City Nonagenarian Rides Horses, Stays Active
Few people can make the claim of living in the same house for 80 years or riding horseback at 90 years of age. Both of these apply to J. Marguerite Wallgren of Jamestown.
Marge, as she is referred to by her friends and family, was born in WCA Hospital on Christmas Eve 1929. Edith and Robert Anderson took her home to their house at 1080 Lakeview Ave., which was a dirt road from Buffalo Street to Marvin Parkway. Her father and his brother worked at Lakeview Cemetery, located across the street from her house where for many years they dug the graves by hand. Robert worked at the cemetery until he reached retirement age.
Edith was a homemaker, but took a job at Marlin-Rockwell Corporation during WWII. The family had another child, a son who was born in 1916 and was a teenager when the baby girl was born. Just months over two years after Marge’s birth, a second daughter made an appearance. Interestingly, Marge did not know her brother’s name until he went into the service. Her mother would tell her to “give this to your brother” or “where is your brother,” therefore the younger sister thought his name was “Brother.”
She started ice skating at Rosalind Park when she was five or six years old.
She won several silver medals for ice skating,” her daughter Elaine Caflisch said. “She used to be a racer and silver was the highest medal they awarded. I believe they raced against the boys to, so she was evidently quite fast.”
Because her birthday came after the cut-off age to enter school, Marge had to wait until the second semester in late January to start Kindergarten at Euclid Avenue Elementary School.
She played French horn in the orchestra while attending Washington Junior High, but gave the instrument up when she entered Jamestown High School so she could be in Acapella Chorus. She graduated in 1949.
“I had my choice of ’48 or ’49. I chose 1949 because my friends were graduating in ’49,” Marge said. “I returned for post-grad and took mostly art courses.”
She walked to all three of the schools that she attended.
She recalls swimming in Chautauqua Lake and in Moon Brook and walking or riding bikes with her friends to Lakewood Beach and to Greenhurst. They were known to hike from her house on Lakeview Avenue to Chautauqua County Airport and to Frewsburg.
“We took the trolley to Midway Park to roller skate and to a friend’s grandmother’s house at Point Chautauqua.”
She kept many of her friends from elementary school throughout her lifetime. Many have passed away, but she still sees Alta Ostrander Martenson.
In 1948, while still in school, she worked in the toy department at G. C. Murphy five and ten on West Third Street with her cousin. She later worked at Nelson’s Department Store at 100 East Second Street. Her third job and the job she kept until she was married was at Loblaw’s on Prendergast Avenue.
She met Leonard Wallgren and his friend when she was in her senior year of high school.
“They had a car and asked us if we wanted to go for ice cream at Dew Drop Inn on Forest Avenue Extension.”
She married Wallgren on April 21, 1951 and celebrated 59 years of marriage before his passing on April 26, 2010. The couple bought the house on Lakeview Avenue from Marge’s parents.
After her children were out of school, she took a job as a secretary in the lab at Jamestown General Hospital and continued working there until the hospital closed in the mid 1980s. Leonard worked at Blackstone Corporation when they were manufacturing washing machines and later became a supervisor in radiator production.
They traveled to Florida every spring and fall taking and retrieving her parents who resided with the couple during the summer months. They enjoyed camping with their Shasta travel trailer and became avid bikers, starting with mopeds and advancing to a Kawasaki touring bike, which they rode to Florida, the Adirondacks and the Smokey Mountains.
“We really had a lot of fun,” she said.
“She was on the CB (radio) for years. She directed truckers through Jamestown,” Caflisch said. “Her handle was Tag-a-Long.”
While she was raising her family, she made most of her own clothing as well as her children’s clothing.
The ninety-year-old stays active through volunteerism. She stuffs envelopes for Lutheran Social Services, helps at the food bank at Ashville United Methodist Church and the clothing store at St. Lukes Episcopal Church and has volunteered in ticket sales at Lucille Ball Little Theater of Jamestown. She is a regular attendee of Lakewood Baptist Church and enjoys making rice pudding to take to church dinners. She also attends weekly movie nights at a friend’s home.
“I love to read, especially Amish books,” she said.
“And she loves to shop. Her favorite place to shop is Walmart,” Caflisch said. “She is very sad about the stores that have closed.”
Two new hobbies are china painting and caring for tropical fish, which she enjoys observing throughout the day.
“She has each one named and if there’s any trouble, like a fish getting caught in a hole in one of the rocks, she’s right on it,” the Caflisch shared.
Besides Caflisch of Jamestown, she has a daughter, Barbara Dodge, who resides in North Fort Myers, Fla. Her son, Leonard Jr. “Chip” passed away when he was six-years-old. She has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Since the passing of her husband 10 years ago, Marge has resided on Big Tree Road with Caflisch and her husband, Philip, where she has her own garden plot that can be seen from the kitchen window. She loves to ride Catflisch’s horses “but only when conditions are right and safe.”