part of her ministry, she delivers meals to shut-ins and their caregivers and visits nursing home residents. She shrugs off any praise. "When you see their response, that pays the bill."

When she is sleepless - and she says there are many wide-awake nights - she turns to baking. Her favorite is fruit pies, but she also turns out old-fashioned oatmeal cookies, pinwheels and sugar cookies. There's always coffee and cookies for visitors to her Williamsport home.

When there is free time, she learns something new. She was learning how to knit and then planned to learn how to crochet. After that, she says, "Who knows?"

As she looks back over her 80 years, she says she's been truly blessed. She remembers when her father would break a twig off a tree and "I would stand on it and he'd put his thumb in front of my big toe and put a notch in the twig to measure my shoe size. Then he'd go in to Hagerstown to buy my shoes at the R&G. Mom made my clothes out of feed bags."

"We didn't have a lot of things, but we had love," she says.

The Herald-Mail Articles