Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner

Transcript:

Susan Meehan: This is Susan Meehan, and today is Wednesday, August 27, 2014, and I'm here with Elizabeth and George Gardner in the recording studio at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and I'd like to take a few moments to read just briefly why the Gardners are such valued members of the Historical Society. It's through funding provided by their generous donation that this recording is a reality today. With their money, Elizabeth and George have made possible the creation of a state-of-the-art recording studio for making digital recordings of oral histories and other filming that will enhance the holdings and the working of the society. The grant money allowed for the purchase of the necessary computer elements and the equipment, and also allowed the society to employ a professional director for the entire digital initiative, which also includes the creation of a digital encyclopedia of Cumberland County and the creation of online access to some of the society's library indices. Now George has had a very long and successful business career based chiefly in Pennsylvania, and we have several written and oral--more than several--many written and oral records of George's astonishing accomplishments. So today we're going to focus a bit more on the personal side of their Cumberland County experiences, and I think that we know that George moved to Carlisle in the early 1960s. Is that correct?

George Gardner: Yes.

SM: Elizabeth, are you a lifelong resident of Cumberland County?

Elizabeth Gardner: Yes, I was born here, Carlisle Hospital.

SM: Alright, the hospital that no longer stands.

EG: No longer.

GG: We have a piece of it, though. We have a rock.

SM: Do you?

EG: Yes.

GG: Yes.

SM: All right. (all laugh) And was your family also from Cumberland County, Elizabeth?

EG: Yes.

SM: And what was the nature of their work? Were they in town or were they rural?

EG: My father lived in South Middleton Township, right across from Frog Switch where he worked, so Carlisle was where we were most all the time.  My mother had died when I was born, and my step-mother's family lived in the same area as my father. Five years later he had married again, to my step-mother. So I've been in Carlisle for a long time.

SM: So which schools did you attend?

EG: I had to go to Boiling Springs, and I graduated from there. But we did everything else in Carlisle; yes, I got to know so many Carlisle students.

SM: But you were one of the original Bubblers, then.

EG: Yes.

SM: I can tell; you've continued to bubble.

EG: Yes. (laughs)

GG: She also was capped at Dickinson as a nurse. The Carlisle Hospital had a program to teach nursing back then, and she actually was capped at Dickinson. Some of their classes were there; some of the professors were involved in it. So she had a nursing career.

EG: I had worked; when I met George, I was getting ready to retire after forty-some years of working. (laughs)

SM: Well I was going to ask you about that later, but I think this would be a good time to talk about how you met.

GG: Oh that's my favorite story, (laughs) well should I say one of them. (to Elizabeth)You want to lead on or do you want me to?

EG: I was in the office of Dr. Cox for twenty-five years.

SM: Who was an optician?

EG: No, he was an otolaryngologist in ophthalmology. So anyway, I said one of the girls--she's about twenty-one, one of our nurses--I said, "Would you go to Hershey Park with me to ride the roller coaster?”  And I'm, like, going on sixty, and she looked at me--

GG: You were actually fifty-five. (laughs) I found out later.

EG: --and so finally she didn't say anything, so I just went back to my work. And I was up at the desk, and this gentleman came out and said, "If I asked you to go to Hershey Park with me, would you go?” I said no. (George laughs)  And they said--the girl said, "Well why wouldn't you go?” And Dr. Cox said, "Why'd you do that to my neighbor?" (both laugh) And I said, "I don't know him; I don't know who he is."

GG: Let me pick up on this. She kept saying no, and the reason I was there was because I had an eye problem, and Dr. Cox had me come in every two weeks so he could look at my eye. Well, that's when she pulled this--I was in the other room; they had dilated my eye and they make you sit there for a while afterwards and then examine your eye. And I heard this woman say she had been to Hershey Park with someone and they didn't want to ride the roller coaster with her, and she wished she had somebody that would ride the roller coaster with her, so I came out and made that statement she's talking about. As she said, her answer was NO.  But every two weeks I would come in for my appointment with Dr. Cox, and I'd say, "You ready to ride the roller coaster?" and the answer was always, "No.” That went on for several months, and finally the newspaper had a back page ad: "Hershey Park Last Chance for the Year,” and so I tore the back page out. Next time I went in, I shoved it across the desk at her and said, "This is your last chance.” She didn't say anything, but she was the nurse that took me back into the dark room where they turn all the lights out and then examine your eyes and all that, and I had the opportunity to touch her hand and say, "Why don't you go to Hershey Park with me and we'll ride the roller coaster?” She said yes.

EG: Well, I had to know him a little bit better. (both laugh)

GG: And after several months you knew me well enough. (laughs)

SM: But that wasn't your only roller coaster ride, though,

GG: Well after we broke the ice, then she didn't mind if I invited her to go ride roller coasters with me.  There were a lot of roller coasters around, even in Cumberland County. Willow Mill Park was still in operation; it had a coaster.

