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Cabarrus Magazine

Traditionals: Doing More With Less

Aug 01, 2015 12:00AM ● By Jason Huddle

By: Kimberly Cassell

Generation gap – a term that came about in the 1960s – can be defined as “the difference in attitude or behavior between young and older people that causes a lack of understanding.”  

 What began as teens and young adults bucking their parents’ system of authority and values has repeated itself over and over as each new generation comes of age. And with human life expectancies riding the longevity wave of advancements in medicine and nutrition, it’s interesting to compare five generations that are alive and well. 

Cabarrus Magazine developed a set of questions and posed those questions to a Cabarrus County resident representing each generation. The questions run the gamut – from family and career/retirement to technology and social issues. This allows us to compare apples to apples as well as achieve insight into how we as individuals view the world we live in. 

Traditionals are those persons born between 1922 and 1945. Also called the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation, these are your World War II military veterans and those who lived through the Great Depression. 

According to, “These older Americans hold three-quarters of the nation’s wealth and are the executive leaders of some of the most established and influential companies in America. They are responsible for developing today’s space program, creating vaccines for many diseases, including polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and whooping cough, and laying the foundation for today’s technological environment.” 

Shirley Ames is 83 and lives with her two cats at The Villas at Forest Park in Kannapolis. Even though she suffers from arthritis, has poor vision and has had more than one heart attack, she is vibrant and has a great sense of humor. 


CM: Where is your hometown; how long have you lived in Cabarrus County? 

Shirley: Cato, New York. I’ve lived in Cabarrus County for seven years. 


CM: How would you describe your personality? 


X Outgoing 



X Independent 


CM: What is your definition of family? 

Shirley: That’s a hard one because I think about what I experienced growing up with my family. Lots of love, respect, being very trustworthy and being here for me when I need them. 


CM: Your parents are deceased? 

Shirley: Yes. They divorced and remarried each other. They were divorced only a couple years. When they divorced, my dad came and stayed with me; we had a big farm. My mom did remarry; she was very much ‘her way or the highway.’ My daddy loved her ‘til the day he died. We knew there was no one else for my dad. 


CM: How old were you when you got your first job? What was it? 

Shirley: I did babysitting from the time I was 12. I worked in a bank in Syracuse before I was married and then I worked as a layout artist for 27 years. I was a stripper (printing pre-press terminology prior to the digital era) but I didn’t call it that in public. I’d still be working if the plant hadn’t closed. I started out at $1.25 and made $8 (an hour) when I left. 


CM: How important is education to you? How far did you go in school? 

Shirley: I graduated from high school – there were 500 in my graduating class in New Jersey – but I was the oldest of five children and didn’t have the privilege of going any further. The ‘40s were hard. 


CM: Are you married, single, divorced? 

Shirley: Widowed. I was married the first time 17 years and had three children. Then I was married 30 years and had a daughter. 


CM: How old were you when you got married? 

Shirley: Eighteen. And I was 18 years old when I had my first child nine months later. 


CM: How many children do you have? 

Shirley: Four: two boys and two girls. 


CM: What are your thoughts about children before marriage? 

Shirley: When I was in school, we wanted to grow up and get married; that was our main concern. We didn’t have the influences the girls have today. I still feel that marriage should come before children. Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, it (having a child out of wedlock) wasn’t even considered. 


CM: What has been your most radical fashion trend? 

Shirley: Poodle skirts and peasant blouses. I still like peasant blouses but not poodle skirts. There was a fashion when the slip would hang below the skirt; the slip was lacey. My mom made all our clothes and we lived for that. Now I live in jeans.  


I entered a fashion show in high school. My skirt was down to here (shin) and I wore a red blouse with sleeves to here (elbows). You didn’t show your arms then. 


CM: Do you rent or own (home, car)? 

Shirley: I had my own home in New York and I’m very sorry, sometimes, that I sold it. I rent now and don’t drive. 


CM: What do you do for fun? 

Shirley: I visit with my neighbors and grandkids. I participate in a lot that goes on here: karaoke, potluck dinners. We have so many memories to share. This next one (potluck dinner) is my theme: a picnic…hamburgers, hot dogs. We try to draw people out and we’re getting there. They call me ‘the queen of the 3rd floor.’ One day they bought me a crown and a cape. 


CM: What is your definition of happiness? Of success? 

Shirley: Being with family, my friends, enjoying my animals and spending a lot of time with my daughter. Of success? My kids. 


CM: How often do you read a book? Physical, eBook or audio? 

Shirley: I can’t because of my eyesight. (Years of strenuous pre-press work took their toll.) 


CM: How important are the Internet and social media to you? How often do you use them? 

Shirley: I don’t use them at all and have no desire to. 


CM: What’s your favorite way to communicate with friends/family? Do you have a landline phone in your home? 

Shirley: My phone. I have a landline and not a cell phone. 


CM: With regard to the state of the world, please rank the following’s importance (1-7) to you, no. 1 being most important/of most urgency. 


1  Economy 

3  Environment 

2  Healthcare 

6  Politics 

4  Religion 

5  Social Topics (abortion, gay rights, race relations, transgender, etc.)  

7  Terrorism 


CM: How old were you when you retired? 

Shirley: I was 62 and the only reason was because my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and I felt like my priority was him. I was financially able to, so I did. 


CM: How did you prepare for it? 

Shirley: I took my social security early and I had some other income at the time. That was all gone by the time my husband passed away. My daughter knows I’m being cremated and she’s taking me back to New York. I hate the color pink and she knows that. She’s told me she’s going to buy me a pink casket and I’m going to be wearing a pink dress (laughs). 


CM: What is your retirement like? 

Shirley: Financially, I could be a lot better off. After I sold my home and lived with my other daughter in Florida for a while, I realized I didn’t want to get married again. I have a gentleman friend and I could shack up with him, but I’m not into that. 


I sometimes wake up in the morning and just sit on the edge of my bed because of the pain. But I thank God every day that I can sit on the edge of that bed. I count my blessings every day. 

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