Among the guests at Dorothy Tandy’s birthday party last Thursday was her newest great-grandchild, a one year old baby. "There’s just 99 years between us," Tandy said happily.
When asked whether she had had a busy week, her daughter, Dorothy Fleming, interjected, "You’ve had a busy life."
In addition to Fleming, Tandy has one son, seven grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. She was born in Connellsville, Penn. She remembers chasing after the ice man to collect the small shards of ice he would give away to children. When her father gave her a nickel to buy a nickel ice cream cone, she would use it to be buy five tiny one-penny cones instead. A bit later in life she was almost run over by a locomotive when a parade she was marching in ended at one of the region’s coal mines. The parade was celebrating the end of World War I.
Tandy remembers her Grandmother Fuehrer taking her to a Chautauqua, a traveling exhibition of culture, which presented a symphony with an anvil chorus. When the anvils were struck, lights would flash. When asked to describe whether the transition to contemporary technologies, such as cars, had come suddenly or gradually, she replied "The shock came when I saw the Hindenburg, or was it the Shenandoah…in Lakehurst, NJ." The Hindenberg dirigible fell from the sky in a collapsing ball of flame in 1937.
Tandy spent 32 years as a teacher. "I taught in Bartley, WVA, which was in a coal mine and had an elementary and a high school combined," she said. "From there I was given a principalship in a little cove school that they built" to take the overflow from the high school in War, WVA, "it was up in a holler." This school was one of the first in the country to participate in President Lyndon Johnson’ free breakfast program. "Some of those little fellas didn’t have anything to eat," Tandy recalled.
During the late 1960’s, Dorothy Fleming’s husband was serving in Vietnam. That "brought [the war] very close to us," Tandy says. "I don’t like wars." Even after seeing one century’s worth of wars, she said that her attitude has not changed. "I rejoice when they’re over."
Tandy said her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren "are the joy of my life, they’re what keeps me alive… It’s wonderful to imagine what they’re going to do. Can you imagine our little one year old in the next one hundred years, what he’s going to face?" She paused for a moment. "It’s scary."
Tandy said she loves reading. "I do not watch TV, except for the news – George Mason – Oh mercy." When asked how she had remained so young, Tandy said she used to dance. "The doctors are proud of me that I’m keeping mentally fit," she added. "It’s all the reading- mysteries, biographies, travel books."
Tandy is concerned about global warming. "If people could see those glaciers, I think they call it calving, how much of the iceberg is dropping off, that water has to go somewhere." Her mood became more downbeat as she acknowledged the changes in society over the last century. She worried about the youth. "What temptations there are today," she said. She also bemoaned increasing workloads at school, lack of time to eat together at the dinner table, and poor diet. "It’s amazing to watch people walk down the street," she said, "Most of them have something to eat in their hand."
But Tandy has not given up hope. She still votes. "If you’re going to fuss about it," she said, "You better get in there and do your part."