SM: Williams Grove?

GG: Williams Grove had one called the Zipper. (to Elizabeth) Do you remember the Zipper?

EG: Yes.

GG: And we'd go down there and ride. So I gradually got under her skin a little bit with asking her to ride the coasters, but she liked that Comet down at Hershey Park; we'd go down there. We went up to Knoebels Grove up at Elysburg, too, rode up there. It's up near Sunbury.

SM: But I think you eventually--didn't you belong to this--

GG: Oh yes, I asked her to--I heard about this American Coaster Enthusiasts and I asked her to see if she could find out where they were located. She dug it up; I don't know how she did that. We became members of the ACE group, American Coaster Enthusiasts.

EG: And I was happy to hear on television, that people who ride roller coasters are people who want to enjoy life. (both laugh)

SM: Well it's clear it was true in your case.

GG: It got to the place where we joined a couple of different roller coaster groups, and we could talk about coasters all day.

SM: Well it's a very unique experience, though.

EG: Yes

SM: We need your picture.

GG: Oh, okay.

EG: (at same time) Oh, okay.

BW: You guys can just keep doing your thing, I'll get pictures of you

GG: Yeah, perhaps I should put my roller coaster cap on. (Elizabeth laughs) I don't know if she [Elizabeth] wants to put it on or not.

EG: I don't think so.. (Meehan laughs)

BW: I like it.

GG: Well let me get it on right.

SM: Alright, there you go. Hold on.

GG: This is a cap from Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England. We managed to get with a group that went over there and met the owners of the park. In England, people own parks; companies don't own parks. In England they have a different legal system. You don't have to incorporate. So people own the amusement parks, bakeries, whatever. So we met the owners of the park, and they escorted us all around and, like I say, give a few mementos from that. She doesn't like to put it on because then she has to--

SM: Will it mess it up? Give you hat hair, right? (Elizabeth laughs)

GG: --has to go to the hair dresser. I don't know whether mine is still decent or not, it doesn't matter much.

 So you went to England; did you go to Canada and other places to do this?

GG: We went with a group that was "coasting through England," they called it. We went to all of the various parks in England. One was run by a pig farmer, (Meehan and Elizabeth laugh) and he had his pig farm there, and he had built this amusement park with a bunch of roller coasters alongside of the pig farm. When the wind wasn't right it was a little touchy, (laughs) but otherwise it was a nice park and you could see the pig farm there, all of the pigs running around.

SM: So when you rode, did you try to sit in the front or did that not matter so much?

EG: I wanted to get on one that would take me around fifty rides. So I quickly got the front, and then I would go to the back, and then I would get in the middle, and then I'd get out before George and I'd run and get on another one, and we made it for fifty. (Meehan laughs)

GG: That was the one up at Conneaut Lake up near Erie, Meadville someplace up in the northwestern part of the state. She got this idea--someone told her if she rode fifty times he would make her a "Conneauter.” So she said, "I want to ride fifty times" and she'd get off this thing and run back around and get back on. I didn't make it; I didn't make it to fifty because sometimes the train would leave before I ever got back to it.

EG: And I was in my late sixties at that time. (laughs)

SM: And did you get to be a Conneauter?

EG: Oh yes, oh yes.

GG: I don't think you were that old, you might've been in your late fifties.

EG: No, I didn't--

GG: Well we could argue all day. (both laugh)

SM: It sounds like--

EG: I was so happy that I could do that, and we did have a lot of fun riding roller coasters all over the world after we were married and enjoyed it all.

GG: We went over to Vienna one time and they had a beautiful park there. Prater Park, it's called, and it had a big Ferris wheel. So we got on the Ferris wheel, and in the states here you get on the Ferris wheel and after they get it all loaded then you go around and around and around. Well this thing was different.  It had old-time trolley cars, wooden trolley cars  where the passengers got on. There were no seats in them, you just stood in them. So we got on, and the thing would index, and then the next one would load and index, off-load, unload. We finally got up to the top; it was three hundred feet high so we could see all over Vienna. It came back down and around and we got off. It never did go around. (all laugh)

SM: Pretty tame after a roller coaster.

GG: What are you going to do? It was fun. They had some roller coasters there, too, we rode those. Roller coasters were our favorites. We went out to Kings Island in Cincinnati one time, and they had a double lift hill coaster. Now the lift hill is where the car goes up, and then you come down on the other side, and you go all around the track and come back to the station. Well this one had a double lift hill; you go up, you come down, you roll all around, and then you go up another lift hill. And you come down and roll all around. It's called the Beast, and I think that's always been my favorite. (to Elizabeth) Was that yours? I think it was. (both laugh)

SM: So are you continuing to do this or are you stopping for a while?

