Centenarian's memories: 50-cent steak dinners and a 20 mph speed limit Her party draws 120 well-wishers FTC HOWARD COUNTY SENIORS

June 30, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer Dolly Merritt contributed to this article.

When Anna Freysz Cable was in school, the American history books told of only two major wars: the Revolutionary and the Civil.

"I just wanted to remind you all that this is only my first hundred," Mrs. Cable announced to about 120 friends and family celebrating her 100th birthday at the Oakland Meeting House yesterday. "After today I'm thinking I might want to try it again."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker named yesterday Anna Freysz Cable Day and the state Office on Aging presented her with a gold pin as she was named a member of the Centenarian Club.

Mrs. Cable thanked the crowd and reminisced about the country's past, which was filled with "so many new beginnings," she said. Her sharp memory detailed events that occurred before the turn of the century.

When she was growing up, the native of Akron, Ohio, remembers, "there were no strikes because there were no unions. A worker's only dream was a five-day week. In fact it wasn't a dream, it was about as real as a man on the moon," she said.

When she was 13, Mrs. Cable said, the local blacksmith's shop was replaced by a repair garage where disabled automobiles were towed in by horses. The maximum speed for cars was 20 mph.

When World War I came around, and the country called for women workers, Mrs. Cable packed her bags and left her mother, sister and brother for a civil service job with the Navy Department in Washington on the day she turned 25 -- in 1918.

"This changed the whole course of my life," she wrote in a letter to a young student who asked recently for details about the war.

"Everything was new to us," she wrote, speaking of herself and the three other young women with whom she shared a house on K Street during the war. "We walked miles. We saw the public buildings, we visited as many as we could get into on our Sundays and holidays. Our working hours were from 9 to 4:30, six days a week, making a 42-hour work week.

"The Lincoln Memorial was under construction, the ground around it was like a plowed-up cornfield. We found good restaurants where the food was reasonable and good. We could get a steak dinner with all the trimmings for 50 cents," she wrote.

She married Charles Freysz, a factory worker in Cleveland, in 1922. During the Depression, the couple moved to Maryland, where they lived with relatives and searched for work.

Three years later, Anna was offered a position with the Immigration and Naturalization Service where she remained for 21 years. Her husband also found a government job.

"I had a good business career," Mrs. Cable said. "I would not be mediocre in anything. My mother taught us whatever you do, do it right. I kept moving along from a grade 2 to a grade 9; I put in for every position that came along. I was not going to be a little old lady taking dictation from someone half my age," she said.

Ultimately, because of failing eyesight, Mrs. Cable retired in 1946.

"The loss of my sight didn't stop me from sewing or listening to talking books; my hands can find the way for doing things," said Mrs. Cable who learned to read Braille when she was 66.

"They told me they didn't teach anyone over the age of 50 and I said, 'Nonsense.' "

Mrs. Cable was widowed in 1971. She and her husband never had children of their own, but they had provided foster care for four children. Mrs. Freysz married Howard Cable in 1976, but was again widowed when he died 10 years later.

A sense of humor and an optimistic attitude, Mrs. Cable said, are essential tools for coping with life's ups and downs.

"My mother never let anything get her down and always faced up to any hardship," she said.

Today, Mrs. Cable has trouble hearing and can only see certain lights and shadows. She uses her wheelchair only when necessary, preferring to get as much exercise as she can, often using the chair as a walker as she navigates around Emmanuel Homes in Columbia.

The birthday luncheon honoring Mrs. Cable was given by the Emmanuel Homes, Catholic Charities and by SPRING, a support group for seniors at the Florence Bain center.

Mrs. Cable was honored with plaques and certificates by the state of Maryland, Howard County, Catholic Charities and the National Federation of the Blind, which set up an award in her name.

In spite of her physical ailments, her determination persists. The centenarian is a member of the National Federation of the Blind and the International Innovators for the Blind. She attends weekly meetings of the Insighters group at the Florence Bain Center.

Mrs. Cable joked about rating her health on a scale of 1 to 10, admitting that, lately, she hasn't been experiencing too many "10" days.

"Time marches on," she said, chuckling. "Maybe I can hold on until the Fourth of July."

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