Millie Lyons was just a year old when her dad died in 1923. Her mom was left with five young children. There was no social security system back then, and Millie’s mom needed to work to support the family. Millie says her earliest memory is being in a crib at the Pythian Children’s Home in Springfield. It was a tough start, but she and her siblings found plenty of ways to have fun, as she told Community Voices interviewer Alan Staiger.
Millie Lyons: Okay I was raised in an orphanage. It was in Springfield. I had three sisters and one brother. And we didn't appreciate it then, but it was a beautiful, beautiful building. We had a wonderful playground, and swimming pool, and we had a large basement. We would skate round and round and play tag in that basement. And we also would sled, what I thought were a large hills— turned out later to be quite small! But I can remember a lot of fun sledding.
We had our own theaters. We had our own band. Every Sunday afternoon in the summer we would have a band concert outside. And of course mother was always up every Sunday. She brought candy for us and clothes and things. She always saw that we were taken care of. In fact, at one point they had to ask her to quit bringing us so many nice clothes because we were better dressed than the others.
We went to public school. In the early grades, the school was right down at the end of our driveway. When I entered the first grade and I got tired, I just put my head on my desk and went to sleep. So I flunked the first half, but I still graduated at 17!
When I got ready to go to high school I left Springfield. I was probably an average student, but I did win a contest, which no one's probably ever heard of. And that was a posture contest for the schools in Dayton. I practiced and practiced walking and holding my head high, my tummy in, my shoulders back. I won first prize! I got a little miniature statue. And my heart was broken when a boyfriend and I were jitterbugging and we knocked it off of the shelf and it broke.
We had a lot of good times. I think there were more happy times than sad times there.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Kateri Kosta. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.