EG: No, I no longer could do that. (laughs)

GG: We--talking about that Kings Island Park, she had to use the bathroom. So we're walking down a walk and here was the ladies' bathroom, only maybe twenty, thirty yards off of the pathway. So she went up and I just stayed at the pathway, and she didn't come back out. Other women were going in and coming back out, and finally I asked one woman going in. I said, "Would you check on my wife because she went in some time ago and hasn't come back out.” She came back out and said, "Yeah, the National Geographic reporter's in there interviewing her.” (all laugh)

EG: Just about everywhere I went, I was asked if I was I a marathon runner? Or somebody always asking me, "why are you doing this?" (laughs)

GG: We finally got her granddaughter interested in riding roller coasters, What's the name of the park up there? Sandusky?

SM: Cedar Point?

GG: Cedar Point, yes, thank you. Her daughter and her granddaughter, grandson, and her daughter's husband took us, and we went up to Cedar Point. Elizabeth wasn't as interested in riding, getting old in years, but the granddaughter decided she was going to ride with me. I had a pretty good time with that. We got on a crazy--oh what was that--Chaos was the name of that ride. It was a thing that you never knew which way was up or which way was down; it was always going some different way and throwing you all over the place. I got on with Elizabeth--that's the granddaughter Elizabeth, has the same name--and so we were riding this thing and we get off of it. I said, "You want to ride again?" and she says, "Yeah, but I want to do it myself this time.” (all laugh) I got to ride one time with her.

EG: She was cute.

SM: Now I know that--I want to come back to Carlisle for just a minute, but I think this is connected. Did you sometimes fly to do this? Weren't you a pilot?

GG: Well yes, but normally when we would go to coasters, it wasn't that convenient to fly, so we would usually drive. I used the airplane a good bit in my business, but I didn't do that much with it when we were going to amusement parks. Now we did have to fly to some of the amusement parks, but we just paid the airlines to do that.

SM: Could you talk a little bit about your involvement in establishing the Carlisle Airport?

GG: Yes, I can get into that.

SM: Did you already have a plane at that time and you needed a landing strip, or how did you--

GG: Yes, I was actually living and operating in Lewistown, and I had two airplanes that my salespeople were using. They were at Big Valley Airport at Reedsville, and then I had the opportunity to purchase the Carlisle Cable System, and it was more interesting for me to live down here because the school systems were better. So I moved my family down and my businesses down and moved my airplanes down, also. By that time I had started to take flying lessons myself and was flying out of what was the Carlisle Airport; it was an unpaved field that had been made when Interstate 81 was put through. The contractor that was building Interstate 81 had to have different land, deposit areas; and the people that owned the land where the airport is located, the Davids family, got the contractor to actually scrape out a three thousand foot strip that they were began using for an airport. So when I moved to Carlisle, that was the Carlisle Airport. It was a mud field; if it was anything but a nice clear day, you didn't want to think about flying. And there were several businesses in town that were trying to use airplanes, but they had their airplanes down at Capital City in Harrisburg because they were just not suitable to use here at the Carlisle Airport. I got a call one time from one of the people in one of the companies and he said that they had heard that I was getting involved in aviation, and would I be interested in going together with them and try to sort this Carlisle Airport out. So about four or five of us got together; we actually bought the landing strip and most of the farm that was there, paved the runway, buried the wires  at the end of the runway because they were a definite hazard, and started to operate the airport. I had, by that time, got my pilot's license and was able to actually use the airplanes myself. The people that I had with me, one of them moved down with me, and the other one that was a pilot did not. He went with another company. So I wound up with two airplanes, flying one of them, finally learned to fly the other one.

SM: What was the year, do you recall?

GG: Nineteen sixty-six, sixty-seven. It's been a while since I've looked at my pilot's license, but I think it's dated 1966. I was licensed to fly, I think it says, aircraft single and multi engine land and instrument. I never got a commercial pilot's license because I didn't need to; I was just flying for myself, didn't have passengers that were paying me, so I didn't need to. But it was useful in a business.

SM: And useful for Carlisle.

GG: It has survived and I think it is a real benefit to Carlisle. Elizabeth got her upside down wings. She was flying with me, and we used to do roller coasters in the sky, and she liked that. But I convinced her that she really ought to learn to fly enough to land the airplane in case something happened to me. So I had a retired 747 pilot who was teaching avionics at the University of the Sequoias in California, and he came in on a weekend and taught her how to land the airplane. And I have a picture to prove it, her actually landing down at Cap [Capital] City Airport..  After she landed the plane successfully by herself, he pinned the upside down wings on her.

SM: So your roller coaster experience was a good thing.

EG: I would have always liked to have been a pilot, but I only did it to really understand it, and when I got my wings, I thought, I would have to learn everything about the internal air--everything that is made up--I would have had practice eight hours a day. (laughs)

GG: It was a fairly steep learning curve; she wasn't interested in it.

EG: I was, but I knew it in one mistake, you're gone.

GG: He gave her a pin; he put a pin on her, upside down wings. She didn't bother with a license or anything, but she got her upside down wings.

EG: And it was interesting.

SM: So you've had land adventures and air adventures.

