Let me introduce you to Beth (Betty) Margaret Schrik, who becomes a centenarian today. Though born June 16, 1917, in a northeast Kansas City duplex to Harry and Jessie Sallee, Betty's birthday is being observed Saturday, June 17, so more well-wishers can celebrate the milestone, which her third-oldest offspring, Dianne Sallee, says is open to “anyone who ever knew her or wants to attend.”
The pop-in, pop-out salute is from 2 to 4 p.m at Maywood Terrace Living Center, 10300 E. Truman Road, Independence. Expected to attend are seven of Betty's nine children, 13 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, as well as other family members and friends
In a pre-birthday interview with her daughter/caretaker at her side, Betty reveals she was an only child, whose daddy was a streetcar motorman in Kansas City and her mother was a housewife whose health issues often kept her bedridden.
Reminiscing about her childhood, Betty recalls being uprooted from her northeast Kansas City home and relocating in Northtown, where she liked going to school. However, the spunky schoolgirl balked at attending school in Independence after her parents moved there in 1933. Instead, she caught a bus to Northtown and refused to attend school in the “Queen City of the Trails,” where she lived most of her adult life, explaining: “I never wanted to move away from Northtown.”
“She refused to go to William Chrisman,” Dianne says, explaining her mother “didn't like change then and still hates change to this day.” Betty graduated from North Kansas City High in 1935.
There's one thing young Betty never balked at, and that was spending time with her socially prominent grandparents in their old Victorian home in Harrisonville, Missouri.
“I loved the old, stately-looking Harrisonville Square,” she recalls. “We would 'wind the clock' every night and walk around the square.” She also adored her grandmother, who was affectionately called Miss Lizzy. “We loved everything about her. She was my favorite and I was her favorite. When it was cool in the winter I would go visit her.”
Childhood memories are many. But, for Betty, none was as exciting as seeing world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh on a visit to Kansas City.
“Well, I went to see him and I was pretty young and we walked from Northtown to the downtown airport and I did handsprings all the way there,” Betty says. Why the handsprings? “I did better with handsprings,” she laughingly explains.
On another occasion, young Betty experienced a thrill of a lifetime while walking around “the hills” in Northtown. Curious about what was happening above her, she glanced up, and there was an airplane making circles in the sky. And what happened next, Betty has never forgotten. After landing the aircraft in an open field across the street from her house, the pilot asked her if she would like to take a ride. She climbed in and the plane soared skyward, giving Betty her first unforgettable airplane ride.
After graduating from high school, Betty attended three years at Central Missouri State Teachers College in Warrensburg. However, one of Cupid's arrows struck the pretty Independence coed and foiled her plans for obtaining a college diploma. She and Al “Swede” Schrik, a tall, blond, good-looking basketball sensation, had fallen in love. They were married in 1940 and spent much of World War II at the U.S. Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia, where Swede taught physical education and hand-to-hand combat tactics, in addition to coaching baseball and basketball. Betty worked as a waitress in a Greek restaurant and rode to her husband's games on the team bus.
Calling her mother “a ball of love,” Dianne Sallee believes her mom is “alive today because she is lively and has an insatiable curiosity. ... She is very set in her ways, but very curious about the world and loves her family.”
Dianne believes it would take a mother's love for her family to do what Betty and Swede did for their children every summer when they loaded their family and camping gear into a crowded borrowed station wagon and headed for the Lake of the Ozarks for water skiing and camping.
Then there was the planned trip to Yellowstone National Park that Mother Nature ruined before the vacationers reached their destination.
Dianne remembers the trip very well: “We were headed toward Yellowstone Park, but we only made it as far as Estes Park (Colorado) because of the snow and cold. We were not prepared to camp. We slept with 10 people in two tents. Betty spent one cold night sitting in the communal shower room to stay warm. The station wagon was fully loaded with 10 people, two tents, pillows, sleeping bags, camping gear and clothes. It must have been quite a sight. We must have looked like the 'Beverly Hillbillies.' But it was fun.”
Betty is known for many things. One of which is watching people.
“She is a people watcher. People fascinate her,” Dianne says. “Once she couldn't walk anymore, we would bring her to Santa-Cali-Gon to watch people, because of her insatiable curiosity.”
Though now confined to a wheelchair, Dianne says her mother was still driving at age 92. But she lost that mobility a year later when she got caught in a revolving door, fell to the floor, shattered her elbow, had major surgery and yet survived.
As for what Betty preached to her children, “She didn't preach … she didn't … at all … ever,” Dianne says emphatically. … I think her main advice was is to follow your dream, be kind to one another, be curious, don't be afraid to travel or whatever. … But whatever you do, be kind.”
In summary, “I think the words (Betty) lived by was fun, friends, family, freedom and furry animals, which were very important to her,” Dianne says. “She also loves to “rescue “stray people and animals, and once had 13 cats roaming her house.”
Have a joyous and Happy Birthday, Betty. May God's richest blessings rest upon you on this special occasion, as well as all your days hereafter.
-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.