Madelene (MCCREADY) KILMER
Madelene McCready was one of two children of Carl Clay and Hallie (Gilliford) McCready. She was born August 19, 1917 in Port Royal. She graduated from Port Royal High School in the Class of 1935 and from Grove City College with a Music Degree. She married Philip Loy Kilmer Jr. and they had two children, Philip and Carla.
Madelene was a music teacher and band director at Tuscarora Valley High School in Port Royal, PA.
THE VIEW FROM THE LANE
by Carlen McClure
This story is printed here in its entirety - unedited and uncut. An excerpt from this interview is in the Port Royal Bi Centennial book. I read this copy to Mrs. Kilmer when it was finished - her smile was all I needed. God bless you Mrs. Kilmer!
Madalene McCready Kilmer
Madalene was born August 19, 1917 in Port Royal to Hallie Gilliford and Carl Clay McCready. Her maternal grandparents were Robert Gilliford and Nancy Gilson Gilliford. Her paternal grandparents were Mary Frances McNeal and Samuel McCready. Her father's family was from Ohio, her mother's family from Port Royal.
Mrs. Kilmer says, “I began taking piano lessons at age 4 1/2 from Joyce Hower Robinson, who at the time lived in the now Abe and Carol Harbst home.” [215 Milford St.]
She talked fondly of her early grade school memories. She says in third grade they had to stand up front and recite poetry. In fifth and sixth grade she played an old pump organ for morning devotions. A Mr. Rice was the teacher. Mr. Rice lived in the brick house at 2nd and Market (Jim Hubler's home) [201 Market Street]. Mrs. Kilmer says, “After Bible reading and the Lord's prayer, I'd play America and then apparently because it was Mr. Rice's favorite song, every morning we sang My Darling Nellie Gray.”
She says, “I loved Jane Frankhouse in third and fourth grade. I could hardly wait to see what Mrs. Frankhouse wore to school, she always wore the highest heels I'd ever seen.”
She says, “At recess we made up our own games. One was called 'Corners' where the girls would all run and get in the corners (outside) of the building, then the boys would try to pull them out and take their place. And of course, there was the favorite, 'Tag' where we'd run from the school all the way to the end of the white picket fence at Naylor's house (now torn down, Lutheran Church parking lot).”
She said, One of our biggest pastimes was sitting outside with a little note book and pencil, waiting for cars to go by, then we'd write down their license numbers. There weren't many cars then, and we’d wait a long time for a car to come by, it was so exciting. The cars then went slow enough that we could get their license numbers, but today I’d get run over.”
Mrs. Kilmer says, “I never had a bicycle, but I had roller skates. We skated all over town. The best skating was from 'Cricket's to the corner - the side of the street I lived on was brick sidewalk. We skated around the Presbyterian Church. We skated where there was cement. I still have the scars on my knees from skating.”
Mrs. Kilmer remembers Miss Alberta Wharton as one of her earlier Sunday school teachers. Alberta was a sister to Tinky Wharton, who had Tinky's Garage – more on this later.
Before Madalene was born her father and his cousin Clem Johnson had a store, later Rogers Store, then Leister's, then Art's Men and Boy's Shop [304 Market Street]. Her father and his cousin sold the store to Rogers. There was a livery stable behind the store where they kept the horses. Her father had a huckster route he ran from the store. Later her father became a plasterer. He took the train to Lewistown, walked from the railroad station to Lewistown Hospital, worked all day and then would get a ride home from Lewistown, sometimes with Grover Wolfgang.
Madalene's mother served meals from their home for 50¢ each. In the summer, David Beale, Jennie Beale, a Mrs. Foster and Millie Milliken would eat their evening meals there. They came here from Philadelphia for the summers and stayed where Beales lived, across from Dr. Shelly's home, down the hill toward Moyers.
Mille Milliken lived in the little white house across from Jane Cook. [707 Main Street]
When the [Juniata River] bridge was being built her mother fed a lot of the bridge workers in the evenings. “part of the money was used to send me to Lewistown for piano lessons.” I asked her how she got to Lewistown, she said, “I rode in Mr. Wynn Naylor’s old panel truck, sitting on an old egg crate in the back.” He delivered eggs to Lewistown. The cost of the trip was 10¢. Piano lessons were $1.00, but her teacher gave some students a scholarship and her lessons were 50¢.
The lessons were given on Third Street in Lewistown, the home among others torn down to make way for the BonTon. Her teacher was Mrs. Joseph Mitchell.