GG: She liked the roller coasters. I had a Cessna 210; it was a fairly rugged airplane, six cylinder, and it would do about 180 knots. But the nice part about it was, it was a rugged airplane with wing struts; a lot of airplanes don't have wing struts. So this one had wing struts and I trusted it a good bit. You could put a lot of pressure on the wing when you come off a dive. So I would take it up xlose to a stall, where the wings stop flying, and then flip it over and do a dive to the red line on the air speed indicator. The red line comes up gradually; even though you have some power on, it still takes a while before it gets up to the red line, and you're going pretty fast. I would come down, put the full power back on and go back up to a stall again. So it duplicated a roller coaster to some extent. She liked it; after all, you do whatever it takes.

SM: (laughs) This was after marriage or before marriage?

GG: This was after we got married.

EG: Oh was it? Yeah, because I didn't go out on Sundays when we were dating and get in the plane.

GG: Well we did a lot of roller coasters before we got married; but that whole business of getting married, that's a whole other story.

EG: But the next plane he put me on was one of the most wonderful things in my life. (to George) And you tell them.

GG: Okay.

EG: You know where we're going. (laughs)

GG: Yes, the opportunity arose for me to give her a Christmas present, and so I gave her this envelope and she took a look at it, closed it up and put it in the drawer. Now the reason for that was I had given her two Christmas presents, two envelopes.

EG: And I didn't want more than one.

GG: The first one was to the Passion Play at Oberammergau. They only have it every ten years. So this was 1990, and I said, "I might not be alive in 2000, so I think I want to go now.” So I bought the tickets for the Passion Play and gave it to her as a Christmas present in 1989. And she looked at that and said, "Okay," and then I gave her this other envelope, and she opened it, wouldn't even talk to me about it. It was a trip on the Concorde to go around the world.

EG: Oh that was just wonderful, because I always wanted to go to the moon as a little girl, and my cousins who would swing me on--

GG: The swing.

EG: --the swing--he said, "How do you get down, Snazz?” I said, "Just the way you go up," and I said "You could walk, and it's not cheese up there, no cheese. But I want to go to the moon.” And they said, "Oh I don't think you ever will.” And my grandmother said, "Now you stop talking about this. If God wanted you there he would put you there.” So finally it happened; somebody went to the moon.

GG: She always wanted to go to the moon, she said, and she told me that story. So I figured, well what the heck, if we get the chance to go in the Concorde, because they go fifteen hundred miles an hour. They don't fly anymore, but it's pretty exciting getting up to sixty thousand feet with the--

EG: Yes, Mach 2.

GG: --what they call the reheat on, the afterburners, really pushes you back in the seat.

EG: And I think it went about ten inches, the airplane, when we were in Mach 2.

GG: Well, there's enough heat on the airframe that it expands ten inches.

EG: Oh it was just wonderful, and we were never--

SM: Now was that the New York to Paris or what did you do?

GG: They did have a New York to London, I think they did fly New York to Paris. The problem with the Concorde was that they couldn't use it over land, because over land they had to keep the speed below the speed of sound or they'd break all the windows in all the buildings and eardrums and all that craziness. So it only is really useful over water. When we were on it, they would take off from an airport and fly out to where the water started. Then they would tell you--okay, we'd be about thirty-five thousand feet--and they'd say, "Okay, we're going to put the reheat on and go up to sixty thousand where we can actually fly at fifteen hundred miles an hour.” And in the front of the cabin there were these digital indicators that would show you what your altitude was, what the speed of the plane was, and what the outside temperature was. And you sit there and look at these things, and all of a sudden they just start to go around about as fast as they could while they were going up. I tried one time, when we were going up, to keep my head off of the headrest, and with both hands I could not. It just pushed it back. The thrust of those afterburners, it's just fantastic. It was a nice ride, quiet.

EG: It was two weeks; it took us about three months to prepare to go to it at Hershey to get all the medications.

SM: Oh really?

EG: Yeah.

GG: Well when you're going into foreign countries, you have to medicate or you get all kinds of diseases.

EG: We were gone, what, two weeks?

GG: It was three weeks.

EG: Three weeks, and we would never be on the plane more than, what was it?

GG: It was about three hours--

EG: (at same time) Three hours.

GG: --because that's all the fuel they could carry. But in three hours you could go forty-five hundred miles.

SM: How many--was the plane full?

GG: Oh yes.

EG: Ninety-nine.

GG: I think it was ninety-two.

EG: Was it ninety-two?

GG: Ninety-two, and they had a crew of fifteen if I recall, something like that. There were four in the cockpit; there was the pilot, copilot, the flight engineer and the navigator in the cockpit. And then they had the cabin stewards.

EG: But we had three days at everywhere we went, and they--oh it was just wonderful, all the things they taught us and showed us, and we were all happy. Most all of them were from Texas, and there were two of us from Pennsylvania.

GG: Well she got to ride in the cockpit.

