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Helen Lonsdale Torrey

By djstevens1228 Feb 25, 2013 1139 Words
Helen Lonsdale Torrey
I was born on April 4, 1943 in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It is so hard to believe that was 69 years ago. So much has happened in my life since then. I was raised near Harford, CN where the weather was never over 85° and milk was more expensive then gas. My whole name is Helen Lonsdale Torrey but I always just liked Lonnie. My name is from a tradition in our family that has been in practice since the 1820s. The first daughter of the first daughter is named after the grandmothers middle name and that daughters middle name was the maiden name of the grandmother. Every generation the name Helen is exchanged for Hetty of the first born daughter. There is a silver cup with all of the names and dates of birth of those first born daughters; I am on that cup to be remembered forever.

I lived in 3 different houses till I moved out of my parents’ house. Every time we moved the house got bigger with a new addition to the family. Our last house was a 7 bedroom, 2-story house. I have 3 other siblings, Jodi who is 3 years younger, Jane who is 6 years younger and Jim who is 15 years younger than me and 2 dogs. I always thought both of my sisters were more talented, more pretty and smarter than I was and I never got to know my brother very well till later in life because of our large age difference. Both of my parents got a college education, and for women in that time that was rare. My dad, James Torrey worked in an insurance company, and he always felt distant to me. My mom, Hetty Bixby Torrey never really had a job but she joined a lots of committees and participated in volunteer work. Don’t forget she had to take care of me and my siblings too.

My family first went to a Congressional Church, then later started going to a Presbyterian Church where I was baptized. My family would eat our dinners in the dining room with fine china and silver. My mother cooked the meal and it was always very good. She taught me a lot about cooking, and started my interest in all of the spices and smells. Every summer my family would go to Nantucket, to the house my grandmother owned, and my parents later built their own house when I was 30. It is a beautiful island and was a big part of my childhood and still is part of my life now.

I was very athletic, playing golf, tennis, field hockey, basketball, soccer and skiing, even in Switzerland. My father would say, “You have to have an A in PE in this family anything lower is not acceptable.” I was just like any other teenager and loved to go to the theatre, play card games, read and just hang out in the neighborhood. I would say, I was in the “nerdy” group at school, but I was all right with that. All of us were so unique in our own way. I also participated in Drama and all my life I have traveled to many different places, including, Ireland, Spain, Scotland, Turkey and Greece. I remember always wanting a poodle skirt when they were a fad, but my mom thought they were silly and wouldn’t get me one. I finally got a sack dress and it basically was a potatoes sack with arm holes in it. Another popular fad was crinolines that were used to make the bottom of your dress stick out. I got a good education for a women in my time but since I was a women it prevented me from majoring in what I loved most, math. Ever since I was little, math had always been my thing. In Junior High, it was my teacher Mr. Katz, who first really realized my talent in math. Mr Jones another teacher who taught History once told me how he had never seen history analyzed in such a mathematical way. I was sent away to boarding school while I was in high school and it was a tough time for me as I felt abandoned.

I went to college in New Hampshire, majoring in Science, the closest thing to math and I then switched to Medicine. I still take classes, as I love to learn and my biggest goal now, is to graduate from Seminary. I got my first job as a waitress and interned in laboratories while I was in high school. Also I worked in hospitals during the summers, a job I really enjoyed because I got to help so many people. After I graduated, I worked in a lab testing people’s blood and I researched antigens for the Red Cross and doctors.

I met my husband, Phil Snyder in California when I moved there after college while he was serving in the navy. We started dating and I fell in love with him. He ended up going back to his hometown in Tulsa, Oklahoma to look for jobs. While he was there he called me over the phone and proposed right there. I know it isn’t the most romantic thing in the world but it felt so special to me. I was nervous and excited especially after he asked me to join him in Tulsa, but of course I said yes. We were married in 1963. I admire him like an old shoe; he is steady, calm, always there for me and the foundation of my life.

A couple of my favorite celebrities include, Dick Clark, Tab Hunter, and Pat Boon, a Christian Singer. My hero was Ms. Whiles, a lady in my neighborhood who had polio. She was some type of telephone operator and picked up the phone to talk with her one good hand. She had a lending library in her house for us kids in the neighborhood and she always left her doors open. She inspired me to live a life for others and live my life to the fullest no matter what kind of obstacles stood in the way.

The world has changed in so many ways. 60 years ago computers and telephones were not widely owned. Communication was much harder than it is now with the limitless ways to communicate using technology. We actually visited each other at our homes and kept our doors unlocked because it was much safer than it is now. It made us, as a community, closer and connected in a different way. Be who you want to be, do what you want to do and don’t listen to those trying to bring you down because only you know the true you.

Sources
Snyder, Helen L. Personal
Interview. 29 Sept. 2012.

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