'Toots' Devilbiss is retired, not retiring


IN 1920, a gallon of gas cost 13 cents, a car cost $500 and Caroline Devilbiss was born in the Uniontown house she lives in today.

Devilbiss, perhaps the town's most well-known resident, celebrated her 80th birthday recently.

"A friend of mine is 82," Devilbiss said. "I was telling her, 'Remember when we were kids how we thought 80 was ancient.' Well, here we are."

Yes, indeed.

For her birthday, Devilbiss received a booklet about what went on the year she was born. The Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp, Belgium, for example.

"Didn't even know they had the Olympics back then," she quipped.

That was also the year Prohibition began. The 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Airmail service between New York and California began.

"Amazing," Devilbiss said with a sigh.

The same booklet says the life expectancy was 54.1 years.

"Wow," she said shaking her head. "Heck, my father lived to be 91. And both sets of grandparents lived to be in their 80s. I wonder where they got that figure."

It's hard to say. But the woman most area residents know as Toots remembers the things that are a bit closer to home. Like attending Uniontown Elementary School."[Neighbor] Miriam West's mother, Mary Fogle, was my first- and second-grade teacher," she recalled.

She attended high school at Blue Ridge College in New Windsor where the Brethren Center is today.

"They didn't have a high school then," she explained.

The New Windsor School, which housed elementary through high school, wasn't built until 1936.

"I attended my last two years of school there," she said.

After graduating from school, Devilbiss helped her father, Thomas Devilbiss, in the Devilbiss General Store.

"My father used to make homemade ice cream and [State Treasurer] Richard Dixon's father used to bring all of his kids by," she recalled. "To this day [Dixon] says he still remembers that ice cream."

Devilbiss later became the town's postmistress. The post office closed two years ago. The store closed nearly a year ago.

Devilbiss said she misses certain aspects of running the store but has enjoyed her free time since.

"I think of all the good times when the store was open and all the people who would stop and tell stories. We'd have a place in the store where people could sit down. It's so different today. People are going in all directions."

Devilbiss said she still has people stop by and knock on her door to open the store. "They want to know where they are going to get their sodas and sandwiches," she said with a laugh.

Devilbiss spends her time gardening and visiting with friends and family. "On Saturdays I go to a lot of craft shows," she said.

And while she was never able to travel before, she intends to. "In June, I'll be going to Cape May, N.J.," she said. "Then later I'll be going to Missouri."

Terri Hoover, Devilbiss' grandniece and next-door neighbor, said she has been blessed with more than just a good neighbor.

"I'm not just speaking for myself," Hoover said. "I know my cousins would agree. We have been truly blessed to have an aunt as wonderful as Aunt Toots."

Summer playground

Taneytown Area Recreation Council will be present its summer playground program June 19 to 23 at Runnymede Elementary School and June 26 to 30 at Taneytown Elementary School. This is a structured, well-supervised program for boys and girls in grades one through five.

"They can sign up for a half of a day or a whole day," noted Mary Mechalske,a fourth-grade teacher at Runnymede who is running the program.

"We'll have fun activities, games and crafts. We'll have some stories we might put into a play. We'll also do some experiments."

Mechalske said class size is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Parents may register by mail or on the first day of each session.

Sessions are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lunch is noon to 12:30 p.m. Students must bring a bag lunch if they stay the full day. A drink will be provided. The fee is $15 per session.

"My kids went through this program and they loved it," Mechalske said. "We have a lot of kids who come back year after year."

Information: 410-876-6746.

First fireman's carnival

Carnival season has opened. The first one in the Northwest area, the Union Bridge Fireman's Carnival, runs through Saturday.

Roll the Dice performs tonight. Southern Horizon takes the stage Friday. Bob Plunkett and Real Country play Saturday night. There also will be a cash drawing Saturday night. First prize is $2,000, second prize is $1,000 and third prize, $500.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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