Mifflin County PASR reflects on 50 years

Let’s go back in time to 1967. Major news stories included the first heart transplant. The first Super Bowl was played between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. It was noted that the average income was $7,300 and the price of gas was 33 cents. The Beatles continued their supreme reign with the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

In 1967, the education realm showed U.S. teachers calling strikes throughout the country for higher pay increases. Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States and the federal government was preparing the pass legislation to improve the quality of education. But some local educational professionals after giving many years of service had decided to retire and leave the education scene behind.

In Mifflin County, a group of seven retired school teachers got together and discussed how their lives had changed since retiring and how they wanted to refute the popular social outlook that “retirement meant and end to one’s usefulness.” They wanted to stay active with friends they had made during their years in education.

On Sept. 7, 1966, a group of 18 retired teachers met at the Green Gables Motor Inn to organize themselves and set a few goals. To reflect their past in education, they named themselves “Mifflin County Retired Teachers Association, Kishacoquillas Chapter.” The state retired teachers organization had formed in 1937 and shared some important guidelines for this newly-formed group. Following their lead, Kishacoquillas Chapter elected officers, planned program speakers and went on record as favoring a fair program of “cost of living” adjustments. Then in October 1967, they were awarded a Chapter Charter by the Pennsylvania State Retired Teachers Association.

The charter members of the chapter were: Ross Hufford (Lewistown), Miss Margaret Johnson (McVeytown), Miss Anne Kyle (Lewistown), Miss Anna Louisa Laub (Lewistown), Mrs. Jean Leister (Lewistown), Miss Grace McCoy (Lewistown), Miss Claire Miller (Lewistown), Mrs. Grace Milliken (Lewistown), Miss Elizabeth Peters (Lewistown), Miss Anna Pursel (Burnham), Mrs. Iveigh Reed (McVeytown), Miss Dorothy Reigle (Lewistown), Miss Madeline Reigle (Lewistown), Mrs. Mary Reed Rodgers (Milroy), Miss Mildred Sipe (Burnham), Mrs. Florence Taylor (Yeagertown), Miss Mildred Wentz (Lewistown) and Miss Ada White (Lewistown).

During the past 50 years, we became Mifflin County Chapter and the state organization eventually became the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees. We followed an agenda similar to the one the state used. A president, vice president, secretary and treasurer were elected. Various committees were assigned to serve the membership including a program committee and activities committee, as well as others.

Membership increased throughout the years. The programs may have had a hand in that increase. Special guests were invited: Chuck Rhodes, a TV celebrity and Mifflin County native; Walter Deverter, our local state representative in Harrisburg; Pete “Mr. Pennsylvania” Wambach, Harrisburg broadcaster for “This is Pennsylvania”; Pastor Robert Zorn, woodworking enthusiast; Dr. Robert Bohn, Mifflin County School District Superintendent; Alex Ufema, who spoke about his tour of Russia; Juniata County’s Nancy Kulp, former teacher and star on television’s “The Beverly Hillbillies”; Clay Burkeholder, speaking about his trip to China; and many others.

The activities committee planned various trips for the group. Minutes from 1981 announced upcoming trips as “Liberace” in concert in Harrisburg ($16), a play at the Harrisburg Host Inn “Annie Get Your Gun”($20); and a Neil Simon play at the Hershey Theater ($15.50). Throughout the years, the activities committee (later renamed Recreo) planned bus trips to other plays throughout Pennsylvania. Extended trips were made to Maryland, Virginia and a cruise to the Bahamas. Our Recreo chair, Jane Freed, has planned a bus trip to Lancaster to visit the “National Christmas Center,” and the trip home will be by train boarding at the Amtrak station in Lancaster.

In 1985, the program committee asked the membership for suggestions. Their replies: Fewer programs on old age and more musical programs (just like today’s requests). One program that has been repeated over and over again, usually in December, is the choral groups from the various high schools. Lynn Phillips brought the “Choraliers” from 1975 to 1984. James Dullis brought the Lonanettes and Loganairs. Kishacoquillas music groups led by Hope Reigle performed for our school retirees. Since 1995, our Christmas programs have included groups directed by Sherry Morgan. The performances by these students have amazed us at the level of music that they sing — almost like professionals. We are very appreciative to all the music educators who have shared their students’ talents with us.