EG: Oh yes. (laughs)

GG: You have a picture; I probably have the picture with me here someplace if I can locate it.

SM: Did you have your wings on?

EG: No I didn't have my wings on. (all laugh) But I went up to the cockpit to take off, and we went down the runway at 250 miles per hour.

GG: There's your picture.

EG: (laughs) I found him looking at my pictures. When they took me, the pilot said, "Now if you can't see out, come up on my lap." (all laugh)

SM: (to Blair) Do you want the picture?

BW: Yeah.

SM: Hold it up there so the camera can get it.

GG: Oh sure.

EG: It was a very interesting--

GG: Oh there's a picture--oh that's a Ferris wheel.

EG: No, it is Vienna. It's like a--when you get on, it's as long as a train, up in the air.

SM: Oh this is the one with the cable cars.

EG: Yes.

GG: Of course we go to see grandchildren a good bit. Yeah, I think that's a great--

EG: That's a great-grandchild.

SM: What is your total count between the two of you?

EG: He has one great, and I have two.

SM: All right.

EG: Yes, two girls, and that's nice.

SM: Well now let's come back to Carlisle again, since it's so exciting that you go jaunting out. (Elizabeth laughs)

GG: We get off on too many stories.

SM: Because you were talking before about your wedding anniversary and the Embers and--will you talk a little bit about the Embers and about your party at the Embers? How did you get into the Embers? And I know that George has business interest in hotels, so--

GG: I had bought the Embers; the owner of it was in a divorce situation, and he called me up one day. He knew that I owned a couple other hotels out at Exit 52, and he said, "Would you like another one?” And I said, "I don't know, why?” And he said, "Well I need to sell it.” So I bought it, and of course it had a nice banquet operation going, and our anniversary was coming up, so she decided to have it there. She had pulled a birthday party on me down at the Hotel Hershey one time, surprise party, I walked in and everybody's singing "Happy Birthday" to me.

EG: With a fifteen piece orchestra. (both laugh)

GG: Oh yeah, she knows how to throw a party, let's put it that way. Anyway, she decided to have it out at the Embers. I think it probably cost me just as much at the Embers as it did down at the Hotel Hershey, because after the birthday party down at the Hotel Hershey they presented me with the bill, and your eyeballs go around. When I finally got the total bill out at the Embers, I did the same thing. But she knows how to throw a party. We had two or three hundred people at the party, I guess, wasn't it?

EG: Two hundred and fifty.

GG: You had two hundred and--okay, well I know there were an awful lot of people and she hired a big orchestra.

EG: I thought he needed that because I never heard him talk about having a birthday party with anyone, and I thought he should have something. And I took my daughter along, and she said--I said, "Maybe I shouldn't do this.” And she said, "Oh I think he'll like it." (laughs)

GG: This was the surprise birthday party.

EG: Yeah.

SM: This is the Hershey one?

EG: And he knew the fellow at Hershey--

GG: Her decoy to get me to this party at Hotel Hershey. A friend of mine was president of the public broadcasting system, and he called me up one day and he said he was having a little difficulty here in Harrisburg, and would I go along with him to smooth things out. I didn't know much about what it was, but I assumed it was with the cable industry or something. He and his wife pick us up, and we're merrily going down to Harrisburg, chatting away. And on the way I happen to see one of our friends in a car and waved to, didn't think anything of it. Apparently they passed us and we were going slower, so apparently the friend got to the birthday party before I got there. Anyway, we get in there and they take us upstairs and here's this big ballroom, open the door and everybody's singing "Happy Birthday"  to me.

EG: Well all the fellows came, and what did they do that evening?

GG: They roasted me, naturally. (Elizabeth laughs)

EG: I had them all there. (laughs)

GG: I think I gave you [Meehan] a tape of that roast, but I'm not sure.

EG: It was fun for him.

GG: Oh yeah, her surprise parties were nice.

EG: Only did two in my life, so--

SM: I think it was very deserving.

EG: Other than just with family.

SM: So, the Embers you had then, and then you had an anniversary--this was your tenth anniversary party that you had then?

EG: Yes, and then we had one other birthday party when he was 70 years old.  I guess it was a couple of years ago. He said, "I think we're going to London.” I thought, Oh that's wonderful, I like London. I have a granddaughter who is living there now. She's a marine biologist, and she's working there. So we got on the plane, and we left, and we got off and we got a bus out to this little area, and guess where we spent the next week? Living in--

GG: Oh you're talking about that trip--

EG: Go ahead.

GG: I had an opportunity to get a tour with a couple of other people that spent a week in London and several days at Windsor Castle.

EG: We lived there for the week.

