I Am Collingswood: Walter Schlitz
Walter Schlitz landed in Collingswood on New Year’s Day 1975, moving in “with the lady there on Knight Avenue” after a honeymoon. She passed on in 2001, but he’s still here. And he can’t find anybody to play canasta with.
My meeting with Walter Schlitz began with a piece of loose-leaf upon which he had written the following three paragraphs:
Walter N. Schlitz, born December 23, 1913 in the Cramer Hill section of Camden, NJ. Mother died in 1915 and father died in 1918 leaving 4 sons to need new home.
I was taken by a friendly family to be raised as one of their own. Went to Camden High School until I finished the Junior year, at which time it was necessary for me to find a job to help out at home. Probably 16 years old.
My first job was at RCA's in Camden as a messenger in the mailing department. After that experience, I sent to work at Petty Island for Cities Service Oil, Co as a laborer. That led to different and better jobs on the island until WWII started. I was drafted in January 1942 and send to Alabama for training.
Collingswood Patch: What's made you stay in Collingswood for 37 years? What do you like about living here?
Walter Schlitz: It's nice, quiet. The neighbors are great!
I have a couple new neighbors now who are really taking care of me—watching after the old man! Honest, it's neat! One of my neighbors, Joe Lavin, he's only been there about five years, he lives at the end of the street on the opposite side, he's always shoveling my snow. Even before I get out of bed! Oh, he's terrific.
And then there's a new guy who just moved in back of me on Madison, Bernie, and he's terrific! He keeps an eye on me. It's unbelievable, though. I'm in good hands. I really am.
Patch: So, I assume you're retired.
Schlitz: Are you kidding? At 99? I've been retired since August of 1972.
I was at Cramer Hill. There was an oil refinery there [Cities Service Oil on Petty's Island] since World War I.
Patch: So you were already retired when you came to Collingswood in 1975?
Schlitz: Yep, I was 58. Couldn't find a job. Though I didn't try too hard!
Patch: But you came on your honeymoon, so you married at age 58?
Schlitz: I was married in 1947 after the war. My wife died in July of 1973. Strangely enough, my first wife and my second wife had been girlfriends from teenagers up. So we were friendly forever, my first wife and I and my second wife and her first husband.
Patch: I heard you were looking for a canasta partner.
Schlitz: I was hoping so, I went down to the senior place and the lady there put a sign up. But I haven't heard anything. It's not a very popular game, really.
My granddaughter was visiting me here from California a couple years ago, that was the last time I had a game!
I thought I'd bump into somebody at the senior center, but evidently they only play pinochle or bridge.
Patch: How can I make it to 99 like you?
Schlitz: Drink all the Schlitz beer you can get.
Patch: That's it? That's the only thing?
Schlitz: Well, that's for the first 99 years.
Patch: Are you affiliated with the Schlitz brewery, then?
Schlitz: I have no idea. I would guess so, because it's not a very common name. But that's my standard answer: drink Schlitz beer.
But now that they're out of business I have a daily happy hour by myself of wine and cheese. That keeps it going.
Patch: Every day?
Schlitz: Every day.
Patch: White or red?
Schlitz: Sangria wine. Dark wine, yes. I read where it was good for old people. They say a glass of dark wine is good, so I tried it. When I get older I'm going to have to...I don't know, drink more or less, I don't know which.
Patch: Nothing about exercise or mental attitude or anything like that?
Schlitz: Exercise? Hmm...well, lifting the glass of wine. That's good for the elbow.
Well, really. Household chores. Cut the grass. I've stopped cleaning the gutters, but I still cut the grass.
Patch: Is there anything else we haven't covered?
Schlitz: In the military, I had two real nice experiences. We went through the [Panama] Canal, which was really interesting. And, in 1944, I had the honor of being part of the security for President Roosevelt at Warm Springs, GA. I'm real proud of that.