Sharing stories with new friends helps ease the move from home


October 04, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE 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.

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.