104-year-old finds birthdays old hat But Maggie Eyler humors her family CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

October 07, 1992|By Linda Lowe Morris | Linda Lowe Morris,Staff Writer

In the year Maggie Shriner Eyler was born, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his term as 22nd president and there were 42 stars on the nation's flag. Taneytown, where her parents had a farm, was little more than a village.

Last Friday she turned 104, a fact that excites other people much more than it does her.

"It was interesting to turn 100," she says, "but I don't think it's good being this old."

There was a big party at the nursing home where she lives. Her 82-year-old son and his wife came from California; her grandson and his wife came from Westminster; her nieces came from Taneytown. There were cake and punch and a hired entertainer who sang old songs.

She was not impressed.

"I've gotten so that I don't enjoy the parties. Not like I used to. I pretend I'm enjoying it to please them."

She speaks slowly now and her voice is a soft whisper, but you can still hear in her voice and in her words a quiet determination and fierce independence.

She lived alone until she was 100, and would prefer still living alone if she could.

"I'm used to being on my own," she says.

She was one of seven daughters, "fifth from the top down," as she calls it.

"My father wanted a boy so bad. He said I have to be a boy. But when I came it was a girl. So he made a tomboy out of me. Took me out on the farm with him. I was Daddy's girl."

She finished only the fifth grade in school.

"My sister got married. She wasn't very hardy and she had a

baby, and that just about fixed her. So I was took out of school and put down to live with her to help take care of that baby."

Mrs. Eyler remembers going to parties and dances in homes around Taneytown.

"We had pound parties, that's what they called them. Everybody had to bring a pound of something, cookies, candy."

There didn't seem to be enough men to go around, she recalls.

"There were always a bunch of women standing around waiting to dance with the men. They'd fight over them. They all wanted them."

She married David Eyler when she was 22. He worked on the farm next door to her parents' farm.

"We just naturally went together. The other women were jealous. They all got mad at me because they said I picked him. But I didn't pick him, he picked me. He was a nice guy. We just fell in love and got married. I guess that's all there was to it."

They had two sons and lived on a farm with 50 dairy cows, which they milked by hand.

"I didn't like that hard work so well, but I never complained about it. I knew he was a farmer and I knew when he was going with me that if I ever married him, there's where I'd land -- on the farm."

She was widowed at the age of 39 with her two sons still at home. She took a job as a cook at Saubel's Inn, which was famous for its chicken dinners. After nearly 20 years at the restaurant, she got a job at the Cambridge Rubber Co., a shoe factory that used to be in Taneytown.

"I worked until I was 75. They wanted to lay me off, but the head guy wouldn't let them. He said I do more work than the rest of them did. He was going to keep me as long as I could come in to work. And he said when my work's done, it's done right."

She was nearly 30 when she saw her first automobile -- "It was a Ford come a-knocking along," she says -- and over 90 when she stopped driving.

"I'd still be driving. But they didn't think I was a safe driver anymore. They didn't feel my eyesight was good. It hasn't been that long since I stopped driving. Or they stopped me; I don't know which. I guess they stopped me," she says.

"[Friends and family] always told me, I was too independent to ask anybody to do anything for me. I'd rather do things myself." She has endured the fading of her eyesight and the loss of feeling in her fingertips. She can no longer write the letters or do the needlework she loved. But she says philosophically, "Just so I keep my good mind as long as I live, I ain't bothered about other things. Time goes on and I hang in there. When the time comes, I'll stop."

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