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Mother's work is never done

Throughout the generations, moms roles have changed but the basics have stayed the same: love of family

May 08, 2010|By CHRIS COPLEY
  • Four generations of the Wolters family live in Hagerstown, including, from left, Rose Wolters-Campher, her mother, Maria Anna Wolters, and her niece, Liza Wolters.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

The role of mother has evolved from generation to generation, from running a household in the 1930s and '40s to balancing family and career in more recent decades.

But across the years - through war, economic downturn and social upheaval and in good times, too - girls continue to look up to and learn from their mothers and grandmothers.

These are the stories of women from four Hagerstown-area families.

Betty Sullivan's family

For young Betty Sullivan, growing up on Main Avenue in Hagerstown's West End, her mother showed her how to make ends meet and raise a family.

"My mother was my role model," said Sullivan. "She was a hard worker. She worked 39 years at Hagerstown Shoe Company."

Sullivan, 81, still lives in the house on Wyoming Avenue she moved to in the 1950s with her husband and young family.

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She said as a young woman her expectations were simple: to get married and have a family. In the early 1940s, during the war years, that was the expectation of young women in Hagerstown.

"My friends, like me, got married, had children," Sullivan said. "I met my future husband at a barn dance on Franklin. I was 13 when I met him. He told my grandmother he'd marry me. I knew his family for years."

Her beau, Charles "Pat" Sullivan, went off to Europe to fight in World War II. Sullivan said she and Pat exchanged letters while he was gone.

After the war, they married. She was 18. She raised three children, and, like her mother, took a job at Hagerstown Shoe Co., where she worked for 39 years.

Sullivan's daughter, Judy Barr, 61, grew up in a different era - the early 1960s.

"I really looked up to Jackie Kennedy," Barr said. "And to my mom. She worked hard."

And like her mom, Barr stepped into the work force early.

"I got a job right out of high school. Worked for 34 years at Steffey & Findlay," she said. "When I married, most of my friends had a job. When we grew up, most of them had jobs."

Barr also met her future husband, Charles "Eddie" Barr, at a neighborhood dance. She married at age 20 and raised two daughters, Dawn Allison and Shannon Kohler. The two girls grew up on Summer Street and Connecticut Avenue in the West End, and neither one really planned on settling down to be a mom.

"Being a mom was not an option," said Dawn Allison, 38. "I was going to leave Hagerstown as soon as I graduated, and get a job."

Now Dawn is married to Rick and has two children, Casey, 6, and Devon, 10. But growing up in the mid-1980s, she said her biggest role model was a playful pop star.

"Madonna - she embodied female strength," Dawn recalled with a grin. "Shannon was more of the stylish one. She went through a Deadhead phase. I was more pop. She was more alternative."

Shannon Kohler, now 35 and married to Karl Kohler, has one son, Brady, 4, and is expecting a child in September. Shannon said she went through a period when her life revolved around attending concerts of the Grateful Dead.

"Probably not until I had Brady did I settle down," she said. Brady is now 4.

Both sisters met their future husbands on the job. Dawn went to college, eventually earning her master's, and pursued a career in business management. While interning in Washington, D.C., one summer, she took a job as a waitress. Rick worked there and invited her out, but she rebuffed him. She turned him down for four weeks before she said yes. She married at age 22.

Shannon worked behind the counter at a Hagerstown deli. Karl was a frequent customer. He made her laugh. She married at age 31. She praised her mom and grandmother, but she added that she learned a lot from her sister.

"My sister has really been a role model for me. She raises two kids, works full time," Shannon said. "She would take me places with her. I got to meet a lot of people I wouldn't have otherwise."

The women discussed prospects for women now compared to when they were young.

"I think women today don't think they need to be wives and mothers," Judy Barr said. "I would not have wanted that. I was happy with my job, but I was happy to get home."

"I love my husband to death, but I was always the type that didn't want to rely on him," Dawn Allison said. "I am trying to empower my daughter. I want her to be a doctor or scientist or something. Aim high."

Wanda Rideout's family

Hagerstown resident Wanda Rideout, 59, grew up the second of six sisters in Hagerstown's Jonathan Street neighborhood. She lived across from what is now called Memorial Recreation Center. Back then, the facility was nicknamed the black YMCA, she said.

But her parents wanted her close to home, so they restricted young Wanda to playing in her yard.

"That's the way it was in all the neighborhood," she said. "My parents were a little more strict, so we had friends over to play."

Then, when she was entering sixth grade, her family moved south of Hagerstown to the country. Her father, who worked at Mack Trucks, built a house on the Dual Highway near Beaver Creek Road. They moved out of a predominantly black neighborhood into the mostly white countryside.

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