1927 Cameron Grad Tours New School

CAMERON – In her 104 years on earth there isn’t much Margaret Moninger hasn’t seen, but last week she had another new experience – touring the new Cameron High School.

Moninger, who turns 105 on Monday, graduated from the original high school building in Cameron, then called Hilltop School, in 1927. She went on to receive her teaching certificate from then West Liberty State Teachers College and taught in one-room school houses for three years before getting married.

Originally from Mount Carmel, Pa., the family home was in walking distance to Woodruff, W.Va., where she could catch a train to Cameron. Since her brother, Anon, lived in Cameron, she moved in with his family so she could attend high school there. She trekked about a mile to class each day. The nearest Pennsylvania high school was too far to walk to – and she did not have transportation to get there.

”I remember a lot of these people,” Moninger said while looking through an old graduation record book at the school. Moninger’s name was among the 38 others in her class, neatly written in cursive.

Moninger was accompanied by her son, Calvin Moninger, and daughter, Shirley Zimmerman. Moninger took delight in looking at an old picture of the Hilltop School. She pointed out the location of her classroom on the first floor, noting there were three other rooms used in the two-story brick structure.

In addition to her classmates, she also remembered her teacher.

”She was a good teacher, but she was rough. You did what she said – you didn’t get into anything,” Moninger said.

During the tour, Moninger – who used only a cane to help get around and the new school’s elevators to reach the second floor – was impressed with the structure and amazed by its size.

”It’s very, very nice. I’ve never seen a school like this. If a child can’t get an education here they probably can’t get one,” she said.

What Moninger said she likes best about the facility is that it is ”new.”

”It has things that I wanted to do, but didn’t have,” she said. ”I wanted to be a stenographer. Do they have that here?”

A number of Marshall County educators also took part in the tour, as did members of the chamber of commerce, Grand Vue Park officials and others. Assistant Superintendent Wayne Simms and Principal Jack Cain led the tour, providing details of the building’s construction and what courses are offered. Since school was in session, the visitors got the chance to see some rooms in use.

Moninger was fascinated by the number of computers throughout the building, but noted she wished the library had more books in it. She uses her computer at home to play solitaire.

Zimmerman noted her mother doesn’t watch TV unless the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing. Otherwise, she would rather read a book or a newspaper.

”I like to read most kinds of books. I read the Bible the most,” Moninger said, adding she also likes comedic stories.

After eating a sandwich, green pepper soup and pie in the school cafeteria and chatting with others in the tour group, Moninger quipped that she enjoyed the school so much she was ”going to come here and live.” And as for the secret to her longevity, it apparently will have to remain just that.

”I can’t give that away,” she said while smiling.

Moninger grew up on a farm in Mount Carmel with her three sisters and five brothers. There they raised cows, hogs, chickens and more.

”We played outside and we were all able to get along,” she said. ”Anything that needed done we all helped. … We raised just about everything needed to live on. And we had our own garden.”

Because the family was self-sufficient on its farm, Moninger said they barely noticed when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

”We had everything we needed,” she said.

Entertainment, she noted, consisted of using one’s imagination and taking long walks.

”We made dollhouses out of shoeboxes. And we cut dolls out of the Sears catalogue,” Moninger said.

Moninger married her husband, Donley, in 1929. He passed away in 1995. They moved to his parents’ home in New Freeport, Pa., to help care for them. And in 1933 they built a house next door, where Moninger continues to live today. Zimmerman helps take care of her and lives nearby.

New Freeport is about 16 miles from Cameron.

In addition to farming, her husband took various construction jobs to help make ends meet.

”He did just about anything to make a living,” Moninger said.

Moninger’s family is inviting people to an open house to celebrate her 105th birthday from 2-4 p.m. today at the Center Township Fire Department in Rogersville, Pa. No gifts are necessary.