GG: We actually got an apartment in Windsor Castle. It was after--they had had a fire and burned part of it, and so they had rebuilt it, and I think the queen was just trying to recover some of the costs of rebuilding it, so they were leasing it out. But we were right next to the chapel in Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle was sort of a fort, with a big wall around it, and then there's the area where the queen was, and then there's an open area, and there was a chapel there and the sort of hotel that we were in. They have ceremonies there. When we were there, the Queen Mum--she was still alive--I think she was celebrating her hundredth birthday, and of course they had parties with that. And she--the queen also had her Order of the Garter ceremony. Every four or five years, they bring all the civil servants who have risen up to high levels, generals and whatnot. And they retire, and they have a place there where they can live; a lot of them retire there. She makes them members of the Order of the Garter. So we got to go to the Order of the Garter ceremonies. And they had a ceremony for the Queen Mum in the chapel; we got to go into that. It was nice.

EG: It was wonderful living there because we had, every morning, someone speaking to us from their military or ours. And when I came home I looked at what I had written, and it said, "I smell the coming of a war."

GG: The winds of war, the winds of war you called it.

EG: The winds of war. And right after that we were hit in New York. And they thought it was they who were going to be hit because they knew something was going on, but they didn't know what.

SM: So this was the summer of 2001.

GG: The group that I was with had managed to get a dinner set up with the--in Parliament--you know, give us the real tour. And each table at the dinner had a lord, a member of the House of Lords. So we got at a table and Elizabeth said, "There's no lord here.” I said, "Well, okay, but we've got something better than that.” She said, "What?” I said, "Well the guy sitting on the other side of you is the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra."

EG: I still have his address, I have where I can get all his music. (both laugh)

GG: Well, that was better than a lord.

EG: So I said, "Isn't that him? We didn't get any lord." (all laugh) Well then he said he was what he was, and I said--oh he was so talented--I said, "How old were you when you started to play instruments?” He said thirty-two. (both laugh) So he was very talented.

GG: She always asks that question; she was a singer herself, she's a soprano. When she's with somebody that has been on a stage or something, she'll go talk to them afterwards and ask them, "When did you start singing? When did you start"--

EG: When did this happen?

GG: And a lot of them come out with four, and seven, and eight and things like that, and this guy's thirty-two.when he got interested in music.

SM: Was this Baron Bourne(??)?

GG: I don't remember what his--

EG: I forget his name but it's in my telephone book. (both laugh)

GG: Yeah, she calls him up frequently.

EG: Oh sure.

GG: Anyway, we had a good time.

EG: In twenty-three years, I mean, it's just been very fortunate for us to do that.

GG: Oh has it been that long? I thought we were at twenty-two and counting.

EG: Well three's coming. (laughs)

SM: Any parties in the making?

EG: No.

SM: Well, I would like to just touch on, since you mentioned this conductor who was next to you, if you would talk at all about your first husband who was the conductor of the band--

EG: Oh yes.

SM: --in Carlisle and the director of music at Carlisle High School.

EG: I went to school with--playing a clarinet--with Lynn Brenneman from Boiling Springs. And when I graduated, he said, "You have got to play in the Carlisle Band. I don't want you to stop.” Well, I tried, and he tried, and they wouldn't let me play because I was a girl. So I did other things too, go to classes to get a job, and that sort of thing. And it happened that--ten years later they didn't have any girls. So finally, I just married their conductor. (all laugh) And he couldn't do anything for me.

GG: And you still didn't get in the band.

EG: I still didn't get in the band. Nineteen seventy, they left women in. I was putting two girls through college. (all laugh)

GG: Well you talk about what did she do, she was in the plays at Boiling Springs, and she's over here [indicates on picture]. She was the lead female singer. She even got some of her--

EG: That's because I was studying voice(?).

GG: Like Up in the Air--

EG: Yeah.

GG: She was actually the one that sang the leads in these operettas--were they operettas--that the high school put on. Well, she also played clarinet in the band, as I understand it.

EG: Oh yeah.

GG: I didn't know her then.

SM: So how was it that you met Hank, then?

EG: Well all we girls had crushes on him for years. (all laugh)

GG: You just wanted--

EG: Because we went to band practice, and our bands got together, and we were in state, band,  and all these fellas would rehearse us. So all of us thought he was Harry James; you know, he is a Harry James. (laughs) We teenagers. So that's how I knew him; I didn't know him personally, just the band director. And when I was--one Christmas after I was working, I had to go get a Christmas tree for our office because it was getting close, and it was snowing and raining. And he said, "Aren't you that kid from Boiling Springs?" (laughs) I'm up at the Square. He said, "What are you doing out here?” And I said, "I'm taking this back to the office.” He said, "How are you getting it there?” I said, "I'm going to drag it." (both laugh) So he said, "Well I'll take it back for you, and I'll put it in your office then.” And I think he said, "I guess you're teaching now, aren't you?” I said, "Well, I--I didn't go." (laughs) And he said, "Oh I thought you would be teaching.” So I thought that I won't ever see him again, so my neighbor had a party and he was there. And I couldn't believe that; eighteen months later he called me. (laughs) And we got married, but we were married for twenty-seven years. But it was--

GG: We're catching up.

