A century of memories for Lander descendant

May 23, 2012
Margaret Scheibler
The senior photo of Margaret Lander Scheibler published in the 1933 yearbook of what was then Lander College.
She was born in 1912, a month after the luxury liner Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, but at 100 years of age, she recalls long-ago events, dates and names with clarity and precision that would make people many years her junior envious.

She is Margaret Lander Scheibler, granddaughter of the Rev. Samuel Lander, founder of Williamston Female College, later to become Lander University. The school was moved to Greenwood in 1904 and renamed Lander College in honor of its founder, who died that same year. Margaret's mother, Kizzie, was a member of the last class to graduate from Williamston.

On Saturday, May 12, Margaret was the guest of honor at a gala 100th birthday celebration at Covenant Way, the retirement community in Due West, which has been her home for 11 years. Guests included family members and close friends, all gathered to take part in her centennial celebration. Letters from President and Mrs. Barack Obama and Governor Nikki Haley were among the cards and congratulatory notes she received.

Born and raised in Calhoun Falls, she was one of 42 women in Lander's Class of 1933. Did her classmates know that the school's founder was her grandfather? "I suppose they did," she replied, "but I didn't feel any pressure. I tried to do the best I could."

At the time, Lander was a teacher's college, but Margaret had her heart set on becoming a secretary despite the prodding of her father, Ernest, who encouraged her to go into teaching. But she persisted and, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she took a job as a payroll clerk in the same textile mill where her father worked. Her salary was $12 a week.

In 1937, she enrolled in Draughon's business college in Columbia to study shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. After graduating, she taught commercial courses at two high schools in Florence County but said, "It just was not for me."

Scheibler and Brother
Margaret Lander Scheibler and her brother Ernest, 96, grandchildren of Lander University founder the Rev. Samuel Lander, at her 100th birthday celebration on May 12 at Covenant Way in Due West.
While visiting a friend from Lander who was a nursing student in Atlanta, she developed a fondness for the city, and during the early years of World War II she packed up her belongings, including savings of $50, and moved there.

In Atlanta, she held two secretarial positions over a period of three decades, one with Westinghouse for nearly 20 years, then in the Adolescent Psychiatric Department at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she worked for 11 years before retiring.

In 1942 she met her future husband, Julius Walter Scheibler III, and his wife, Lois, at a church fellowship meeting in Atlanta, and they remained friends for many years. J.W., as he preferred to be called, was a commercial artist from Memphis, Tenn.

After Lois died in 1964, J.W. and Margaret stayed in touch over the years then began dating. Later, they would marry and spend 20 years together until his death in 1999.

Looking back on her days at Lander, she remembered being active in several school organizations. She said classes were small, so most of the students tended to be involved.

She also enjoyed playing on the basketball, field hockey and speedball teams and served as president of Lander's athletic association. She also tried high jumping, even though she was only 5 feet tall. She said, "I still weigh about the same as I did then, but I've shrunk, and I'm several inches shorter."

The 1933 Lander yearbook, The Naiad, was dedicated to Cherokee Indians who were native to the Greenwood area where the university campus is now located. Seniors were all given Indian names and Margaret's was "Bouncing Feather." She said, "I guess it was because I was always jumping around." She also penned the senior class poem, an account of the experiences and sentiments of the Class of '33, which she described as arriving at Lander in 1929 as "a band of verdant freshmen."

Her most recent visit to Lander was in 2009 for the premiere of "S. Lander: His Life and Legacy," a documentary film about her grandfather, produced by Paul Crutcher and Dr. Robert Stevenson of Lander's Mass Communication and Theatre Department. She said the campus had certainly changed over the years.

Ten years after she graduated, Lander began admitting male students, a move she described as the right thing to do. "But," she added, "I'm sorry I was 10 years too early." Her sister, Miriam, also attended Lander for a time before transferring to the University of South Carolina to study journalism.

Margaret and Miriam were two of Ernest and Kizzie Lander's five children. Miriam and brothers Samuel and William have since died, but her brother Ernest, nicknamed Whitey, is still alive and living in Clemson. Ernest, who is 96 years old, was among the partygoers who gathered at Covenant Way for his sister's 100th birthday celebration.

Margaret never thought about living to be 100 and doesn't have a secret for her longevity. "I just kept on breathing." She also was a big fan of walking, eats healthy and does not drink alcoholic beverages.

She loves reading and music, watching television and listening to the radio. She is also an avid bridge player and, the week before her birthday, she won third prize in a bridge tournament at Covenant Way. She pointed out that she has won tournaments in the recent past. "Bridge keeps the brain alive," she said.

She also has a driver's license, which does not expire for another three years. She owns a late model Dodge Neon and still drives, but only on short trips around the area. Not long after moving into Covenant Way, she drove to Atlanta to see friends. She would have been approaching 90 years of age at the time.

A bookcase in her apartment at the retirement home contains many volumes with religious titles. She considers herself a religious person and for many years she was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. But because there are no churches of that denomination near her home, in 1977 she joined the Self-Realization Fellowship, an organization that teaches methods of meditation and the principles of spiritual living.

As for what she views as important advancements during her lifetime, she laughed and singled out the introduction of nylon stockings for women in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She said they were in limited supply and very expensive, but "a lot more comfortable" than what women had been wearing.