Manahawkin Woman ‘Scales’ 100 Years With Service, Strength and Determination – The SandPaper

December 17th, 2020 5:51 pm

Catherine Kate Scales (center) has lived in Manahawkin since 1959 and was partly responsible for the development of Stafford Townships first master plan. (Supplied photo)

In 1920, women in the U.S. were given the right to vote, Warren Harding was elected the 29th president, movies were silent and televisions didnt yet exist, the American Civil Liberties Union was founded, Agatha Christies first novel was published, and American football became a professional sport.

Later that year, on Oct. 27, Catherine Kate Scales was born in Jersey City, but as she grew a slight problem arose she was allergic to regular milk.

I didnt like regular milk anyway, she recently said, bursting with laughter, from her home on North Lakeshore Drive in Manahawkin, several weeks after celebrating her 100th birthday. But I was raised on goats milk, and I really believe that has something to do with why Im still around.

Certainly, thats one of several viable possibilities for why Scales has lived through 17 presidencies, 10 decades worth of revolutionary changes throughout the nation, and the immense development of Stafford Township. But lets consider the others for a moment.

I have a vodka and tonic every night before dinner, just one while dinner is cooking, she said, sounding quite proud of that fact. Ive had a lot of good luck, too. Under a lot of different circumstances, things have worked out for me.

So well, shes rarely entered a hospital.

I went to the hospital for childbirth and to have a bunion taken off my foot, she said. I dont go to hospitals except to visit people. I have my tonsils, appendix and all that good stuff. Ive been healthy. I really think it was the goats milk.

Stafford Township Mayor Greg Myhre presents a proclamation and key to the city to Kate Scales on her 100th birthday, as family and friends celebrated in a drive-by way. (Supplied photo)

Whatever the reasons for her longevity, whats more fascinating about the woman who once was asked by both the Stafford Republican and Democratic clubs to run for mayor she dismissed that request by telling those who asked she didnt lie well enough to be a good politician is not that shes lived 100 years, but how shes lived through those years.

One of two girls to a mother widowed by the time she was 2 years old, Scales grew up in Jersey City and, not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she made a decision that shocked her mom.

I went into the Navy in 1942, because thats where all the boys were, she said with a chuckle. But we had no boys in the family, and this was my country and we all had stars in our eyes in those days. So, I just joined. I came home and told my mother and she said, You cant do that. I said, Mama, I already did it. I knew youd say no, so I didnt ask you. I was 22 when I went in.

While serving during World War II, she became a celestial navigation instructor for naval pilots and fulfilled the role for two years, 10 months and 11 days.

Somebody said to me at the beginning of my service, Dont volunteer for anything because theyll give you the opposite, so I didnt know anything, she said, a bit of a coy emphasis to the explanation. They needed mechanics someplace out in Oklahoma, so I looked at this list of tools and I said, I think that might be a hammer. I knew what it was, but I wasnt telling them that. I didnt want to be some grease monkey for the Navy. I may as well have stayed home and worked in an office in New York.

After serving with the Navy, Scales did in fact go to work in an office in New York City as a secretary to a very fine gentleman named Howard Book with Reed Roller Bit Co. but not before she graduated with a degree in English literature from Fordham University.

I went to college under the G.I. Bill, she said. I was very grateful for that, because I couldnt have gone to school without it. I wouldnt have been able to afford it. But I had big plans. I was going to work in New York until 40, then go to Cape Cod, teach in the winter and have a boarding house in the summer. That didnt happen.

Instead, she met the man who became her husband, Michael Scales, on a blind date set up by her sisters sister-in-law.

She said, I have this nice gentleman for you, and I said, If hes so nice, why didnt you take him? Whats wrong with him? She said he was too young for her, but he wasnt much younger, Kate recalled. I agreed to meet for a drink in Rockefeller Plaza and I told her not to leave me with him. She introduced us and left. I couldve killed her. She left me with this strange fellow, who happened to be British.

That blind date occurred in 1954 and the couple married in 1956. Three years later, they moved to Manahawkin after the company for which Michael worked, Ciba-Geigy, moved from Pennsylvania to Toms River. Scales has lived on the same street next to Manahawkin Lake since, and even had some influence on the booming development of Stafford Township through the 1960s and 70s.

Kate Scales spent nearly three years as a celestial navigation instructor for the U.S. Navy during World War II. (Supplied photo)

While her husband traveled a lot for his job, Kate got involved within the township, eventually making her way onto the planning board. At the time, the town didnt have a master plan. She ultimately chaired the planning board and was part of the committee that developed the first master plan.

Some gentlemen said to me, Mrs. Scales, they just made you the head of the planning board. How would you like to be addressed? Well, everybody there was friendly, and wed always have coffee and cake during our meetings. Everything was real matey, so I said, Just call me Madam. So, thats what they called me. All of a sudden, I was Madam this and Madam that. It was fun, she said.

But it was an exciting time for the town. At the time, the biggest store was Grants, downtown where the motor vehicle office is now. The town was just coming to life at that point. We did our best with the master plan, and I saw the town grow. It was a really nice time.

Scales also spent time as the night court clerk only temporarily, for about a year, because I couldnt stand doing that for too long, she said and was active with the American Legion, Stafford Historic Society and the historic preservation commission. For a few years, she also served as president of the Republican Club.

At 22, Kate Scales joined the U.S. Navy and didnt tell her mother she had done it until after she signed the paperwork to enlist. (Supplied photo)

All the while, she operated a printing and secretarial service from home while her children grew up and served as a job developer for the local Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, through which she helped teens get their high school diplomas while working and completing life and skills training during the Reagan administration.

Years later, following her husbands passing, Kate bought and operated an inn on Cape Cod, in West Harwich, for 13 years, before selling it so she could return to Manahawkin full-time to be closer to her grandchildren.

Ive had an interesting life, said Kate, who credits her grandfathers Scottish genetics Thomas Murray was the only postman in New York to complete his mail route during the blizzard of 1888, featured in The New York Times that year for at least some of her strength and longevity. I was always involved with stuff. And I am strong, not stubborn. If I say, I wont, I wont and if I say, I will, I will. But Im still here. I guess thats something special.

On her 100th birthday, family and friends delivered a drive-by celebration orchestrated by her granddaughter Erika in which relatives from as far away as Texas made the trip just to camp out in the backyard, since there wasnt enough space in the house to accommodate many visitors, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Greg Myhre also made a special visit to present a town proclamation recognizing Kates milestone and give her a key to the city.

I didnt see a reason he should have come by, but he did and gave me this key to the city, she said. It was nice of him to do that. I never saw the keys to the city, so it was something to get one. I havent tried to see if it works yet.

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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Manahawkin Woman 'Scales' 100 Years With Service, Strength and Determination - The SandPaper

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