Today, my darling grandfather, my Poppy, celebrates his 85th birthday. A great pen pal, Scrabble opponent, cross-country travel partner, story-teller, Pennsylvania Dutch teacher, tinkerer, quoits player (the best, actually) and truck ride giver, Pops is the greatest, a favourite among all. There’s nothing this man doesn’t do, and recently, he’s even appeared on Skype a few times. He wrote to me after I’d asked for exact dates and numbers, so here are a few quick and fascinating facts of Merlin Victor Schreffler.
Happy Birthday, Pops—ich liebe dich!
Born: 02 December 1926 in Klingerstown, Pennsylvania, USA
Mother tongue: Pennsylvania Deutsche
Primary school: 1-mile walk to a 1-room schoolhouse of 25 students in 1st to 8th grade, 1 teacher
1945: cold and snowy day in January, at age 18, was called to physical exam for service in WWII, was classified A-1 to serve, but was legally deferred as he was helping his brother-in-law farming
Occupation: farmer, township supervisor, school bus driver
Considered: civil engineering, pastor
Farm history: became owner in 1950, is longest owner of the farm (63 years) and it has been in our family for 140 years, 92 acres total
On the farm: poultry, hogs, feeder pigs, corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, peas for a cannery, 3 acres of variety orchard
Barn: estimated to be 150 years old, built entirely with wooden pegs
Equipment: a 1943, 1950 and 1958 Farmall tractor all in running order today
1947: met a girl named Dorothy Hilda Koppenhaver, but after having been cooped up for years during the war, bought a brand new Plymouth and left on a 9,000-mile, 4-week cross country vacation with his mother, sister Ruby, and friend Russell. Gasoline was 35¢/gallon and motel rooms were $2.50/person. (The North rim of the Grand Canyon was $5.00 but included a play in the evening.)
1950: married beautiful Dorothy who blessed him with a wedding gift he still uses today—a 1947 International truck for use on the farm; they eventually had 2 daughters, one of whom is my mother.
Home: After a fire in 1891, his grandparents’ house was rebuilt in 1895, on the same foundation, and that is his house today. He has lived there for 58 years, it is of Amish design.
Other: Bought a new 1976 Terra Scout International and still uses it to this day, with approx. 51,000 miles on it; has restored his grandfather’s 2-horse spring wagon and sleigh.
School bus: retired in December 2008, after 32 years of driving
Travels: cross country (several times) USA & Alaska, all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Figi, and Hawaii which is his favourite (has visited 3 times)
Favourite ice cream flavour: “I am a 100% vanilla ice cream man.”