Note: This is the cover feature that will appear in the April 2021 issue of Centerville-Washington Neighbors Magazine, which is mailed monthly to 3,661 homes in the community. The photo of Pauline Silver in her home are from Stump Photography. The outside photos were submitted by Pauline.
By Jeff Louderback
Pauline Silver is a literal and figurative Centerville treasure.
There aren’t many—if any—people who were born in the midst of World War I and the Spanish flu and can remember the stock market crash of 1929, the subsequent Great Depression years and their wedding day in 1936. That’s because there aren’t many—if any—Centerville residents who are 102.
Born on July 22, 1918, Pauline arrived in Centerville from Miamisburg in 1924, with her parents and her five brothers. They lived on 200 acres in a stone cabin that faced Sheehan Road, at a time when few houses dotted the roads outside of downtown Centerville.
On a sunny weekday afternoon, Pauline sits in the kitchen of the home that her husband, Bud, built in 1955. This afternoon is like most days now for the sharp-minded woman who loves to prank telemarketers who call and stay up-to-date on local and world news.
“I’m probably one of the few people left who can talk about Centerville before the Great Depression, because I was there,” Pauline said with a grin. “It’s interesting what memories remain vivid as the years pass. Some are memories from important moments in your life, while others are common, everyday happenings.
“I never envisioned living to be 100,” she added. “Age is truly just a number. It’s just that my number is higher than everyone else I know.”
Pauline is proud to live in the home that serves as a time capsule to the 1950s. It has an open floor plan, a sunken floor in the living room, a decorated garden room and a kitchen with original GE appliances, including a refrigerator and freezer that are built to look like part of the cabinetry.
“I’ve thought about calling GE and asking them if there are any of these left,” Pauline said, gesturing to the refrigerator and freezer that at first glance look no different than typical cabinets. “Maybe they would put me on TV and give me a new refrigerator and freezer.”
Pauline pauses for a moment, studies the kitchen layout and continues. “Actually I wouldn’t want them replaced,” she added. “This house is unique. I doubt if there are many homes with the original appliances from the 1950s that work almost as well as the day they were installed.”
Pauline recalls when Paragon Road was a dirt pathway, square dancing took place on weekends, and downtown Centerville
was the gathering spot for farmers who would venture into town.
“There were few homes outside of downtown,” she added. “Most of the properties were farms.”
Raybold was Pauline’s maiden name, and the stone cabin where she grew up was located at 10370 Sheehan Road, near Social Row Road.
Back then Sheehan was a gravel road, which was oiled in front of the homes to minimize dust. There were only five houses on Sheehan Road from the Warren County line to Dayton-Lebanon Pike (SR 8). No more than a few cars passed the Raybold farm on an average day.
When she was in school, there were Model T Ford buses driven by high school boys who made anywhere from $0.50 to $1 per trip. “Sometimes the floorboards of the bus would catch on fire from a hot exhaust pipe,” Pauline said. “The driver would put the fire out and then use an old license plate to patch the hole.”
Bud, Pauline explained, was a gifted toolmaker and tool designer, and he knew how to work with his hands. Bud was also an artist. Most of the art that adorns the walls of their home are his works. The ship painting that hangs above the fireplace is one of Pauline’s favorites. He even painted a floral mural on the garden room walls.
Bud and Pauline loved to travel, she recalls. He built a pontoon for lake getaways, as well as a motor home that the couple used to visit Florida for a month each year.
“When he was younger, he also wanted to build an airplane; but I wasn’t so comfortable with that, so that was one project he didn’t start,” Pauline said.
Pauline has devoted family members who remain a constant in her life. Her niece, Christine, calls daily. Pauline’s brother, Tate, did that; and when he died, Christine said that she would maintain the tradition. Multiple other relatives check in regularly too.
For Pauline’s 102nd birthday, her neighbor, Sue Tickle, surprised her with a sign in her front yard. Children made her cards. She sat outside and waved. She would like to celebrate her 103rd birthday with another Washington Township beautification award. Gardening is her longtime passion, and she has won the beautification award six times. She mowed the yard until she was 90 and even maintained the lawn mower.
“I love to be outside in the yard,” Pauline said. “I’m planning on pink bubble gum petunias and red geraniums this year, along with roses. There will be tomatoes in the garden.”
Until the last year, she did not have around the clock care. Knee issues left her in a wheelchair and in need of assistance to get up and down. Her caregivers have become friends, including Susie Rudolph.
“I love her spunk and listening to her stories,” Susie said. “She’s an intelligent and sharp woman who remains informed about current events, has her opinions and loves good conversation. And she loves to play rummy. She would stay up long after 11pm playing rummy, if we didn’t let her know it was time to go to bed.”
It’s been a good life, Pauline said, and she hopes she can spend the remaining time where she has resided since 1955.
“This is living—being in the home where so many fond memories were created and being outside in the yard gardening when the weather is warm,” Pauline said. “Every morning that I wake up and I’m still here, and in my home, it’s a good day.”