On a warm Tuesday evening, Marian Johnson sits at her dinning room table with both hands cradling her coffee mug. It’s the same pot from this morning, but since her husband’s death five years ago, the widow is able to enjoy it throughout her day.
Her oldest daughter Carol Steimle, 61, stands in the kitchen finishing scrubbing the plates from dinner. Even from the dining room table, Marian instructs her daughter not to use the terrycloth towel and where the linen towels are stored in the drawer.
At the age of 83, Marian has lived in two different River Road for the past 50 years. After the birth of her five children, eight grandchildren, and a newborn great-grandchild, Marian fills her days relaxing in her favorite red rocker, thinking of the many years past.
Her current home in which she has lived in since the winter of 1977 has hosted countless family gatherings, a wedding reception, and her deceased husband’s former woodworking shop. Located in a quiet neighborhood just off of Blackfoot Avenue, Marian knows the people that live all throughout her small community.
In August 1956, Arthur and Marian Johnson moved into a home on Bushnell Road with their daughter Carol, who was six at the time.
The 18 years to come where filled with “an idealistic childhood,” says Steimle. Four more children were added to the family with all of them growing up and playing with the neighborhood children around them.
“We used to ride bicycles and go swim in the grave pits down the road. But think about how scary that seems now? That us kids would go down and swim with no adult and no lifeguard,” Steimle recalls.
“Oh it scares me to death thinking about it,” Johnson responds.
The caring mother now moves from her chair in the dinning room, using it as support to gain her balance, then shuffles into the kitchen. As a common practice of the evening, once the dishes are done, Marian enjoys a frozen cookie with her evening news in that red rocker. Dutifully, with no invitation or hesitation, Steimle repeats her mother’s actions.
The memories from the first house at River Road are thought of fondly for this family.
“We loved Bushnell when we first moved there. It was a good neighborhood. But I would never live there now. It is just like living in the worst Whiteaker nest area,” Marian says when asked about the old house now.
Since her daily activities only take her about three miles from home, her life has changed drastically since originally moving to the area with her five children and husband.
“When we moved into this current area, the neighborhood was already built up around us,” Marian recalled. “All these houses around us were full of families just like ours.”
“This is a nice neighborhood though, with the exception of George and of course Larry’s old house,” Marian laughs.
It is rare that she doesn’t know the name of someone in her area. As Carol, the daughter mentioned, “If you want to know something that is going on in these few blocks, she’ll tell you and she can tell you with no hesitation.”
As she goes from house to house, listing every person that has lived in the neighborhood in the past 35 years, it’s clear that while Marian may live alone, she never seems to be alone for long.
“It comes and goes, I’ll go two weeks at a time having various people come and visit or stay, and then it will be quiet again,” she recalls.
But this is the way it has always been for Marian and her late husband. “When Art was working in his shop out in the garage building birdhouses and such, I would go out in the garage, and Lee would be there, and Gordon, and Ray, and they would be sitting out there visiting,” Marian recalls. The neighborhood men would gather in the garage and eventually all the women would gather together on the back patio.
It’s because of the time that Marian spent getting to know her neighbors, that she can recall so much information from the past, which makes being around her feel like listening to a time capsule.
Even though all her children are now well into middle age, her family is what means the most to Marian and it is clear that their lives have always been her top priority.
“I have a quiet life now, but I do what I need to do,” Marian explained. “My life isn’t filled with women’s club meetings or garden club. I am just happy being a grandma and now a great-grandma. Hopefully there will be more soon.”