Barbara Curtis, left, and her youngest sister, Lillian Vanderwalker, take a break during the birthday party March 3 at the Minerva firehouse.
On March 3, the Minerva firehouse held a celebration in honor of Barbara Curtis’s 90th birthday. She has been an active and visible member of the community throughout her life.
Born in Minerva the oldest of six children, Curtis graduated fourth in her class in 1939. She remembers her mother chiding her at the time, saying if she had just put in a little more effort she could have been valedictorian.
“Goodness! I didn’t want that,” she said. “The last thing I wanted to do was have to get up and give a speech in front of everybody.”
Curtis still proudly wears her class ring.
“That was back when it was called North Creek High instead of Johnsburg Central School,” she said.
Her graduating class field trip was to New York City, where they were going to spend four days. Curtis still remembers the play they saw on their first night in the city because they almost missed it.
“They forgot to call for the bus to pick us up, but it all worked out and we made it just in time to see Abe Lincoln,” she said.
Her family has deep roots in the community. Curtis lives in the house that her grandfather built a hundred years ago.
“She’s just always been here,” said her niece, Barbara Moehringer, who helped put the party together. “Most of the adults and many of the older children in town remember her from the snack stand at Minerva Beach.”
Curtis ran that snack stand for more than 40 years. She was also a Girl Scout troop leader and a longstanding and still active member of the Minerva Baptist Church.
Her husband, Jack Curtis, was also active in the community. He owned and operated a barbershop and beauty salon in town and was in charge of the campgrounds during the summers. Their children, nieces, and nephews confess that they don’t remember the official name of the business since it was always “Grandpa’s fun chair” to them.
The couple met while they were both working at the GE plant in Schenectady. He was in security, and she in the payroll office. However, it wasn’t long before they decided to move back to Barbara’s hometown. Jack had a barbershop and hair salon in Chestertown before ultimately deciding to move it closer to home. They had three children and four grandchildren, and now there are three great-grandchildren.
Reflecting on how the town has changed over the years, Curtis said, “Well there are more people I don’t know nowadays, but everyone is still friendly and there’s still a real sense of community here. It still has a hometown feel to it.”
Her other niece, Lynn Green, vice-president of the Minerva Fire and Rescue Department, said that they chose to hold the celebration in the firehouse because “so many of our relatives and friends live in this area that this made it a good central location for everyone.”
Asked how she planned to spend the rest of her birthday after the party, Curtis smiled and said, “Oh, I’m just going to hang in there.”