Want to know something about the Panama Canal?
Ask Mazie Ziegler. She's been there.
Iceland? She was there, too.
Germany? She's visited numerous times.
Thailand? She was in the steamy jungles and visited an elephant hospital.
Ziegler, 98, is a retired librarian who has spent much of her adult life traveling. She has visited every continent except Antarctica. Because of her age, she doubts if she's going to get there.
She had been a Lehighton librarian for about 34 years, retiring in 1975, and also worked for H&R Block, doing income taxes, for 11 years.
After graduating from Lehighton High School in 1930 and then Kutztown College (1934), her first job was as an elementary teacher in the Parryville school, where she worked for 4 1/2 years.
Her widespread travels are the topic of a feature article in the current issue of Tower, a Kutztown University quarterly publication.
"As a child, instead of playing with dolls, I made believe that I was traveling around the world," she told interviewer Melissa Nurczynski, who wrote the article.
Ziegler was quite surprised when approached about the Tower article.
"At first I was a little hesitant, but then I consented," she said during an interview at her Lehighton apartment.
Except for a little trouble hearing, she is in very good health.
"I went to the doctor for a checkup a week ago," she laughed. "He doesn't want to see me for another six months."
While she worked as a librarian, she took many of her students traveling. On Saturdays, she would run bus trips with the students, usually to New York City where they would sometimes visit libraries and then go to a play afterward.
"I did it all on my own time," she said.
Her memory remains sharp. She recalls how one student (whom she mentioned by name) missed a trip to New York City 40 years ago by oversleeping.
Growing up during the Depression, chances of traveling the world were just a dream. She recalls the tough times her family endured.
"It was something! I lived with my parents and all I made was $900 a year," she said regarding the beginning of her professional career. "I had school to pay off."
Because of the Depression, she waited 3 1/2 years – even doing waitressing work in Asbury Park, N.J. – before landing the Parryville teaching job where she was able to apply her college education.
Her father worked in the Roundhouse of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in the Packerton area.
"Everybody was poor at that time," she said. "At home, we had meat once a week. If there was lunch meat, the father got it because he was working."
To make it sound like you would not be eating the same thing, people mixed their words creatively.
"We had potatoes and milk one day, then milk and potatoes the next," she laughed.
Of all her trips, she found Thailand to be the most interesting, especially after visiting a hospital for sick and injured elephants.
"Elephants are very important for the economy," she said. "The hospital was out in the open, like a big ranch. There were a lot of elephants there."
She was offered a ride on one of the large animals but declined. However, her nephew and his wife, Tyler and Marie Schlecht, who made the trip with her did take the elephant ride and said it was "very jarring."
Another nephew and his wife, Jack and Ruthann Schlecht, also accompanied her on a number of trips.
Asked why she chose a career as a librarian, she said she loves to read.
"I was interested in books and I was interested in people," she explained.
Reading is still very much part of her daily schedule. Friends and relatives bring her books on many different topics. With her varied interests and subject matter, she doesn't have a favorite author.
"I read anything that's given to me," she remarked.
Her first overseas trip was to Europe in 1953, a journey that took five days by ship. That seven-nation tour included a stop in Southampton, England, where she visited the relative of one of her friends.
Prior to her first European trip, she traveled throughout the United States, as well as to Mexico and Canada.
"My parents liked to travel," she said.
A year after her first European trip, she was selected as a Fulbright Exchange teacher. This allowed her to spend time teaching in Bonn, the provisional capital of West Germany at the time.
At the time, the city still carried World War 2 scars.
"There was a lot of damage from bombings and so on. There was a train station and only half of it was standing at that time," she said.
Her first major trip by plane occurred in about 1957, also to Europe.
No matter where she went, Ziegler said she "found good in every country I visited."
Egypt was one placed she enjoyed visiting at the time. From her hotel in Egypt, she could see the pyramids from her bedroom window. She also got to ride camels.
She would have trouble returning to the land of the Pharaohs today however, because of the political turmoil.
One humorous story involved an overnight train trip she took in Europe. She bought the ticket in Bonn and recalled there were six people per compartment. When she went into her compartment, there were five men there.
"I said, 'There must be some mistake,'" she recalled stating. "I could see they were uncomfortable and so was I. They were very kind and gave me the bottom bunk. I think I spoiled their fun. They were West Germans who were on vacation."
Ziegler also visited Australia and New Zealand each twice, has been on the Rhine, the Panama Canal, and on the Andes Mountains in Chile.
"I like New Zealand better because of the scenery," she noted.
Ziegler has visited all 50 states and when asked which one she likes best, there was no hesitation.
"Pennsylvania," she said. "We have a lovely state."
A fan of all four seasons, she especially enjoys the scenery.
Although she retired before computers became so much a part of everyday life in America, she doesn't miss that as much as the one thing that has brought so much joy and fulfillment during her years.
"The one thing I miss is traveling," she said.