At a fall meeting in 1966 of the Central District of the State Retired Teachers Association, Miss Anna Burkins represented Mifflin County Chapter. The speaker for the meeting, Miss Sylvia Breth of Clearfield, shared the “Ten Commandments for Retired Teachers” giving food for thought and many laughs. The Ten Commandments are (1) Thou shalt not admit to being old, (2) Thou shalt not become loquacious, (3) Thou shalt not try to straighten everyone’s affairs, (4) Thou shalt be thoughtful but not moody, (5) Thou shalt use thy vast store of wisdom — but not all, (6) Thou shalt seal thy lips on thy aches and pains, people get tired of organ recitals, (7) Thou shalt remember that with time memory weakens, (8) Thou shalt keep thyself reasonably sweet, (9) Thou shalt extract all possible fun out of life, and (10) Thou shalt have faith in thy God.

The local bicentennial celebrations included articles about education in The Sentinel. One dated Aug. 19, 1976 was titled “Retired Teachers Recall Careers.” Howard Fauth, president of the Mifflin County Retired Teachers Association in 1967, was quoted concerning his teaching career teaching business education.

“It’s my personal opinion that there was a time when you were able to put the fear of God in the kids and the parents backed you, but today you have a discipline code and students’ rights and so forth. It’s the attitude in general. You had those persons who would work and wanted to work, and then you had those who didn’t give two hoots or a button whether they worked or not.”

The financial records of that first year noted that the local dues were $1 while the state dues were $5. During one of the early meetings, there was some discussion about whether to raise the local dues or to have a project to replenish the treasury. It was decided to do both. The dues were raised to $2 in 1968 and the project called “Blind Pig” was born. Members were to contribute 10 cents. Half of the amount collected was given to a name selected and the other half was placed in the treasury. We continue to use the “Blind Pig” to raise money for our scholarship fund. Mifflin County Chapter gives two $1,200 scholarships each year to students at the Mifflin County High School.

Mifflin County Chapter members have not eliminated their interest in education. Over the years, things have changed, but yet some things have stayed the same. A former Mifflin County Chapter member, Kathryn B. Houser, wrote an interesting article which was published in the book: “Bicentennial Pennsylvania 1976, So Your Child Can Tell Their Children.” She described the days in which she worked as a teacher in Mifflin County. She titled it “Don’t Worry,”

She wrote: “Forty-five children and only 40 seats! This was my first problem on my first day of teaching. Of course, at that time, seats were fastened to the floor and there were those front seats that could be raised or lowered. Then, too, there were recitation benches up front; so soon everyone had a place to sit and books could be piled on the floor. There was a Course of Study to be followed and “standardized tests.” Results helped determine whether you returned to try another year (of teaching). In those days, there was no tenure law, and if a woman was married, she was unfit to teach.”

Another excerpt from the same book and article by Mrs. Houser read: “Would I do it all again? Sure, I would, but I would not worry so much. Children grow into doctors, dentists, ministers, lawyers, nurses, psychologists and all other professions in spite of some teachers and with the help of others. It is nice to feel that in some small way I had a part in their lives.”

In our organization today, all school employees are invited to be members. The secretaries and maintenance workers can all tell stories about how the children reached out to them for help or for a listening ear.

A legislative committee report from 1983 addressed a complaint that a cost of living adjustment had not been seen since 1979 (even though the cost of living had increased by 36 percent). The Pennsylvania State House and Senate had various bills introduced. One bill suggested an automatic COLA each year with one-half the increase of the Consumer Price Index. Another bill presented a sliding scale increase from 3 percent to 24 percent. Although some COLAs have been seen, our present PASR legislative committee still has the COLA on its agenda.

Over the years, Mifflin County Chapter has received many awards from the state PASR. Some of those were “Outstanding Service to Members” award in 1993 by PASR Board (president Mary Dadisman); 1997 “Dedicated Volunteer Service” citation for 30 years of service to the community by the House of Representatives (president Alice DeLong), “Outstanding Chapter Award” by PASR Board (president Alice DeLong) and 2001 “Public Service Award” by PASR Board (president Fran Mackneer).

Our Mifflin County Chapter has grown from 18 charter members to 238 members. The social services committee has widened its list of volunteer opportunities for our members, so that we can provide an average of 10,000 volunteer hours to our community every year. As more retirees join MCC-PASR, our outlook for another 50 years is good. We are retired school employees with an agenda: to serve others in need and help one another enjoy retirement.

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