'I'm not a sitter or a couch potato' Lehighton centenarian urges younger set to get involved, expand their minds
VINNY VELLA/TIMES NEWS Lehighton resident Margaret Steigerwalt is celebrating her 100th birthday today.
One hundred years ago, a gallon of gas cost $.07, a loaf of bread cost $.10 and a quart of milk cost $.03. President William Howard Taft had been in office for a little more than a year. And, on a bright day in July, Lehighton resident Margaret Steigerwalt was welcomed into the world.
"It's hard for me to imagine that I'm going to be 100," Steigerwalt said. "I've been lucky in a lot of respects: I have a wonderful family and I'm still healthy and able to get around on my own."
Born July 24, 1910 to Robert and Ida Anthony of Lehighton, Steigerwalt is one of Carbon County's oldest citizens, and cites her active lifestyle as the source of her continued vitality.
"I like to keep moving," she said. "I'm not a sitter or a couch potato."
Steigerwalt lives by herself in a house on Seventh Street in Lehighton, a residence she has occupied for the past 10 years, where she still cooks and cleans daily. Regular trips to the grocery store and the Zion United Church of Christ, of which Steigerwalt is a life-long parishioner, are part of her weekly routine. Word searches and card games keep her mind active and focused.
"I'm not a TV person," she said. "It doesn't interest me at all."
When she can, Steigerwalt enjoys attending dinner theater performances, especially musicals. She also loves to travel and often takes bus trips to various destinations throughout the East Coast and Canada.
"I prefer shorter trips," she said. "Anything over a week or two is too long for me."
Of course, Steigerwalt's life hasn't only been dedicated to recreation. She graduated from Lehighton High School in 1928, one of 60 students to do so that year. After high school, she later married Floyd Mantz, taking on the full-time roles of wife and homemaker. When Mantz died in 1942, Steigerwalt began working for Bell Telephone, eventually retiring in 1972. To this day, she collects a pension from her former employer.
"I've been retired for longer than I worked," she said. "Their pension fund must be pretty sorry."
In recent years, Steigerwalt has adopted modern conveniences into her lifestyle, particularly air conditioning, which she hails as a welcome comfort from the blistering summer heat. Some high-tech appliances, however, bemuse her, such as modern ovens.
"Years ago, I was able to bake the best pies and cakes on a two-burner oil stove," she said. "Today, we have ovens with all sorts of gauges and thermometers, and nobody bakes anymore."
However, Steigerwalt believes that the largest change in local culture during her lifetime is much more significant than improved cookware.
"I think people are altogether different," she said. "Families were closer when I was growing up and had more of a relationship than they do today.
"People would spend more time together back then, and would take the time to sit down and catch up with each other. That just doesn't happen today. People have too many other things to do."
The legitimacy of some of these things, however, is suspect in Steigerwalt's eyes. She advises everyone, area youth in particular, to "unplug" and exercise their brains.
"I think a greater number of young people need to learn more," she said. "At a young age, I learned how to bake, sew, knit and crochet, among other things. There are many interesting things to learn and do in this world, but I think kids today are so involved in television and games that they miss out on a lot of them.
"They aren't expanding their minds, and I think that that's sad. All they need to do is just shut off the TV and get more involved in the world around them."
Steigerwalt's family includes her sister Genevieve Thomas and Susan Strouse, her niece. Although she has no children of her own, she has three stepdaughters: Darcy Yeakel, Rita Yasinsky and Catherine Slounders. She also has eight step-grandchildren.