Record Street’s Elder Little Sisters
The Record Street Home in Frederick, Maryland, is a very special place. In continuous operation for over a century, this home for older women was established in a three-story red brick house just steps from the town hall that President Abraham Lincoln visited after the Civil War. Today, the 19 residents of Record Street Home participate in a thriving community where, according to resident Eloise Grove, age 83, they “are waited on hand and foot.”
Board members at the Record Street Home contribute to that loving care. Every year, board members are matched as “Big Sisters” to individual residents, and over the years these pairs have developed close friendships. Several “Little Sisters,” all in their 80’s and 90’s, were interviewed by their Record Street “Big Sisters” during StoryCorps Door-to-Door’s visit on Veteran’s Day. Most of these conversations focused on the women’s experiences and memories of World War II.
Robbie McLean, 88, told her Big Sister Libby Stauffer about mistakenly receiving military service letters because the recruitment offices believed “Robbie” must be a man. However, her fiancée did serve 39 months in the Pacific Theater and was lost in the jungle for more than a year of that time. Robbie remembered one Christmas morning on which she finally received a call from him: His ship had returned home to San Francisco. For Robbie, this was “the best Christmas present I ever got.”
Another Board member, Peg Denton, interviewed her Little Sister, friend, and master quilter Agatha Lantz about becoming a nurse’s aide during the war. Agatha, who gives her age as “one hundred and a half,” was encouraged to work at a Maryland hospital because so many nurses had gone overseas to treat wounded soldiers. Choosing the maternity ward, she occasionally served as a wet nurse for undernourished infants when no supplemental food sources were available. Today, Agatha and Peg share a mutual love of quilting, and while making their recording, they decided it was time for Agatha to count up the total number of quilts she has made over her long life.
The Record Street Home partnered with another assisted living facility, Homewood at Crumwood Farms, and the Downtown Frederick Partnership, a civic organization, to host StoryCorps and celebrate the experiences of many lifelong Frederick residents. Other participants included some of the first members of the U.S. Nurse Cadet Corps and the Navy WAVES, a farmer who starred in a victory garden promotional film by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and military veterans who fought on the European front. Their experiences during World War II have left a rich legacy that is now preserved for generations to come.