SM: Yes you are.

EG: He was so good with my two girls because he was putting them in the band all the time, and I was keeping them busy with music too, and sent them to church to sing and so forth. So we just had a great time with the girls by seeing that they were going to--probably not study music--but they'd be going to college. They were very good students. I think it was great [for them].

SM: Well then, you met and you were a clarinet player yourself, and you met another clarinet player.

EG: Yes, and guess what? I walked in one day to  George's house, and his son was home. And I had never been there, but I--you asked me to come over for something. And I heard this clarinet player, and I thought it was Jon, his son, and I said, "I have never heard a tone as close to Benny Goodman.” And I was looking for Jon. Here George was sitting there playing it. So I made him practice. Mine was over; I couldn't--I was too old to practice. And so I got him into the Carlisle Band, and now he's playing in a professional band in Florida with all professionals. He's still playing clarinet; he's very good. I think you could have had a career in music if you had chosen that route, is that correct?

EG: Yes.

GG: I had two music scholarships offered me when I graduated from high school, but I wasn't interested because the pay back then was nonexistent. You taught music, and that didn't work out. I was more interested in getting a college education and learning, but I had actually been in the Carlisle Band. I had a situation where one of my sons was getting in trouble, not necessarily doing his homework the way he should. And I had to take him under my wing, taught him how to play the clarinet, and got him in the Carlisle Band, and stayed with him and actually taught him how to march. He never was in the high school band; this was the Carlisle, the town band. And I just stayed with the band after he left for college for a few years, and then business got the best of me; I couldn't spend the time on it. So after she got me back so I could play decently again, I went back to the Carlisle Band. I've been there ever since.

EG: I read the music; he played piano beautifully. I could never--I played piano but not as what his music was; it was very difficult. So I made him practice ten minutes a day [scales only].

GG: Oh yeah, get the bullwhip out. (all laugh)

SM: Don't want to make Elizabeth mad.

EG: I like music in the house.

GG: I don't practice ten minutes a day anymore, but last night I stumbled around a couple pieces, and when I got up I heard her say, "That was beautiful.” It does make you feel good--

SM: It's nice to have an audience.

GG: --when somebody says that.

SM: Now we have been talking about forty-five minutes, so I think today we'd like to wrap it up after about an hour. If there's something that you can think of that you--a story that you want to tell now in this session before we have to close out?

GG: One of my favorite stories we haven't touched on is when we got married, so I'll go into that one. We'd been going together for several years.

EG: Four years, I am sure.

GG: Each of us had said to the other, looked at us straight in the eye and said, I have no intention of ever getting married again. I can remember that one session down at Lancaster, I'm driving down towards Lancaster and I look at her and I said, "I have no intention of getting married.” But anyway, my daughter, my youngest daughter had scheduled her wedding for late May in 1992, and this was late 1991 sometime. It was getting to a place where I figured, I have such an interest in this woman that I really want to ask her to marry me. So I did. She didn't hear me.

EG: I didn't hear him. (all laugh) And I wasn't going to ask him either.

GG: A couple weeks later, she's talking around and it's sounding like she really would like to get married, and I said, "Well you know, I asked you if you'd marry me, but you didn't answer me, so what's the deal here? We're going to tramp on Jenny’s wedding if we don't do it now. I just assumed we'd get married now and let Jenny have the next spring for her wedding."

EG: That's what I was thinking about when he said that.

GG: So finally she--

EG: But I couldn't hear him.

GG: So finally she says, "Well give me a minute.” And I said, "Okay.” And she said yes. (all laugh) That was a very short minute.

EG: I said, "I have to think about--you have to give me time to think about it. Yes.” And he said, "Where would you like to go on a honeymoon?” And I said, "We should go to Switzerland, don't you think?" (laughs)

