Name: Earl Shankweiler
Town in which you live: Vera Cruz (It's a village!)
What year did you move to Vera Cruz? 56 years ago – around 1955
Tell us about your family:
“I have two girls and a boy – William, Dolores and Gloria. Oh, I think I have five grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.”
How many years have you been married to your wife?
“It’s going on 71 years. My wife’s name is Althea. I always say, “I’ll see ya!”
How do you maintain a successful marriage for that long?
“We have to go 50/50. If there is a problem, get rid of it before you get to go to sleep. In the morning, you get up and you’re fine. Every marriage has its trouble, but you have to forget it, you know what I mean? That’s what the trouble is, they don’t forget it, and then they get divorced.”
Where were you born?
Hensingersville – near Alburtis.
How old are you?
"I turned 95 in January. My wife is 94. I’m a year and one day older than she is. I care for her because she had a heart attack and then a stroke. I cook for her and everything!"
What’s your favorite meal?
"T.V. dinners. I like ham and pork too."
Note: Earl is virtually a permanent fixture in the Vera Cruz Café, where he has lunch daily.
What do you eat when you go to the Vera Cruz Café for lunch?
“A steak sandwich with everything and two coffees, sometimes three.” (laughing) “I go to the Trivet a lot too, but it’s getting a little too expensive. Gasoline is expensive. Now everything costs so darn much, ya know it?”
Where did you work in your younger years?
“I worked at Air Products (APCI) for 30 years. I did everything. When they needed a guy, they told me to come. I knew everything that was in there. They wanted to make me a foreman, but I told them 'No you won’t!' I was a rigger and a mechanic. I went to Trexlertown, Emmaus and the airport location. I worked at all of them.”
Note: Earl also worked as a car mechanic for friends and family. He knows his American cars (“No foreign cars!”) inside and out. Earl retired from APCI 28 years ago in the early ‘80s.
What’s your favorite brand of American car?
Do you still maintain your own home?
“I still mow my grass. I got a tractor … a nice big tractor.”
What’s the biggest change you noticed in Vera Cruz?
“There used to be two or three stores here and the sawmill. They had a creamery here too.”
Do you have any pets?
"I have a parakeet named Petey. We used to have dogs, but that’s too hard now. We’ve had a lot of parakeets. They talk and everything. I got a nice cage for them."
What do you do for fun?
"I read the newspaper every day. We sit and watch T.V. I have a new television! I like to watch the soaps. I like that General Hospital and there’s another one, Days of Our Lives. I watch those every day."
Where did you go to school and to what grade did you go?
"I went to school in Hensingersville to 8th grade. To get to Emmaus, we had to go by train if we wanted to go to high school. But we didn’t go to high school. So I just went to 8th grade. It was called 'Saul’s School.' There were about 46 kids in the school. My favorite subject was history.
"When I left school, I worked at different farms. I was about 12 years old. I had to take the manure and spread it – big piles of it. The farmers didn't want to do that, ya know? I worked in mostly agricultural farms, no dairy. Then I used to go work with a guy in his garage and learned about mechanics. I had books. I have books from 1945 on up. I have a big cabinet full of them. I read all the books and taught myself."
Did you ever serve in the military?
"No! I didn’t go. They wouldn’t take me because I was working on the farms. They said we needed farmers. That was during WWII in the 1940s."
What is most memorable moment in Vera Cruz history that you can recall?
“They got a blacktop road in Vera Cruz!” (laughing)
What are some fun Pennsylvania Dutch sayings?
Wie geht's? (How does it go?)
Mach's gut! (Make it good!)
Kannst du micka funga? (Can you catch flies?)
Ja, wenn de hocka bleiben. (Yes, when they sit still.)