Sharing stories with new friends helps ease the move from home

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ZAIDEE MILLER, who was thrown a surprise party last week at the Kiwanis Wallas Recreation Center, will be 99 years old Wednesday.

"It was a very nice party," said Lou Payne, site coordinator for Kiwanis Wallas, although Zaidee seemed a bit perplexed at first.

"If I had my choice, I'd be home," she says.

Home was Inverness, Fla., a small town between Orlando and Tampa where Zaidee lived from 1921 until she moved to Columbia 1 1/2 years ago.

Zaidee Miller moved here with her daughter-in-law, Maxine Miller, after the death of her son Bill, Maxine's husband. Maxine Miller wanted to be close to her son Rusty, who lives in Hanover. She decided to leave Florida and offered to take Zaidee Miller with her.

A slender spitfire of a woman with sparkling brown eyes, Zaidee Miller packed her things and came along.

But the move brought other problems. "We have nobody up here," Zaidee Miller said. "Not a soul in the world except her son."

She and Maxine have played bridge at the Kiwanis Wallas Center on Wednesdays and Fridays for the past year. Everyone there acknowledges that Zaidee Miller is a formidable player.

Older people are moving to Howard County to be closer to their adult children, says Duane St. Clair, assistant administrator at the Howard County Office on Aging. Those who have lived in one place for a lifetime can rely on their peers to reconnect with their past and validate their memories. But when they move, St. Clair says, they have to make a new life for themselves, and it isn't easy.

Margaret Hildebrand, 88, and her husband, Hobart, came to Glenwood five years ago to live with their son and daughter-in-law, Fred and Kimberly Hildebrand. Margaret Hildebrand is a new player at the Kiwanis Wallas drop-in bridge club.

The younger Hildebrands had moved to Glenwood 20 years ago. They raised daughters Kristen, 16, and Laura, 14, there.

Fred and Kimberly built a new house with an in-law suite two miles from their first home to accommodate Margaret and Hobart.

Margaret Hildebrand missed her friends from her old home on the Eastern Shore.

Although Kimberly registered her mother-in-law at the Office on Aging, Margaret did not become involved in the agency's activities. She stayed at home, isolated and depressed.

"There is very little in the community for elderly house-bound people," Kimberly Hildebrand said.

She got her mother-in-law on a waiting list for a home visitor.

Margaret always liked bridge. Eventually, she tried the drop-in bridge games at Kiwanis Wallas. It is the first activity she has enjoyed in five years.

When people lived their lives in one town, they went to school, raised children and grew old surrounded by family and friends. Some folks in our neighborhood still share the sense of community that comes from a lifetime together.

Local natives Willie Amberman, Jack Baker, Elaine Lynn, Lois Smithson and Jack Wade shared stories recently at an event sponsored by the Elk Ridge Heritage Society Ltd., called "Memories of Elkridge and Relay," held at the Life Celebration Center in Elkridge. About 100 people attended.

Twenty-five people participated in an oral history project of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway this year. These five were invited to share their stories.

The project and the event were coordinated by this columnist.

Amberman, 90, described his family's move from Baltimore City to an eight-room house in west Elkridge in 1921.

"I wondered where the bathroom was. And then they told me -- outside. And if it was night, you lit a lantern and walked out. A two-holer."

He trained as a blacksmith, working with his father in Elkridge.

"I would fit the shoe and get it all prepared for my father to nail on, but in the meantime, I would be kicked -- oh, not too far -- maybe 20 or 30 feet."

After two years, he quit and got a job on the railroad.

Amberman lived near bootleggers, he says, and his father stored bootleg whiskey but didn't make it.

"I remember our house had 100 to 150 cases of half-gallon jars of bootleg whiskey," he said. "I know it was half-gallon jars 'cause I used to color it. I used to burn sugar like mad and call it whiskey."

Amberman lives in a private home in Ellicott City that he shares with a longtime acquaintance Howard Johnson.

He loves to cross-stitch and says, "I do a lot of sleeping."

On Wednesdays and Sundays, he sees Arbutus resident Marjorie Spellissy. "We have dinner together. We've known each other for 30 years. We used to go out as a foursome," he said, when her husband and his wife were alive.

Lois Smithson is a fourth-generation resident of Elkridge. She is involved in activities at Grace Chapel and writes letters to children and shut-ins during the week.

"I remember when almost everyone in Elkridge was related," she said.

Smithson lived on Virlona Street, a street named for her and her sisters, Virginia and Nancy. The street's name is a combination of their names.

When she was a teen-ager, Smithson said, she was quarantined for five months during an epidemic of scarlet fever. She never got it, although all four of her siblings did.

"I was going with Inch Petrlik," she said. "He came to the house at 12 o'clock one night. I climbed out the middle window on the porch. We took a walk up to the Elkridge Elementary School, sat on the steps and watched the Greyhound bus go by."

The audience roared with laughter and interrupted with questions about people and things long gone.

"What was the name of the first principal?"

"Do you remember the name of the milkman?"

"Remember how the milk came in thin long bottles?"

Every question was answered -- often, by several voices. People nodded or murmured their assent and laughed. Many continued telling stories after the event was over and the refreshments eaten and drunk.

It was a glimpse of the rich community life common in our towns 50 years ago. Now many have to make tough choices about the place they will call home.

Fine students, good workers

Ellicott City residents Timothy Bulieri and Kaineka Davis each received a bachelor's degree in graduation ceremonies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., last summer.

Ashley Muir, a 1999 graduate of Mount Hebron High School, received a $500 scholarship from the law firm of Rapaport & Skalney LLC. The scholarship is given to a high school senior who wishes to pursue a legal career.

Ellicott City resident Margie Teeters was recognized by the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration as Employee of the Month in July.

She works as a health insurance specialist and was recognized for her help in developing guidelines that promote quality care.

Pub Date: 10/04/99

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