RYDE - Dorothy Beck has lots of stories to tell, accumulated from her 100 years on earth.
Another chapter will be added to the retired teacher's life story on Sunday as friends and former students gather for an open house birthday bash to celebrate her centennial, from 1-4 p.m. at Ryde United Methodist Church in Ryde.
Memories tumble from her mind as Beck, who will be 100 on July 16, talks about her long career in the classroom.
Sentinel photo by MARY MARGARET PECHT
Dorothy Beck will be feted at an open house Sunday, honoring her 100th birthday.
"Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher,'' she said. "When we played school, I was always the teacher.''
She attended elementary school in the old Ryde Schoolhouse, just up the hill from her home. "We walked up the hill to school and slid down,'' she recalled, with a smile.
After finishing eight grades at Ryde, Beck graduated from Mount Union High School, then went on to study at Juniata College in Huntingdon, where she graduated with the Class of 1936.
"It was a very small school then,'' she said.
Her reason for choosing Juniata was practical - her father worked on the railroad and he could get a pass to provide her with free transportation back and forth to school.
At that time, a person could teach school with two years of college, and Beck did that.
Beck spent the next seven summers finishing her Bachelor of Science degree in education, all of it at Juniata except one summer when she needed only three credits to graduate and could get them at Elizabethtown College.
Her first teaching job was at the old Beaver Dam School at Atkinson Mills, a one-room school with eight grades, and she taught them all.
"I was the teacher, I was the janitor and made the fires, and I was the nurse when anybody got sick,'' she recalled. But she didn't have to carry water - "Oh, no, we had our own pump.''
Her salary then was $900 a year, minus taxes, insurance, boarding fees and expenses. She boarded at Atkinson Mills, going home to Ryde on weekends and doing her laundry and ironing on Saturdays.
The new Fairview School (now a senior center) opened at Atkinson Mills the next year, and she moved there. At Fairview there was a janitor and she only had to teach 2 1/2 grades. She stayed there for 10 years.
Then she moved to Center School in Newton Hamilton, where she taught just two grades. She stayed there until the last 10 years or so of her career when Center closed and she moved to Mount Union Elementary School. Mount Union had art and music teachers so she was relieved of teaching those subjects, she noted.
"I was never sorry I chose teaching, but I wouldn't want to be a teacher today.'' she said. "They don't have as many pupils today, but you're not allowed to correct them.
"Kids were pretty much respectable in those days. They weren't all good, but I never had any problems,'' she said. "I think I was known as a disciplinarian, but it was loving discipline.''
That loving discipline earned the respect and affection of her students.
"I have students who call me and talk to me today, so I mustn't have been too bad,'' she quips.
She added, "I never smacked a child over the fingers with a ruler. I wouldn't want someone to do that to me.''
At 100 Beck is the oldest alumnus of Mount Union High School and delights in attending the yearly alumni dinner meeting.
At the 2012 meeting in May, she said, "I saw some of my students at Atkinson Mills. I like to go because I get to see some of the students I taught.''
Humorous events surrounded her teaching years, and she recalled the one she considers the funniest.
"I had a little boy - he was poor and couldn't learn very well - and one day he brought me a gift. You know how children bring apples and stuff for the teacher? One day he came in and stood at my desk. He said he had something for me. It was two little baby rabbits that didn't even have their eyes open. What do you do with two baby wild rabbits? I accepted them, and a couple little girls took them home and raised them and then released them,'' she said. "But I would have hurt that little boy terribly if I'd said I didn't want them.''
She met a fellow student, at Elizabethtown College, and they became fast friends. The friend liked to travel, so Beck was her companion on summer jaunts throughout the U.S. and Canada for many years.
Beck didn't get a driver's license until World War II, when her brother, who had been the family driver, went into the Army.
"We had a car and mother said I needed to learn to drive, so my uncle taught me,'' she recalled.
Church, in Beck's case Ryde United Methodist, is still a big part of her life as it always has been.
"I've always gone to church. I don't remember when I didn't go to church, she said. She still sings in the choir as she has for 60 years or so.
Beck is sharp as a tack mentally and manages her own household, except for help with spring and fall housecleaning. She just can't manage draperies and things like that alone anymore, she said.
"I don't have any relatives anymore, maybe some second- or third cousins. But I have a lot of friends. I thank the Lord every day I have a good mind. A friend calls me every day,'' Beck said, adding that other friends and neighbors call regularly and keep a close eye on her, sometimes helping with chores without even being asked.
In her retirement, she enjoys reading - mostly novels, especially Christian fiction. And she watches some TV, but not the programs that "aren't fit to look at.'' Her favorites are "Jeopardy!,'' "Wheel of Fortune,'' and reruns of "Matlock.''
She has long been a baseball fan. Her professional team was - and still is - the Pittsburgh Pirates. But she also went to local games for quite a few years, when her brother played with the Ryde team in the Twi-lite League.
She likes to watch the Pirates on TV, as long as the games don't run too late at night.
"I have no secret for a long life. Just a good, clean life, I guess. I never smoked, I never drank, never even went very much,'' except those yearly travels with her friend, and a couple of trips to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates play, she said.
The public is invited to Beck's 100th birthday open house on Sunday.