In Madalene's senior year of high school, her principal, Phillip Carpenter came to see her parents about sending her to college. She says, “If it weren’t for him, I’d never have done anything with my music. My parents couldn’t imagine sending me to college, they had no money. My father borrowed some money to send me to Grove City to 'try out' and it was decided I was worth a scholarship. In later years I sent Mr. Carpenter a letter thanking him for what he did for me.
She said, “While I was in college my father helped shovel Groninger Valley out by hand in the summer of 1936; the men shoveled in three men tiers.”
After college, Mrs. Kilmer would come home to her beloved Port Royal. She began teaching in 1944, and says, “We spent most of the year scouring attics and garages for instruments for a band. The bass drum came from Tinky Wharton's Garage and was from the old Port Royal Band before my time, but my father played in that band. The tuba came from Stoey and Sara Groninger's attic, the one Wayne Taylor later played. In 1944 there wasn't any money for instruments and the whole town was scoured for instruments for kids to play. I don't remember where the baritone horn that Joy Mccahan Sheaffer played came from.”
Mrs. Kilmer says, “In 1945 we had our first band, numbering eighteen kids.”
Madalene married Phillip Kilmer in 1946. They have two children, Carla Zimmerman and Phil Kilmer.
She stayed home until 1953 but continued to teach two days a week at the grade school. Phillip's parents were Phillip Kilmer Sr. and Edith Gingrich Kilmer from Tuscarora.
I asked her about her early teaching days and her salary. She said, “I taught at the grade school, the high school and nine rural one-room schools. I went once a week to the grade school and once a week to each of the nine rural one-room schools and what time I had left I spent at the high school and my salary was $1,170.” The rural schools were Olive Branch, Mt. Hope, Freedom, Center (near Spruce Hill and torn down), Gap (near T-Lane), Old Port, Matamoras, Spruce Hill and Pleasant View.
She gave band lessons, taught music, chorus, dance band, worked with the majorettes, operettas, concerts, Christmas programs (rural schools didn't have electricity, so they didn't have evening programs) and May Day programs.
The band traveled all over the county for festivals and parades, and of courses band day at the fair [Juniata County Fair]. Mrs. Kilmer remembers vividly the year the band got their maroon and white uniforms -thirty six members in new uniforms for Band Day at the fair. She says, “That year, instead of gathering at the front of the grandstand, we came in at Fairview (4th Street) and marched around the track in our new uniforms. The people on the grandstand were so proud of our band they cried. At one time half the school was in the band. It wasn't long till more uniforms had to be added.”
I asked Mrs. Kilmer what her favorite of all activities she had, and she answered, “I just loved it all. My favorite was the preparation for anything, then I would wish after it was all perfect I could turn it over to someone else, because I never liked to get up in front of people and speak. I just loved watching it all come together and seeing what the kids could do.”
I asked her if her parents were musical? Hallie McCready played piano, banjo and guitar. Her father played the trombone and two of his sisters studied voice at the Westminster of New Wilmington College, near Pittsburgh. Daughter Carla Zimmerman plays the organ at Port Royal Presbyterian Church. Son Phil plays in a church band. Carla's girls both play piano and other instruments. So the 'band' literally plays on.
I didn't want the night to end but I knew two and a half hours later I needed lo wind it up. I had two more questions. I asked her what amazed her most in her 93 years. She didn't even have to think, she said, ('Today Carla called me twice, once from Chicago and once from Hawaii, on something smaller than my hand. When I went to Grove City to college I got home once for Christmas and for summer”.
ln 1936, by all reports, I was sure Port Royal had floated away [St. Patrick’s Day Flood]. I called home once in those four years. The call was to Bob Stimmel's funeral home (we didn't have a phone) and Bob went across the street and got my mother so I could talk to her. That's the most amazing thing today.
It was time for my last question - tell me your feelings on growing up in Port Royal. Again she didn't hesitate. “Wouldn't have ever wanted to live anywhere else. Everyone grew up with everyone and we all looked out for each other. I'm especially thankful for Jack and Dottie Henderson, Mary McLaughlin, the Poormans and Bowsmans, they are all so good to me.”
One last note - Mrs. Kilmer showed me her new Bible, a large print of the New Living Translation', she had many passages underlined. Mark 9:35 was one of them that caught my eye ... Anyone who wants to be first or great, must take last place and be the servant of others... Mrs. Kilmer was a servant. The Bible also talks about the first shall be last the last shall be first. Mrs. Kilmer will be first leading all the musicians in heaven. Thank you Mrs. Kilmer for the gift of your time.
(THE TIMES – September 2011)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/26/11 - Image Year: 2007
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/2/17 - Image Year: 2017