I don’t worry. I don’t plan, but I always work hard,” said Midge Conner when asked how one stays healthy and lives a good, long life. Conner will celebrate her 88th birthday on Aug. 8.
“You can’t keep a secret from an 88-year-old woman,” said Conner’s son Stephen. Nonetheless, the family is having a party in Bethesda, with relatives coming from Illinois, the Carolinas and the D.C area.
“When there are five eights —” 88, Aug. 8 and 2008 — “ it’s worth a gamble,” Conner said, noting she usually likes staying home, but traveling to the party “will be worth it seeing my family.”
Conner met her husband Woodrow when they were both serving in the Navy. Before becoming a Wave, she had been a telephone operator at Camp Ellis in Illinois and had worked in the Boeing plant in Bremerton, Wash.
When joining the Navy, “I thought I would be a mechanic, something important,” Conner said. “ My rating was Specialist X (b). I didn’t know what that was but I found out — a telephone operator.” Conner retired from the Navy as World War II was ending. In 1950, she followed her husband to the Patuxent Naval Air Station, where he was an ACNS, an aviation chief metal specialist.
“It was hard to find a place to live,” Conner said. State Route 235 was one lane. There were no motels. A fellow at the North End Filling Station sent the Conners to the Lawrence Avenue Rescue Station to find housing. Eventually, they moved in with George Raley and his wife. The two couples shared a bathroom and kitchen.
“It was hard to find a job,” Conner said, “especially for Navy wives.” They were expected to move. Conner persevered and did find work, again as a telephone operator.
“It was a big needle board with drops,” she said. “There were eight people on a party line, and during a storm lights flashed everywhere.” Believe it or not, “calls to the base were 10 cents,” Conner smiled, noting that is not all that was different.
“Lexington Park was mostly bars,” she said. There was very little traffic and few people. “We used to know everybody between our house and Sotterley Plantation,” she said. The Conners had purchased 25 acres on Sotterley Road in 1958.
“I won’t tell you how much we paid” for the farm, Conner said, but the couple paid cash. “I never bought anything I couldn’t pay for,” she explained. “We saved and did without.
“My mom,” who raised 11 children, “could squeeze the nickel till the Indian road that buffalo,” Connor said. “I just don’t like being in debt.”
|Connor hangs her artwork in her home.|
In the ’70s, Conner started carving wooden dolls. “I love making something out of nothing,” she said, explaining she had seen an old man sitting on a park bench, carving.
“He looked so comfortable. I decided I could try that,” she said. At the time everything was made in Japan. She would like something made in the U.S.
Over the years, Conner won many first prizes for carvings entered in the St. Mary’s County Fair. Another c