Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
The cost of gasoline, on average, was 34 cents a gallon.
McDonald’s began serving the Big Mac for 49 cents.
And Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant.
Those are just a few things that were happening around 50 years ago — the same time when lifelong Remsen resident Lucinda (Pugh) Roberts began her career with Remsen Central School.
“But it doesn’t feel like 50 years,” Roberts quipped. “The years have come and gone and honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it.”
After graduating from Remsen High School, Roberts attended the Utica School of Commerce and soon after, got a job with Dunlop Tires in a totally unrelated field testing tire cords. She would marry husband Bill and the couple would have two daughters, Monica and Carrie, and take a temporary break from working outside the home.
When her children began attending school, Roberts said she felt it was time to go back to work. That is when a part-time position with the school district happened to be “a job that just came up.”
“When I started here in 1968, I worked part-time and at that time, there was just one building, K-12,” the 76-year-old said. “I worked mainly for the principal at the time.”
But throughout the years, Roberts took on an array of positions, wearing several different hats.
“I’ve worked in the guidance area. I’ve done school attendance — I’ve done just about everything,” she said.
“Currently I’m the purchasing agent for the district. I do all the purchasing of supplies, materials, textbooks, and I do accounts payable. So it’s kind of a
busy job, but that’s OK.”
Eventually Roberts would work full-time for the district and did so until her unofficial retirement about 10 years ago.
“But I retired Friday and came back to work on Monday, and then I started working part-time” again, Roberts laughed. “I like to keep busy and being here, it keeps your mind active. I’m not one to just sit around, so if I stayed home during retirement, I’d go crazy.”
Husband Bill worked in the banking business for 27 years before his retirement. Then he became the Town of Steuben highway superintendent, a position he held for 16 years. And now Bill drives school bus, believing like his wife, that staying active is the key to longevity.
Much like her, Roberts said her husband enjoys working with the children.
“He enjoys the kids and route he has, and it kind of keeps him going and gives a reason for him to get up and get going in the morning,” she said. “But we both try to stay busy.”
Although she began her career working with high-school age students, Roberts said she is now mainly at the elementary school. But no matter where she has worked, the purchasing agent said she looks forward to experiencing something new each day on the job.
“There are never any two days that are the same,” she said. “There’s something always new and different. But working in different capacities keeps you up and going.”
Roberts said, “There’s a great bunch of people to work with here, as well as the kids and the community. It’s fun to see the kids. I worked so many years in the high school and didn’t know any kids at the elementary until I moved schools, so that was a change. But it’s something you get used to, and the little kids are fun. It’s a totally different climate between the two buildings.”
Through the years, Roberts said she has seen numerous little ones start their school days in kindergarten and eventually graduate high school. They either move on or stay in the community, with their own children and grandchildren now attending Remsen as well.
“We have parents here who were in school with my kids and now their grandkids have kids the same age as my great grandkids,” Roberts said. “It’s a great place to work and everyone knows everyone. Being a small town, you just get used to everyone. It’s a big family atmosphere.”
Remsen “is still a great place,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life. My family is all from this area, and I grew up on a farm that had been in the family since 1905.”
When the Roberts aren’t working, they’re enjoying their off time with their extended family. Daughter Monica and her husband Mark have one grown son with two small children. Daughter Carrie lives in Beaver Falls and has several children and grandchildren.
The Roberts are also known for their special display of Christmas lights that attracts hundreds of visitors to their residence each holiday season.
“Each year we have a huge Christmas light display that keeps us busy from Halloween to the end of the Christmas season,” she said. “It’s our night and weekend project. It’s a drive-by attraction and people come from all over to see it. We had big snowfall on Christmas Day and had 53 inflatables and everything, including thousands of lights, but things kind of got buried in the snow. We’re not sure for how much longer we can keep it up, but we’re hoping someone can host the display when we are no longer able to.”
In the meantime, Roberts said she will continue to enjoy working with students, teachers and administrators of the community and advises others to make sure they keep loving whatever it is they’re doing.
“Your job is what you make it, and I enjoy coming to work each day,” she said. “Making the most of what you do, just makes it more pleasant.”