ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Hillsboro has a resident who not only lived shortly after the turn of the century, but has an amazing recollection of what it was like.
Margaret Eitzen recently celebrated her 100th birthday.
Born July 26, 1903, Eitzen was the youngest of six children born to Frank and Katherina Regier near Moundridge.
Raised on a farm during her childhood, Eitzen remembers milking cows and feeding the chickens.
“I didn’t think life was all that hard back then,” she said. “We only went to town to buy things we really needed, like sugar and flour. But I didn’t really pay attention to what they cost back then. I guess I wasn’t paying for them so I wasn’t really interested.”
Eitzen remembers having a special friend to pass the days, a Collie dog named Snider.
“I used to play hide-and-seek with him,” she said. “I had him trained to pull me in the wagon.”
She also remembers a fellow in the community that always talked about airplanes.
“Most of the people didn’t believe airplanes could actually fly,” she said. “They always teased him and called him ‘Airship Dave.'”
Eitzen said her family lived about a half mile from the Paris School in McPherson County.
“We had a one-room schoolhouse that served students beginning at age 7 up until they were in the ninth grade,” she said.
Eitzen also remembers when her family bought the first car in the area.
“It was a 1914 Studebaker,” she said. “We drove down Dutch Avenue and everyone came out and watched us drive by. We had the top down when we drove down the road.”
World War I stirs memories for Eitzen, too, but not all favorable.
“They had a send-off for the soldiers at Buhler, and we’d go over there and see them off,” she said.
While in grade school at Paris school, Eitzen played volleyball. She graduated from the ninth grade in 1919.
Eitzen remembers voting for Warren Harding, who was eventually elected the 29th president of the United States.
“That was the first year women could vote,” Eitzen said.
The 19th Amendment, signed Aug. 26, 1920, gave women the right to vote.
Eitzen moved with her parents to Moundridge and began high school, where her grades were good enough that she was able to skip end-of-semester exams.
After she graduated in 1923 at the age of 20, Eitzen for one year at home with her parents. She rode to Newton on the “Doodle Bug,” a train with about four cars and a caboose.
While in Newton, Margaret attended business school for nine months before returning home.
A friend, Emma Goeble, suggested she go to nursing training at Halstead Hospital, which she did from 1925-1928. Eitzen was paid $4 a week to train on the floor with time off for classes.
Thus began a long career in nursing.
After training, she started as a private-duty nurse on the surgical ward at Halstead Hospital.
In 1934 she received a call from the hospital in Hillsboro, asking her to help during a busy time.
While there, Eitzen met physician A.C. Eitzen, who was so impressed with Margaret’s work that he offered her a job, which she accepted in 1935 at a salary of $35 per month-not including room and board, which cost her $12 per month.
Margaret was informed there were three eligible bachelors in Hillsboro, one of which was A.C. Eitzen’s brother, Herb, a dentist. After dating for three years and an engagement of one year, the two was married in 1937.
The couple raised one child, Alan. Herb passed away in 1964 after after battling Parkinson’s disease.
Margaret Eitzen retired from nursing around 1970 after a career of more than 40 years.
“Nursing changed so much, I wouldn’t dare go back,” she said. “I don’t go to the doctor much to know what’s going on anymore. They have so many new drugs and treatments that I can’t keep up with it.”
After retiring from nursing, Eitzen began a second career: traveling. From 1971 until 1994 she went on 17 trips with Prudent Tours, visiting Canada several times and every state in the nation except Alaska.
She also took four trips sponsored by The Hutchinson News and several Sunflower trips. An Ozark Music tour ended her travels in 1994.
“I always loved to travel,” she said. “But I wish I could have traveled with my husband some.”
Eitzen lived in apartments until 2000, when she moved into Park Village, where she continues to reside.
Driving a car well into her 90s, Eitzen finally quit taking friends to doctor’s appointments, much to her chagrin.
She continued to exercise her mind by doing crossword puzzles.
Eitzen seldom complains about aches and pains of growing older. Although her eyesight isn’t as good as it was, she continues to read with the help of magnifiers.
“I don’t like the fact that I can’t get around like I used to,” she said. “It was really hard for me at first when I couldn’t drive anymore.
“I don’t like the fact that it’s hard for me to walk unless I use a walker or a cane,” she added.
“But I still like life.”