Thursday, December 10, 2009

You are as old as you feel!

This is Bernice. You met her in a previous post. She turned 95 last June. Bernice is still very active in this retirement community. She bowls once a week on the bowling league and attends all the dances.

Whenever the band plays a polka, Bernice will get up and do a sort of line dance with another couple.

Her dance card is never empty, as many of the gentlemen in the park ask her to dance the slow dances. She has been overheard remarking, "They keep asking me to dance the slow ones, but I'd love to dance a fast one now and then!"

I've never been to Bernice's place here in the park; I've always just walked or ridden by on my bike and waved "hi". Well this time I paid her a visit to drop off copies of the photos that I took of her in the Christmas parade. We had such a wonderful visit! What a joy it was to sit and listen to her talk about her life.

Bernice grew up in the State of Montana, and went off to North Central College in Naperville, IL during the 1920's. That's quite a hike, especially back then. Tuition was $90 a semester. She signed a note promising to pay back the money. Before she went off to college, and during the summer months, Bernice worked for a woman who owned a sheep farm. She would lace vests together that were made from sheep skin and other suede clothing. As a send off gift for college, this woman gave Bernice a suede vest and a dress that had fringe along the bottom of the hem. She wore these items at college, which earned her the name of "Pocahontas". Later the nickname was shortened to "Pokey".

Bernice graduated with a B.A. and wanted to be a teacher. But there were no teaching jobs to be found during the Depression. So she settled for a nursemaid job looking after two young girls and an infant boy for a couple of years. At least it was a job, paid room and board, and a small paycheck, so she was able to put some money towards her tuition loan.

After two years of looking after children, she found a teaching job in the small country town of Monroe Center, just outside of Rockford, IL. There she taught a combined class of 45 students. She shared a couple of funny stories with me about the kids.

One little girl in her class had a sister who had given birth at home. The next day the little girl came to school and told all the other kids how her sister had a baby and where it came from. A little boy came up to Bernice and said, "Miss _____, Mary said her sister had a baby and it came right out of her. Did it?"

Well, Bernice was a little startled. You have to remember, this was a LONG time ago, and topics like this just weren't spoken about - especially in a first grade class. Bernice said that she stuttered a little bit and then said, "Well, you should talk to your mother about that!"

Back in the good old days, you could hug a child (now you are not allowed to touch a child), and you could spank a child (I'm not condoning this but there sure was better discipline in the classrooms!) There was a little boy named Bill who was always talking and causing trouble in Bernice's class. She'd have to reprimand him several times. Finally she said to him, "Bill, I warned you several times that if you don't behave, I'm going to send you down to the principal's office. How many times does Mr. Marriott have to spank you?"

"Probably a couple of times will help!" Bill said.

So off Bill went to Mr. Marriott's office for his paddling. A little while later, Mr. Marriott escorted a hopefully more disciplined Bill back to the classroom. Bernice noticed that the principal could hardly conceal the smirk on his face. Later he filled Bernice in on what had happened in the office.

Bill had entered Mr. Marriott's office and handed him the note that Bernice had wrote, explaining why he had been sent to the principal's office.

Mr. Marriott had Bill sit down and lectured him about good behavior. Then he told him it was time for the spanking. Mr. Marriott took out the ping-pong paddle and had Bill bend over his desk. Just when his arm was raised up and he was ready to spank, Bill yelled out, "Ready! Aim! Fire!"

Mr. Marriott said that it took all he had not to burst out laughing!

Bernice said that Bill behaved for a couple of days before he needed a good spanking again!

Over the course of the last 25-30 years, Bernice has made these beautiful crafts called jeweled trees. They are all made out of costume jelwery which she then removes the backings from and collects them in a box. The shape of the tree is cut out in a lightweight wood such as plywood and then glued to a velvet fabric. Then she starts arranging the jewelry around to fit on the piece of wood. She covers the wood pretty thick. Because the piece is raised up on wood, she decorates the edges with a beaded necklace. There is a lot of intricate work involved, but it is worth it.

Here is a close up of one so you can get a better idea of the beautiful image. All the jeweled tree images were taken with my camera phone so they aren't that great!

All in all, it was a great visit. I learned so much about Bernice in that short hour visit. I promised that I would come back to see her again. And I tell you what....I am really looking forward to it and am anxiously awaiting to hear more of her stories!


Santa Claus said...

Ho HO HO! I remember when they were young kids and I used to bring them toys! Merry Christmas!

Gail said...

It is wonderful the wisdom older people have to share. If we would all just listen.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

She sounds like a jewel, herself! Bet she was a fantastic teacher in her day. Keep us posted with more stories...

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

How amazing! I have a great aunt who is 96. Up until last year, she still volunteered at the museum. Age is a state of mind, and Bernice and my aunt are proof of that.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What interesting stories. Love her work witih jewellery. Say hello to Bernice from Montreal!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

what a great story! And a wonderful neighbor to have.

Meeko Fabulous said...

OMG . . . My BFF's mom has one of those covered Christmas trees in her house! I saw it the other day! How would I know if Bernice made that one?! That would be so awesome and it would be such a small world, wouldn't it?!

Wendy said...

Beautiful, Pat.
Sounds like the real jewel is Bernice!

Brian Miller said...

bernice sounds like a treat...i love to hear peoples stories...and she is quite the artist as well. thanks for sharing this pat!

Karen :-) said...

It's a shame that more people don't take the time to visit the seniors. They have such wonderful stories to share with us.
Bernice sounds like a wonderful person and quite the artist.

SquirrelQueen said...

What an amazing woman, I really enjoyed reading about her. I'll bet she does have a wealth of fabulous stories to tell. Her jewelry art is beautiful, that would take a lot of patience. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I certainly remember the good old days when you could hug a child :(
This is a wonderful post!
Rock On, Bernice!

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

What a wonderful story and great opportunity for you to let her reminisce about her past - and a way for you to learn more about her. She sounds fascinating and her jewelry is beautiful.

Chatty Crone said...

A wonderful story - and your only as old as you feel - or as old as you 'think' you are.