There was no sign of a generation gap when Mrs. Opal McDaniel of Jonesboro shared over 100 years of first-hand history with Riverside East elementary students in Caraway on Tuesday afternoon.
Born Dec. 17, 1909, she is a retired nurse and has been a resident of Jonesboro for the last six years. She moved to Arkansas from Georgia to be near her daughter. She said she has been very impressed with Arkansas. She grew up and went to school in Iowa.
Riverside teacher Beverly Booth introduced Mrs. McDaniel to the students calling her a primary source of the last century history.
She graduated from high school in Iowa in 1928 and nursing school in 1936. She married her husband, a doctor, in 1940. He was in the service and served during World War II.
She has led a very interesting life and enjoyed sharing some of the historical events as well as her personal experiences throughout the last century.
Mrs. McDaniel actually played the piano at a theater for silent movies.
"They gave me the sheet music to match the movie scenes and I played along with the movie," she said. "Movies and popcorn were just as popular in those days as today."
She talked about living through the depression and assured the young people they are very capable of surviving whatever the future holds.
She talked of the rationing days during the war when everyone had to have ration stamps to get food, gasoline, and shoes. She had a ration book with stamps to show the young people.
"My husband would buy sugar in 100 pound bags," she said. "Everthing was in short supply and people would come to my house to borrow sugar. I had an old washer and many of my friends would come to my house to do laundry. Now we have plenty of everything. You young people are very fortunate."
She answered questions from the students saying Franklin Roosevelt was one of her favorite presidents. There have been 18 presidents during her lifetime.
She knew President Carter as he lives in a town next to the one she lived in Georgia. She called him a very nice man. The students got to see her invitation to Carter's Inaugural ball when he was elected President of the United States.
They also enjoyed seeing a report card from 1918-19. It did not have A for the best grade but an E for excellent. She also shared a family picture older than she with her aunt and uncle riding to school in the school bus pulled by horses.
Several documents including hospital bills with a seven day stay in 1925 costing $19.50; a nine day stay when she had her daughter in 1944 with a $11.25 bill. Her husband's Medical License from 1935 at a cost of $20.
She showed photographs of her family, their automobile from 1910, her dad's baseball team, a copy of the 1850 Census, a 1912 postcard with a one cent stamp; a Georgia 1944 driver's license.
She talked about the first commercial ice cream; her school days and playing basketball in the worst looking black satin bloomers she had ever seen; end of World War I and end of World War II.
"I remember the end of World War I with everyone shooting off firecrackers and driving their cars down the streets blowing the horns," she recalls. "It was a happy time for America. I couldn't believe it when the bomb was dropped that ended World War II."
She said life is full of changes and she again encouraged the students to enjoys school and e thankful for everything they have.
"During the depression there were a lot of people hungry," she said. "Unfortunately, we still have people who are hungry."
She answered the children's questions which included her favorite food, song, animals, hobbies, games she played, favorite subject in school, when she ate at McDonalds for the first time.
Mrs. McDaniel has two sisters, ages 99 and 97, and her brother is 79. One sister and her brother live in Iowa and the other sister lives in South Dakota.
Mrs. McDaniel was the guest speaker at Riverside West Elementary on Monday afternoon during the 100th day of school celebration.