Time Line Marks Moments In Lives Of Center's Residents

October 08, 1990|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

The first building block dates back to 1888, when Mamie Yeagle was born on a produce farm in Woodyardville, a decade before the Spanish-American War and a century before modern housing developments mushroomed across most of the county's cornfields.

Six years later, the next blocks in time were cast with the births of Wilhelmina Guemple in Baltimore and Elizabeth Upaul in Hungary.

Stenciled in black ink on sheets of construction paper, the dates continue year after year, charting the birthdays and anniversaries, new jobs and hobbies of more than 50 seniors at the Meridian Nursing Center on Hammonds Lane.

Every marker is equal on "Memory Lane," the time line spanning more than a century of historical and personal events.

Sandwiched between the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904 and World War I are markers commemorating the birth of Lottie Wondolowski and the wedding of Hazel and Philip Pfeifer. Under the date 1914 is a notation that soldiers from Fort Meade took over the apple orchards at Yeagle's family home to practice target shooting. And when the U.S. declared war on Austria in 1917, Althea Meese folded bandages for wounded soldiers in Pennsylvania.

Page after page shows the significant dates and events in more than 50 lives, faithfully chronicled by Judi Beyer, a social worker at the center.

Beyer came up with her brainchild after listening in fascination when new residents were admitted to the nursing home. The 25-year-old was amazed by the tales they could share about events she only knew from history books.

"I kept thinking that the residents here have so much history about them," she said. "When they come in, it's hard sometimes to see that they have led such interesting lives. Some worked in factories during the Great Depression, some taught in one-room schools and one lady here worked for the FBI."

After spending six months interviewing the residents and their families, Beyer collected enough information to build the time line. She originally wanted to extend her handmade, chronological list of events around the nursing home's dining room, but later decided to limit it to one hall.

The time line starts with Mamie Yeagle's birth and extends through the 1970s -- when President Nixon resigned, Patty Hearst was kidnapped and Bill Kelly retired as a truck driver from Eastern Overall -- to today.

Yeagle is the oldest resident of the nursing home, a slender 102-year-old with carefully styled hair and a warm, winning smile. She married her first husband, Lawrence Wilson, in 1911. Six years after he died in 1935, she fell in love with a man who shared the same first name.

She married Lawrence Yeagle in 1941 and spent "a lovely life with him," raising three children.

When asked the secret to her long life, Yeagle shyly said: "I just took care of myself, I guess. I never smoked, never drank and never used profane language."

While Yeagle is the star matriarch, the time line boasts a fascinating cast of other characters. They range from Julia McCurtin, who made cigars by hand, to Bill Murray, who wrote two books on the Baltimore Fire Department, and Althea Meese, a Florida socialite who worked in a boutique for more than 30 years.

"It was a lovely life," Meese said, looking back on her days in Daytona Beach. "The people I associated with were so interesting -- wealthy and classy and just wonderful. Before I married my first husband when I was 20, we had nothing but parties. Bridge parties and teas and afternoon dances.

It was a wonderful time."

The 83-year-old was married twice before she moved to Baltimore with her third husband, Chalmers Meese, her second cousin and a retired employee of the Baltimore-Ohio Railroad.

An attractive, bubbly lady who enjoyed wearing designer clothes, Meese started flirting innocently with boys while she was working for the Red Cross rolling bandages as an 11-year-old. She used to pass around food, candy and cigarettes to the soldiers at parties hosted by a wealthy neighbor in Uniontown, Pa.

"I met some handsome (soldiers) all right," she remembers. "I was only 11 years old, so I wasn't quite ready yet. But it was a very exciting time."

The stories she and Yeagle can tell ring familiar with Beyer, who knows a lot now about the lives of the residents at Meridian.

"It's like stepping back in time and seeing it all through the people who really were there," she says. "It gives you a whole new perspective."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.