by Dave Warner
A Centenarian is someone who is 100 years old, and it’s not every day that we have a birthday like that in Little Falls, but today, it’s Anna Kazmerski. The family had planned a huge party for her, but the Coronavirus showed up, and that was squashed. Next, it was a car parade by her house, but she killed that idea saying that she didn’t think she had done enough to deserve it.
Before she was married, she was a Kane she says, born in Little Falls 100 years ago on October 5th. She said, “We lived on 320 Mary Street, but those buildings are gone now. On Sunday morning, my mother used to make a big breakfast and my sister’s Godmother would come to the house. She used to play the organ down at St. Josephs, and she’d come there after that.”
She said that her father would also take her and her sister down to get the papers. “We didn’t have a car, but we walked everywhere. Anything we did, we walked.”
Her father was Catholic and her mother was Lutheran. “The Luthern church was over on the south side, but dad never took us to the Catholic Church. The lady that lived above us was Universalist, so she took my sister and I over there. We were in kindergarten there, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Anna went to Benton Hall Academy for school and stayed there through 1938. She said that being a child in Little Falls was just wonderful. “Somebody gave me a dog – a hound dog named Cappy and he used to follow me to school all the time and he had a lot of friends.”
She said that all the kids played outdoors all the time until dark and that her father would whistle when it was time to come in.
Anna said that she doesn’t feel old, it’s just that she can’t do all the things she wants to do.
She also said that she always felt that she wanted to be a teacher. “When I did grow up enough I taught Sunday school and things like that.”
Her father owned a store named Kanes Newsroom on Albany Street and she said, “My sister and I, when I was about eleven, we started going down and working there. In those days, nobody cared, kids worked. I did that and then in later years, I worked for the unemployment office, Salada, and in the felt shoe place when I first got out of school. Very few in our class went to college in those days.”
When her father died, her husband took over the store. “Urban renewal came along and took that business. So we went down to the bakery and he said, should we buy this? And I said no, I don’t want a bakery. But then he worked in different places.”
She was in a dress shop one day and she said, “We were talking and I said do you want to sell your business? The owner said I’ve had this for sale for years…yes. I called my husband where he was working and told him and he said to make an appointment for me. We bought that in 1967, it’s next to where the Lovenheims is now.”
They changed the name of the store to The Town Shop and ran a dress shop there for years until urban renewal stepped in again and caused them to lose the space. “Before we could step in, Lovenheims bought the building and we had to move. My husband went down to the Boston store and we asked if they wanted to sell and they said the same thing. ‘We’ve been trying to sell for years’, so we bought that,” she stated.
Anna said that she made a lot of trips down to Manhatten to buy clothes. “I liked that. I didn’t like driving down, but I loved the train, staying in the motels, and going out to shows. It was fun.”
When asked if there was anything that she had not done that she thought back and missed, she said that she hadn’t really wanted to travel to other countries, but that she had liked it right where she was in Little Falls.
The biggest change for her in Little Falls has been the decline in the population. “It was a very busy City. She said that she remembered her husband saying that his mother was taking him down street one time and he was holding on to her hand because there were so many people on the street that she was afraid he’d get away from her.”
“It was wonderful. You could go anyplace and do anything. It wasn’t all this worry, worry. You could take the trolley to go to Utica. We had the rails right on Main Street,” she stated.
Today, she’s very encouraged that there are young people coming up and taking care of things and getting involved. She talked about all the changes and enhancements at the library and said, “Every Saturday my sister and I went to the library. That was one thing that we had to do.”
She laments about the lack of stores in Little Falls, saying, “We had shoe stores, music stores, and two five and ten type stores. We had so much, a lot of bars too.”
Anna does say that even though everyone is friendly, that there isn’t the kind of interaction that there used to be. “People get in their car and drive off. They don’t have as much interaction with their neighbors. Cars were not here, we had horses and buggies.”
She misses the Rialto as well. “When I was eight or nine, my father used to give me 10 cents and some money to take my friend to the theater. There were always cowboys on Saturday, stars like Hoot Gibson. There was organ music because they were silent films. We had series too. You had to go each week to find out the rest of it. Things like Zoro, or Captain Blackbeard.”
The best decade for Anna was the 40’s because she got married in 1946, but for her, the best invention over the last 100 years for her has been the television. “It’s just wonderful, entertainment, especially when you’re old. You can learn all the news and everything is just right there for you.”
Her favorite show is NCIS with Leroy Jethro Gibbs. “I get movies to watch, or I can have a book read to me, it’s just wonderful.”
She also has a screen that connects to WiFi where her children can upload images that get changed out. “That is wonderful. I can see the children. I sat here this afternoon just watching it over and over again.”
The secret to being able to live so long is not bourbon and cigars, but the fact that she laughs a lot and has a good attitude. “I don’t stress about anything anymore. I just let everyone take care of themselves.”
When asked what she wants for her 100th birthday, “My family around me, and I can’t have it.” Some of them are scattered around the country and because of the COVID restrictions, they would have to quarantine if they came to NY.
The family has found a way for some of them to travel here safely and to take her out to dinner. “They were going to have a big party for me and a drive-by, but I said no,” she said. “They wanted me to stand up there, but for what, I’m just 100 years old. I didn’t do anything special.”
Anna does feel very fortunate because she is still living in her own home and able to take care of most things on her own. “I do get after my family to clean it though,” she stated. “I can’t do that very well anymore.”
She felt like she didn’t want to advertise the fact that she was turning 100, but I told her it was too late, she had just spent the last hour talking to the wrong person for that…her next-door neighbor, who might just start checking in a little more often, instead of getting into the car and just driving off.
Editors Note: The entire neighborhood got together to sing Happy Birthday to Anna in the evening.