A lifelong Columbus resident admits she’s a little curious about what’s being planned Thursday for her birthday.
“Nobody around here tells me anything,” Pauline Haislup Stillabower said after making a few inquiries at her care facility west of Columbus.
Thursday will be quite a milestone for Pauline. She will officially become a centenarian by reaching her 100th birthday.
Pauline, who moved into the Belmont at Tipton Lakes a year ago, says her minister and church family usually join her for big celebrations. But since the pastor she knew for several years recently retired, Pauline feels she can only be certain of one thing.
“I know (Belmont) has ice cream and cake for everybody who has a birthday,” she said.
One of Pauline’s good friends, Janice Ford, lived across the street from her at the intersection of North Mapleton St. and Park Avenue for 25 years. Ford, who frequently visits her former neighbor, says she can only hope to have a mind as sharp as Pauline’s if she eventually reaches 100.
Ford says she’s extremely fond of Pauline because she is always able to pass along wisdom and inspiration ranging from cooking and gardening tips to handling life’s toughest experiences.
“She always makes everyone feel better when they talk to her,” Ford said.
100 years ago …
The year Pauline was born to Robert and Mable Haislup of Route 7 was the same year insulin was first used to treat diabetes. The year 1923 was also when the first issue of Time Magazine was published and the first ball game was played at Yankee Stadium.
While growing up in East Columbus, Pauline attended State Street School while her father worked in construction. Her mother was employed north of downtown Columbus at Reliance Manufacturing Co., a clothing manufacturer near 12th and Washington streets.
Her only sibling, Barbara Haislup, was born nearly eight years after Pauline. Unfortunately, her little sister came along two years after the country was plunged into the Great Depression (1929-1939).
Pauline recalls nearly every family in her neighborhood were struggling financially. About a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed, and those lucky enough to have a steady job often saw their wages cut or their hours reduced.
Making financial ends meet became even more difficult for the Haislups when Pauline’s mother, Mabel, became ill and could no longer work.
After only one year at Columbus High School, Pauline dropped out and got a job where her mom worked. She recalls most people referred to Reliance Manufacturing simply as “the shirt factory.”
Founded in 1912 and operated by several owners for the next 82 years, the shirt factory made men’s shirts with collars, as well as other male apparel.
After the U.S. entered World War II, the company switched into high gear for the war effort. Pauline and her co-workers produced more than 3 million pairs of Navy whites, in addition to thousands of Army field jackets.
As the factory in the former Roviar building was expanded to meet the military’s demands, Pauline’s main job was to sew belt loops on to pants for the Navy, she said.
As Pauline recalls, she quit her factory job after marrying Donald Stillabower on Aug. 26,1944. The couple had one son, Ron, who is 74 years old.
But the marriage did not work out, and Pauline found herself as a single mother in need of work.
Pauline was able to find her next job at a transformer manufacturer called Columbus Process, which was located near State and Mapleton streets at the time.
Eventually, she left manufacturing for good and worked at Northside Drugs in the 25th Street Shopping Center for 15 years. When the owner opened another pharmacy in Holiday Center near 25th Street and Taylor Road, Pauline worked there for the next 20 years. While she was still at the Holiday Drug Store, Pauline accepted a part-time position at Kirlin’s Hallmark Store located in the former FairOaks Mall.
When Holiday Drugs closed its doors, Pauline was asked to work for Kirlin’s Hallmark full-time. She agreed and stayed there until retirement. The store closed permanently in the spring of 2017.
While work required much of her time, Pauline recalls some of her favorite memories were spent on vacation. At those times, she would often head south with a good friend to see the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
When asked about the difficult times, Pauline said several people she has loved or liked have died. That includes her father, Robert Haislup, who died at age 66 in the summer of 1964.
But she perks up while explaining the women in her family enjoy more longevity. Her mother, Mabel, lived to be 93 before her death in early 1995. An aunt, Elizabeth Hughes, survived until age 97. And her little sister, Barbara, remained a part of Pauline’s life until she died at the age of 88 in March 2019.
“I’ve got a lot of friends I have worked with,” Pauline said. “I’ve got them in Michigan, Ohio and Florida that I still hear from. I also have a friend in Bloomington who will either write or call.”
Pauline was never the type of person who mopes about the past, Ford said.
“She helped me to understand that, no matter what is happening, everything changes,” Ford said. “You just learn to deal with it, and go with the flow.”
At the Belmont recently, a man showing therapy dogs asked her if her name was Pauline.
“When I said yes, he told me he had worked with my father,” Pauline said with delight. “Now, he looks me up every time he comes here.”
Secret of long life
Although Pauline isn’t sure what is being prepared for her birthday, she does know there will be plenty of people asking her the same question. It’s one she has often heard in recent years.
“Honey, I don’t know how many times people have asked me how I’ve managed to live so long,” Pauline said. “What did I do? I don’t remember doing anything special.”
Pauline paused a moment before a possible answer popped into her mind.
“I did mow my own grass until I was about 95,” she said.