Birthdays are big in 2013 for Plums

Viola Plum and her son Eugene Plum have significant birthdays in 2013. She reach 100 Sunday, and he celebrated 80 earlier this year.

Not many parents get to celebrate their child’s 80th birthday. Viola Plum, 99, partied with her first-born, Ira Eugene Plum, for his June 9 big day. A group went out to eat.

“His daughter took him out and tried to get him woozy,” joked family friend Diane Ganoe.

Gene Plum, a widower retired from Mack Truck, said these days he is “out scrounging” for women. He and Ganoe regularly check in on his mother, who still resides in her Grindstone Hill Road house.

Now another milestone event is coming up.

Early memories

Viola Plum will hit the century mark on Sept. 29. Already, friends have planned the party at her favorite pizza place.

Plum’s memories center around life in Antrim Township. She is one of the last known living students who attended Brown’s Mill School in Kauffman, which closed in 1932. Plum's family moved to Kauffman in 1918 and she entered first grade, but stayed for only half a year. She finished the term in Greencastle but did not pass. After repeating the grade, the mobile Daley family returned to the tiny burg, and she enrolled in the consolidated school across the street from Brown’s Mill School for second grade.

Plum remembers the families of the area and the school staff. Her first teacher was Mrs. Ada Hoover, and she recalls the names of all the later ones. She walked to school along a path and has vivid memories of the classroom itself.

She admits school was difficult. Once a teacher wrote her father that if he could teach his daughter anything, he would accomplish more than she had been able. Her dad sent her out to the pump with a pint jar and a quart jar. He told her to come back when she could figure out how many pints were in a quart. Her eventual answer was 'three'. That incident remains a good-natured joke within the family.

As a youngster, Plum enjoyed typical experiences. She reached into a creek to pick up a horseshoe. It was really a snake. She assembled a bunch of burrs from a bush and put them in her sister's hair.

"I didn't get a whipping, but I sure got a skutchin' for that," she reminisced from her home of over 50 years.

The second of nine children, Plum completed seventh grade and went to work at age 14. Her first employer was the Windsor Stocking Factory in Greencastle, for 10 cents an hour. She married Joseph Ira Plum in 1931, and they had two children, Ira Eugene, born at home, and Shirley May, born at Waynesboro Hospital. The latter name was influenced by Shirley Temple's popularity at the time. The couple had seven grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren.

Plum worked at a number of jobs, including a local factory that canned products under the Smucker's label. A supervisor wondered why she was the only employee who didn't drop enough cherries to even make a pie. She retired at age 60 and is now widowed.

The soon-to-be centenarian got to celebrate a bit early at the monthly birthday bash at the Greencastle Senior Center last week. She shared the cake with other September birthday buddies there, but she surely had already blown out many more candles over the years.