Looking forward at 99



October 5, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Iolan: Women’s roles have changed

Grace Myers has seen a lot of changes in her 99 years.
The biggest, she said, is probably the role of women in society.
“We were wrong back then about women,” she said.
In the past, women were restricted in their capacity to work outside the home. Women today, she said, work on an almost equal basis with men.
Almost equal, she said, except for pay.
A Government Accountability Office report issued in late September stated that “female managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male managers.”
Myers experienced the same discrepancy when she took over her husband’s position at Kansas City Gas Company during World War II.
“They paid the men $100 a week, but they only paid the women $80,” she said. “I was discriminated against.”
Before that, she said, she’d had to quit her teaching job in Oklahoma “Because they wouldn’t let married women teach. Believe it or not, they had a rule about it.”
After Myers and her family moved to Iola in 1948, she said, “I was just a housewife with some piano students.”
Even that, she noted, was not a full-time career.
“I was limited because I didn’t like to teach after dinner, so I had to fit (students) in between when school let out and 6 o’clock,” she said.
In the post-war era, Myers said, “It was sort of a reflection on the husband that (if a woman worked) he wasn’t supporting the poor wife.”
No longer is that the case.
At the time, though, Myers had to make do with her new role.
“I had mixed feelings” about departing the wage-earning world, she said.
“It was kind of nice to be free, yet sometimes I felt I missed it.”

MYERS HAD picked up the work at the Kansas City Gas Company when her husband left the job to start medical school.
“When the war came along, they needed doctors,” Myers said. “They had an accelerated program — it was 30 months” long without a break in studies, rather than the typical five-year schooling required, she said.
“Even though he was 30,” — old for starting such studies in those days, she said — “they took him.”
For Eugene Myers, it was an answered dream.
At the age of five, “He stepped into a corn grinder and was in the hospital 22 days,” Myers said. The care he received from the doctors and nurses left a lasting imprint on her husband, she said. From then on, “He had wanted to be a doctor.”
Eugene Myers was trained as both a surgeon and general practitioner. After the war, Myers said her husband wanted to focus on general practice.
“He had three uncles and two cousins with a clinic in Kansas City, and it was a ready-made place for him,” she said.
But the pace of practice in Kansas City “was running him ragged,” she said. So, although she adored city life, the Myerses sought out a position in a small town.
And found Iola.
“He answered an ad from Dr. Nevitt to take over his practice,” Myers said of her husband. “But Dr. Nevitt changed his mind. So after six months, (Eugene) opened his own practice.”
Apparently, there was business enough for both doctors.
“The phone rang night and day,” she said. “It seemed like it was all the time.”
The noise was so constant, Myers said, that “I have a daughter who, to this day, hates the telephone because, she said, ‘That phone just drove me crazy.’”
“I remember, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was tense getting through dinner,” added Myers’ son, Joe, “because, invariably, the phone would ring.”
But for Joe, the phone calls often meant a trip with his dad.
“I used to go along with dad on house calls,” Joe said. “Those evenings, driving around, presented a chance” for his father to spend time with him, one on one, Joe said. And, he often joined him at Allen County Hospital as well.
Joe, turns out, was born about eight months before the hospital opened in 1952. The nurses, he said, told him his dad would bring him in, bundled in blankets, to show off.
“I explored that hospital top to bottom,” through his youth and into his teens, he said.
“It makes me feel old to think it’s decrepit,” he added, “But I guess I’m getting decrepit, too.”
Grace Myers believes Allen County does need a new hospital.
“I think we do to keep up with all the advances that have been made in medical science,” she said.
Plus, “I don’t think (young doctors) would be eager to come (to Iola) if we didn’t have an adequate hospital.”

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