City Couple Sees 74 Years Of Marriage, Still Going Strong

Mr. and Mrs. Murvel Ostrander on their 70th wedding anniversary. Submitted photo

Margaret Seastrum was born in Everett, Mass., on Dec. 19, 1925. The third child of four and the Seastrums’ only daughter, was named after the daughter of the doctor who delivered her.

Her father was a postal worker who transferred to Jamestown when his daughter was three. The family lived in an apartment the first year until they purchased a lovely home at 76 Durant Ave. As was not uncommon during the Great Depression, the man lost his job and the family’s home. He decided he could do better if he had a place in the country to raise food for his family, which caused them to move to Ellery Center. “We went from middle class to very, very poor. It was quite traumatic for a 10-year-old,” said Seastrum.

He did some sharecropping with a neighbor, but became very ill resulting from an insect bite. His inability to work caused him to become very depressed. One of his sons was a great help to the family by taking the reins. He harvested produce from a garden and cared for a cow and a pig which provided milk and meat. The family had two horses as well. A young Margaret found herself working in the garden and milking the cow.

“I always had to work,” she said.

Even though they had no running water or electricity and had to use an outhouse, Seastrum’s mother took in foster children of families she knew who were in the same position as her own. She also did laundry for two families for added income using a copper boiler to heat the water and by heating an iron on the wood stove. The hard-working woman cleaned the Bemus Point Methodist Church during this time.

“I got a good work ethic out of it,” said Seastrum.

In the wintertime the children were picked up by a sleigh and taken to school. The driver buried heated soap stones in straw in the bottom of the sleigh to warm the feet of the eight passengers.

In the milder months they walked the half-mile to school. Margaret had perfect attendance in fifth grade, her first year at that school, due to having a teacher of which she was very fond.

“I even walked when the horses couldn’t go,” she said.

Her mother and Mabel Edson began the school’s hot lunches by taking soup, stews and casseroles to the students. Each room of the two-room school was heated with a pot belly woodstove.

The family moved to Route 380 in Stockton in 1938 so her father could have a larger farm. He had become stronger and was able to help more with chores. The home had a serious bedbug infestation, therefore her mother and brother removed “every bit of woodwork” and treated the area with kerosene resolving the situation. The following year took them back to Massachusetts to be with her mother’s newly widowed brother. Margaret was enrolled in Parlin Junior High School, which she came to love.

“It was a great neighborhood,” she said. “I made such nice friends there and was learning to speak Greek from some of them.”

A year later they found themselves living on Liberty Street in Bemus Point where she contracted rheumatic fever. The original Route 17 was being built at this time and Seastrum’s mother boarded some of the workers. After 18 months, the family pulled up roots once again with a move to their eldest son and wife’s home in rural Kiantone. They moved again after six months, into the home of Mr. Hagberg who lived inside the village of Kiantone, so Seastrum’s mother could care for the elderly man. The man’s health deteriorated quickly and he was admitted to a nursing home. The family moved once again, this time to 848 N. Main St. in Jamestown. Their daughter transferred to her ninth school, Jamestown High School. She took a leave from school to be able to take care of her father and youngest brother while her mother was recovering from cancer surgery, graduating in January 1944.

While attending JHS, she volunteered for the Red Cross, knitting vests and hats which were sent to sailors during World War II. At the same time she worked after school and on Saturdays at W. T. Woolworth Company on Third Street, as well as at the Manhattan Diner at North Main and Second streets.

“I learned a lot about work ethic from Mr. Dimas, the owner of the diner,” she admitted.

Even though she held down two part-time jobs and volunteered, she had excellent grades in secretarial courses and got 100% on both her Regents shorthand and typing exams. She was recruited for a job in Washington, D.C., where she worked as one of two private secretaries to the chief clerk of the Naval Gun Factory.

“We went with him to conferences and both took notes and then went back and compared them. What I didn’t get, she got,” she remembered. “We were bonded for top secret material. I was 18 and 19 years old.”

Her mother became a volunteer in the Navy Mother’s Canteen at the Greyhound Bus Terminal while the daughter was away. The day after the young woman’s return, she stopped by to see her mother and sat down to play the piano. A young soldier, who was home seeing his dying mother and who was visiting his former co-workers in the bus garage, heard the music. Curiosity brought him out to see who was making it and it was love at first sight for both the soldier and the secretary.

“He drove me home in his brother’s car. He was shy, with pink cheeks. He was a nice guy,” she reminisced.

Three months later, on Jan. 3, 1946, the couple was married. Their wedding cake was made by the bride’s mother.

The groom reported to an Army base in Texas, just two months prior to his scheduled discharge, taking his bride with him. Ostrander went back to his job as a bus mechanic when they returned to Jamestown in March. His brother bought the Greyhound franchise, handling the business end while the returning brother took care of repairs and maintenance. The name was changed to Chautauqua Transit Company.

The couple bought a home on the Big Tree-Sugar Grove Road in 1952. In 1959, they moved their family to California, driving out in a decommissioned bus the mechanic had converted into “a motorhome of sorts.” After staying over the winter and not finding a good-paying job, the family ventured back to Jamestown where Murvel’s brother was waiting with open arms.

They purchased a home in Towerville, near South Stockton, in 1960.

“We lived there for 55 years and raised our family there. Our children went to the same schools as their father had, Gerry Elementary and Cassadaga Valley Central Schools,” she said.

She worked for the Mason’s at the Scottish Rite Temple and for the Shrine Club as office manager, where she stayed for 14 years.

“I loved my job,” she said.

In the ’70s, Chautauqua Transit began handling transportation for holiday tours. The master mechanic drove the longest tours, should there be a breakdown.

“Either Hazel Stevenson or I went as the hostess,” said Seastrum, who told about accompanying her husband on trips to the west coast of the United States, Nova Scotia and other regions of Canada.

The couple bought apartment houses over the years, refurbishing all 15 apartments. They sold the rental properties after Seastrum retired and bought a small motel in Hernando, Fla., which they owned for five years. Their youngest son stayed in the house in New York while they were running the motel.

They eventually moved to Hultquist Place, an assisted living facility. After two and a half years, Ostrander moved to the nursing home area on the same campus with his wife, visiting daily. They will celebrate 74 years of marriage in January. Their marriage produced four children, all of whom are retired. Bruce Ostrander is retired from the Air Force and lives in Spokane, Wash.; Kathleen Hofgren, a hairdresser, lives on Horton Road; Lyle Ostrander lives in Kiantone and followed in his father’s footsteps as a master mechanic; and Lynne Hilderbrand lives in Benicia, Calif., where she had a career as an ultra-stenographer. They have nine grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren.

The elderly woman has put a lot of thought and care into her large room having divided it into three areas: a living area, kitchen and bedroom.

“I like anything about housekeeping,” she explained. “I had to have my table to sit at.”

Each area is kept clutter-free and is currently decorated for Christmas, including a four-foot decorated tree. A completed Christmas puzzle lies on a table with a dish of Christmas candy nearby. The kitchen table is covered with a holiday-print cloth.

“I love Christmas,” she said.

She enjoys reading mysteries, especially Amish mysteries and books written by Linda Byler.

“I’ve had a very interesting life. I have a lot of stories, but you would be here all day if I told all of them,” she said with a smile.