GG: Well that was something of interest to me. My ancestry goes back to the Palatinate, which was the people that were kicked out of Switzerland when the Roman Catholics took over, and the Protestants were all kicked out and they all came to Lancaster County. And that's where I came from--okay, you're (Meehan?) the same thing. So I had always wanted to visit Switzerland, never had, and I had a friend that had lived in the States. He was a manufacturer's representative for one of the suppliers that I had supplying me with equipment that we resold. His name was Fred Schultz, and he had brought his family over to live in New Jersey, and apparently the schools just weren't something that they were interested in. So his wife, Rosalie, finally talked him into going back to Switzerland, quit his job here--another job in Switzerland. But I had stayed in touch with him. So I called up Fred and I said, "We'd like to come over and visit," and I didn't tell him why, "and would you be available?” So I set up with him after I had bought my plane tickets; I set up with him to have dinner with them when we got to Zurich. Okay, that was alright, but we got married, we decided to go down to Winchester, Virginia, where there's no tests; you can just go in, get a license and get married. In Pennsylvania you have to have blood tests and all that crazy, and the word would get out. We weren't interested in that. So we got married in Winchester, hopped on a TWA Flight from Dulles to Paris, and in Paris we got off the airplane, got on the airplane to go to Zurich and never left the dock. We sat there for about three, four, five hours, and even the pilot was getting really bent out of shape because no one would tell him why he couldn't get clearance to leave. Apparently there was a strike, and the only planes that were being allowed to fly were French, Air France or something like that, and we were on TWA. So we sat there; finally the pilot said that he had managed to get clearance to go park the plane on the south end of the field, and there would be a bus there to take us someplace, he didn't know where. That took another couple of hours; we finally got off the airplane onto a bus, they had to roll stairs up, and they gave us tickets on the train to go from Paris to Zurich. I didn't even know where the train station was; managed to finally get to the train station, managed to find the train, managed to get into Zurich, oh it was awful. On the way, we were on these cars where there's about three or four seats this way, three or four seats opposite you, and you sit and you look at people across there. And there's a baggage rack above you, and you put your baggage up there but it's only half as wide as it should be, and the bags are always rocking, you're wondering which one's going to fall down next, and they did; they'd fall down on you. Elizabeth got tired of that, went up to the bar car; I had to stay there because--

EG: I don't drink. (laughs)

GG: --because of our suitcases, because I didn't want somebody to go through them or steal them. So I had to stay there. Well she stayed and stayed and stayed; finally she came back and she said, wow, she just had to tell somebody that she just got married. So she had told somebody up there and they had a big party for her. (both laugh)

EG: But the funniest thing was us getting on the train.

GG: Well, you're talking about in, what's that town where you go from France to Switzerland? Basel.

EG: Yes, yes.

GG: You have to get off at Basel and go through customs. So we get off and try to go through customs; we had met a guy that was teaching at the--

EG: He was a professor.

GG: --at the American University someplace in Switzerland, made friends with him. So he helps us; we go through this customs, and he went through, I went through, and Elizabeth didn't come through. And of course you can't see because the doors close, nobody to talk to. We stood there and waited and waited and waited; finally he's looking at his watch and he said, "You know, these trains run on the hour, and if you're not on it, you don't go, and you have to wait until the next day.” He said, "I'm going to go up the walkway across the tracks, go down, get on the train, and I'll hold the door open, and they can't go until you get on the train because when the door is open the train brakes will not release.” We each had big suitcases, you know, dragging those around. Finally she comes through; we grab those suitcases, go up across this crosswalk--

EG: About thirty steps up and down.

GG: --down the other side, dragging the suitcases, and he's back there waving his hand. And I can see at the back of the train, there was a conductor, and he's looking under the train trying to see why it wouldn't go because you could see it jerk every now and then; the engineer was trying to make it go. We went back to where he was and got on, he pulled his foot out, the door closed, the train left. (Elizabeth laughs) They left the conductor at the station. But we did get on the train. Well anyway, we got to Zurich and crashed. And I called up my friend, Fred Schultz, and Rosalie answered and she says, "George, where have you been?" (all laugh)

EG: It took us two days to get there.

GG: I said, "Rosalie, it's a long story. I'll tell you later.” Long story short, we did have dinner with them, she called up Triple A in Switzerland for us, and they said, "It's going to be beautiful, it's November, it's not the tourist season. There's not going to be anybody around, no snow predicted or anything. We start off in our rented car, and it snowed every day we were in Switzerland. (all laugh) But that's--

EG: That was our life.

GG: We had a wonderful time, yes, visited--when there are no tourists there, you have to call ahead and find out which hotel in the town is open. You couldn't make reservations. You call up, and you say, "Okay, we'll be there tonight.” So you go to the next hotel or next city and use that hotel. Then that night you call ahead to find out which one is open. So we did that the whole way around Switzerland, had a wonderful time.

EG: And had a wonderful time with the Italians. (laughs)

SM: Well it sounds like you've had not just a marriage, an adventure, from the beginning. (all laugh)

GG: It was an adventure; the honeymoon was an adventure, yep. There's more to it than that, but if you're out of time--

SM: Well maybe we can pick that up next time. It's just delightful to speak with you and hear your stories.

GG:  Yes,people have stories, and that's the main purpose of this whole program in my estimation. Let people tell their stories. Their genealogies give the facts, but the stories have to accompany them so that you can relate to the people.

SM: That's right, and we want to know about these people who have made this possible for us to do this for others, and we thank you so much for your gift and for making this possible and for talking to us today.

GG: We're happy to give you a couple of our stories.

EG: We have a lot of other stories--we have nineteen grandchildren altogether, I think.

GG: However that is.

EG: I have five.

GG: Our children have been busy.

SM: Okay, I guess we'll stop for now, and then we'll--

GG: Thank you. End of interview

Citation:
Susan Meehan, "Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner, August 27, 2014," in the Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner Digital Library, http://gardnerlibrary.org/stories/elizabeth-and-george-gardner, (accessed Month Day, Year).

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