Quincy Village residents made the best of the Depression

April 06, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Debbie Althouse, 105, shares a laugh with visitors during a recent visit with a friend. She is a resident of Quincy, Pa.
Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

QUINCY, Pa. -- Debbie Althouse and Elizabeth "Betsy" Snively are self-described tomboys.

As children, they both enjoyed climbing to the top of chicken coops. Once up there, Debbie would join her brothers in jumping to the ground, while Betsy sat and used the surroundings as inspiration for her art.

The women grew up 125 miles apart but shared much in common for their childhood pursuits. Now, at ages 105 and 103, they live in Quincy Village, a retirement community north of Waynesboro, Pa.

Debbie Althouse

Debbie, who was born Nov. 11, 1904, has lived the majority of her life in Berks County, Pa. She moved to Quincy Village in 1996, four years after the death of her husband, Harry.

The couple were married in a pastor's office when Debbie was 22. With six children in her family and the Great Depression starting, the couple opted for a low-key affair.


"There wasn't money for a big wedding," Debbie said.

Debbie, 105, remembers the 1920s fondly.

"We didn't have much money, but we were in love and it didn't matter," she said.

Harry sold men's clothing for a few years, then became a Prudential insurance agent until World War II.

"He felt as if he should do something for the war effort," Debbie said, saying she had the same feelings.

Harry started working with the Red Cross overseas. Debbie took a job as a nurse's aide when her sons, Brooke and Daniel, were in school.

Today, Debbie delights in visiting with her sons, 11 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. She carries Hershey's Kisses to share with everyone she encounters.

When the family temporarily lived in Arlington, Va., Debbie enjoyed taking friends on tours of Washington, D.C.

She also recalls when she saw a motor vehicle for the first time. The butcher had started driving a truck to neighborhoods, where women would stock up on meat until his next visit.

"Sometimes, he gave us kids hot dogs," Debbie said. "Oh, those hot dogs were really good."

While Debbie still enjoys a good meal, she laughs when saying she couldn't always make one. Her son stood up during her 100th birthday party and announced his mother wasn't good at cooking or baking anything other than chocolate cake.

Debbie said she's not sure any particular lifestyle choice contributed to her good health, noting that longevity hasn't necessarily been a family trait.

"My grandparents died young," she said.

Betsy Snively

Born Oct. 15, 1906, Betsy spent the first few years of her life in Lititz, Pa., before her family moved to Waynesboro, Pa. Betsy has called Waynesboro home ever since, moving to Quincy Village last November.

She played basketball while a student in Waynesboro schools. As a child, Betsy experienced several bad rain and hail storms.

"My mother didn't let me go to school that day until she didn't think it was too bad," said Betsy, who had six siblings.

Betsy, 103, remembers walking past a Waynesboro fire hall in 1918 and peeking in the window. She saw rows of beds with people who had fallen ill during a flu epidemic.

Betsy spent a year teaching at the Waynesboro Business School, where she used skills like shorthand. A bird landed on her typewriter one day and would hop to her shoulder every time the machine made its dinging noise.

Betsy and her late husband, Chester, made the best of the Depression, a period during which they started having children.

"She said they didn't have a car, and he went to his parents' house to read a newspaper," daughter Betty Emery said.

Better financial circumstances later in life allowed Betsy to host Easter dinners at a restaurant for her family, which includes two daughters, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Betsy, who enjoys games like bingo and Yahtzee, identified relaxation as a key to longevity.

She also eats ice cream every day.

"I'm still here," she said.

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