By Sara Paul
On her trip to the market, Evelyn Card spent seven cents for a loaf a bread; her outing at the movies broke the bank at ten cents; and she had to go halves with her best friend on a 20 cent ice cream sundae, with two spoons of course!
While these expenses did not occur last week at the local store (sorry!), Evelyn remembers her teenage days some 75 years ago quite well. This year, the Warwick Valley Dispatch post production manager will celebrate her 91st birthday and her 16th year at the Dispatch.
“I love what I do, and the people who work here are a dedicated bunch,” said Evelyn, who particularly noted the skills and attributes of some of her “true friends” at the Warwick paper, headquartered at 2 Oakland Ave. in Warwick NY.
“We all work together here. It takes a lot of great people to make the finished product,” said Evelyn, who turns 91 on Tues., Aug. 14.
With knowledge of the Dispatch duties from developing film and correcting negatives on the film to the oily intricacies of the press machine to assembling the 133 year-old publication, the newspaper biz is a favorite pastime for Evelyn, a Warwick native, though not her first love.
Born in 1927, Evelyn met her husband-to-be, Percy, at the Park Avenue School in the seventh grade (back then the building housed 7-12 grades). The middle school sweethearts later became husband and wife, parents, farmers, and employees of the Kings Elementary School.
After farming side by side at the Card Dairy Farm, property Percy’s family purchased from Benjamin Sayer, which is now Homestead Village, and working at Kings Elementary for 22 and a half years, Evelyn and Percy Card both retired on the same date, July 1, 1988 – Evelyn as School Secretary and Percy as Head Custodian.
“When you work alongside one another from daylight to sunset, you either get along… or you don’t,” chuckled Evelyn. Her jesting eyes, however, could not veil a shimmer of tears as she recalled their life together.
“I miss him. I really, really do,” said Evelyn, who had two children with her husband, Percy, Jr. and Aurilla, and now enjoys time with her three grand-children. Percy, Jr. or “Barry,” as he was known to friends, passed away in 2014.
After four decades, they sold their 140 or so acre farm in the 1970s and retired to Evelyn’s current Warwick home, located in the hamlet of Sayerville; the lovebirds spent leisure time traveling the U.S.
When asked what trip was her favorite – whether it was the state of Florida to visit family; Missouri with friends; or senior trips to Nashville, TN to see Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra – her response was simple, sincere, and sweet: “Every trip with my husband was my favorite.”
When Percy passed away in January of 2000, it was a difficult time for Evelyn as she reflected on 55 years of marriage.
She recalls them rising as early as 2 a.m. on the farm and then quickly showering before school, “so we didn’t smell like cows when we went to work!”
These days, the newspaper woman’s days don’t start quite as early, but she is still an impressive and hard-working individual, according to her colleagues.
A typical morning finds Evelyn with fellow press room comrades feeding paper into the towering 1930 web press machine and organizing inserts, though she also takes it upon herself to keep things tidy, even mending the worn out press belts by hand.
Master Printer Dave Dewitt and Evelyn can be heard playfully debating which one knows more about the technical workings of the monstrous mechanical machine, which takes up much of the garage of the Warwick Valley Dispatch headquarters.
“He knows this thing better than anyone here! He could take it apart and put it back together again. If I took it apart, all you’d have left is a bunch of pieces,” Evelyn smiles, as she elbow nudges her boss’s arm.
Dewitt, a Goshen native and 48 veteran of the Dispatch, humbly notes that Evelyn is not just a “dependable and good worker,” but that she can “do everything” at the newspaper.
“She knows it all, and I’m only here as a security blanket, just in case something goes wrong,” said Dewitt.
A younger co-worker rounding out the press room threesome, Pressman George Leutz, comments on Evelyn’s “incredible energy.”
“She seems 20 years younger than she is… She is just amazing and really creates a good work environment here,” explains Brooklyn born Leutz, while other staff line up to get a taste of a hearty vegetable soup that Evelyn brought in that day.
Later, the mellow and observant Leutz brings closure to the regular and fun feud between Evelyn and Dewitt: “She is actually the one in charge here. She knows how to run everything. Evelyn is pretty much the unspoken boss.”
The mild mannered Evelyn simply says, “I love the people. They are probably the best thing about this job.”
She later explains she received her title of post production manager, a “long and fancy” term she rolls her eyes at, from the grandson of local artist Robert “Bob” Fletcher. Fletcher’s grandson, Tom Naples, worked at the Dispatch a few years ago. A devoted fan of the popular painter, Evelyn accepted the designation.
When she is not cooking for colleagues or sewing the old press belts back together with her needle and thread, Evelyn can be found at home, reading Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel novels, watching the news, spending time with her daughter, Aurilla, practically her neighbor, or mowing her lawn on a small tractor she purchased after her husband passed away.
“It takes about five hours on the tractor for the large areas and two hours behind a push mower to complete the property’s trim,” she says as a matter of fact about maintaining her nine acres by herself.
But the question remains: Does Evelyn have any plans to retire from the Warwick Valley Dispatch?
With warm eyes and a humble grin, she gazes at the blackened screws and levers of the ancient press machine and ever so softly says: “Not as long as they’ll have me.”