Stirring up memories
March 2, 2005
Sure, Peggy and Bill Wildhagen love
to sit in their sunny Bainbridge living room and watch the weather report when
the focus is on the “lake effect snows burying Buffalo, New
smile and know they’ve been there and done that.
But, then, Peggy and Bill are always smiling and always happy that they
are watching the weather in Bainbridge, and they have been for the twelve years
that they have lived here.
Just ask either one of them.
And while you are at it, get them to tell you about moving to
Bainbridge. Or let me tell you.
When retirement time rolled around for these two—Bill from a dental
supply company, Peggy after 41 years on the night shift as a registered
nurse—they looked south. They
made a couple of winter odysseys and made up their minds to leave the cold
winters behind, even though it meant leaving the two sons, Billy and Karl. (Daughter Karen lived all over they
world as her husband, Ed Budney pursued a military career.)
They’d visited around in Florida and had
about decided on South Carolina, when one lucky
day they picked up a magazine named The
Senior Beacon and saw an ad for Bainbridge, Georgia as a great place to
retire. Sounded good to both of
them, so they had the American Automobile Association draw up a route to bring
them through the First Port
City. And bye-bye Buffalo!
“We knew right away,” Peggy explains and Bill nods agreement. They walked through Willis Park on a
lovely spring day. “Strangers came
up and introduced themselves, welcomed us, and we knew. It was like going to Eden—flowers, and no
They certainly did. They
left the park and drove to a realtor’s office—a few months later, they moved
in. The Post-Searchlight told about them just
after they decided to make the move.
It’s great to update that report about these Bainbridge boosters.
Peggy and Bill aren’t just from Buffalo, both were born there. They lived in
different parts of town and went to different high schools, but both went to
work at Freddie’s Doughnuts Shop.
(“The best place in town for doughnuts,” Peggy says.) Bill was in the back making the goodies
and Peggy worked up front selling them.
Bill was a mature sixteen, but Peggy, at fifteen, wasn’t exactly a legal
worker. When the inspectors came
by, she’d run and hide.
I asked if it was love at first sight. And it wasn’t. Both of them had their minds on the
future, and on what was going on in the world, for it was the turbulent time of
World War II.
When Bill turned seventeen, he joined the Navy. Victory in Europe had been declared, but we were still at war, and
Bill wanted to serve. Soon, he was
at sea on the U.S.S. Huntington visiting ports in the Mediterranean.
And guess what Bill did aboard that ship. He was a baker!
And he still bakes. Fresh
and fragrant loaves of bread graced the kitchen counter, the day I visited.
Back in Buffalo, Peggy did her part. She’d planned to be a nurse since she
was a tiny girl, hospitalized with appendicitis. She, along with 164 other young women,
applied at the Edward J. Meyer Hospital School of Nursing. In the fall, she was one of the
sixty-five new student nurses. But
she was more than a student nurse.
She was an Army Cadet Nurse.
She signed up before the Allies achieved total victory. Her obligation was to serve as long as
States was at war. The war ended, of course, before Peggy
finished her three-year training.
Nevertheless, it was always her intention to go in the Army Nurse Corps
and see the world. Except—
Except that young Bill Wildhagen had finished his stint in the Navy and
was back over at Freddie’s turning out doughnuts and other delicacies. (Ask him about the peanut
sticks—yummy!) One fateful night,
some of the student nurses got hungry and in bad need of a snack.
“I know a fellow who works in the best shop in town, and we can get a
dozen for 15 cents.” They were off
to Freddie’s. This time, it was
“Will you go out with me?” Bill whispered to Peggy as the gang of student
nurses headed for the door. They
married on June 24, 1950.
The family flourished in Buffalo, or
actually the adjacent town of Tonawanda, about a
block and a half from the Niagara River. Peggy continued her night-shift
nursing. (“It’s a great way to
raise a family.”) It’s hard to
believe, but she tells me she was bored. So, she went back to school. In 1968, with a full-time job and two
teenagers at home, Peggy earned her Bachelor’s degree from D. Youville
College—and that’s not all the busy lady did! She and Bill also welcomed a new baby
boy into the family!
Meanwhile, Bill worked at Freddie’s—sometimes seven days a week for
twelve or fourteen hours. He went
to college, too, Erie County
Community College. Then he shifted his career, going to
work for the Patterson Dental Company for twenty-one years.
Was moving to Bainbridge a good decision? I think so. Peggy knows so. She’s kept the advertisement, the
brochure and a very special letter written by Mayor Reynolds welcoming them to
the community. They’ve loved every
minute since they’ve arrived.
Peggy recalls their very first visitor was Alfred Rogers who took them to
the Chamber of Commerce breakfast and made sure they had plenty of new
friends. And Pauline Cooper was
just behind Alfred in welcoming them.
Retirement doesn’t mean sitting around, at least not for the
Wildhagens. Bill is busy with his
computer and photography.
Peggy—well, the list goes on.
They attend the First United
Methodist Church; Peggy is in the Chancel Choir and
Heavenly Sunlight Singers and a member of the Keenagers. She’s busy with the
Historical Society, the Pilot Club, the American Legion Auxiliary—I think I’m
missing some. And this is all when
they are not in the yard tending to the herb garden.
There’s still time to cook.
They take turns, but Peggy says Bill “still thinks he’s cooking for the
young men on the ship!” The freezer
Peggy shared this recipe that comes from a friend in Buffalo. I asked how long these tasty pickles
would keep in the refrigerator.
“Around here? About two
days.” But covered, they should
make it longer than that. They are
Buffalo Refrigerated Sweet
6 cups sliced medium cucumbers
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 green pepper, sliced thin
Mix and do not heat:
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
Pour the liquid over the cucumber mix. Put into plastic containers and
refrigerate for 12 hours.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network