Kay Eggleston has seen a lot during the 70 years she’s lived on Brooklea Drive in the village of Fayetteville.
She remembers when Fayetteville and Manlius joined together into one centralized school district in the 1950s – “The kids didn’t like the fact that anyone was coming in from Manlius. We were kind of snippy in Fayetteville [back then]”.
She can recite in order nearly all of the shops and homes in the center of the village and who they were owned by – “There was a big, beautiful brick house where Friendly’s used to be, but it was torn down. And across Route 5, Immaculate Conception Church and the Rectory were where M&T Bank is now. Across Salt Springs Road, there’s the antique place – two little old ladies owned that house. They lived in New York City and came up every summer and rocked on that front porch.”
One of her favorite early Fayetteville memories is from her days working at the village polling place, which was located where the Hornet’s Nest on Brooklea Drive is now.
“I had just moved from Syracuse, where it was split pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I got such a kick out of the fact that they couldn’t find any Democrats to work at the polls! It’s more equal now, but I was shocked at how everyone here was registered as Republican. I had always lived in an area where it was more split.”
Eggleston was born in Camillus on July 1, 1914 to Anna and Andrew Nagel. Her father had recently immigrated to America from Germany and was employed by Camillus Cutlery. There was a boarding house where the single men who worked for the Cutlery lived – her father ran the facility and her mother was the cook/housekeeper. Eggleston started school in Camillus and later attended North Syracuse Elementary School and North High School. She then attended and graduated from Syracuse’s Central City Business Institute and became a bookkeeper for Vandenburg REO, an automobile agency on West Genesee Street in Syracuse at 16 years old.
A few years later, she got a job with a finance company called Associates Discount, which was located in the State Tower Building in downtown Syracuse. Around this time, she met George Winter, a widower who, ironically, before they met, worked for Traveler’s Insurance, whose offices were on floor below the Associates Discount offices in the State Tower Building. They shared an interest in horseback riding and would meet up every Friday after work at the Calvary Club in Manlius with a group of friends to ride together. Winter, who taught dressage there, was one of the Calvary Club’s early members.
“After we got through riding, we’d all go to a neighborhood saloon in Manlius,” she said. “We’d have a room and we would all have hamburgers. And that’s how I met Mr. Winter.”
Eggleston quit her job in insurance and married Winter on June 30,1944 and she moved into his house on Brooklea Drive with Winter’s two sons from his previous marriage, George, 10 and David, 8.
After Winter died, Eggleston joined Immaculate Conception Church and became a cub scout den mother. When meeting new people, they would often ask where she lived – Eggleston remembers that when she would tell them, people would say, ‘Oh, that’s the old Hilda Russell house,” to which she would reply, “No, it’s my house!”
Now a single mother, Eggleston landed a job at Stedford Chemical on East Genesee Street in the village. She worked there for many years to help put the boys through school – George went to Cornell and David went to Syracuse University. She worked there for many years, until the company went bankrupt.
She began the job search again, and a friend told her about an opening at First Trust and Deposit (now Key Bank_. She went in for an interview at their branch on Brooklea Drive and worked there for ten years, when she retired on June 30, 1979, after 50 years in the workforce, at age 65.
“At that time, you had to quit when you turned 65,” she said. “I didn’t want to. I ended up going on a trip right after retiring, and when I came back, they said I could work until I was 70. And I said, “No
Since she was a teenager, Eggleston had been involved in philanthropic work. She joined several organizations and spent a good deal of time giving back to the community. She has been involved in the American Legion Auxiliary (she served as the Fayetteville unit’s president for 16 years), the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge New York Chapter (she was named “Woman of the Year” for the Eastern secition of the U.S. in 2006) and Syracuse’s Corinthian Club and Kanatenah Club. “Kanatenah Club was the largest women’s charitable organization in Syracuse. The Kanatenah members were the belles of Syracuse,” she said.
Her self-described “main” organization, however, is the Salvation Army. She has spent countless hours volunteering over the years, and one tradition in particular stands out for Eggleston. Every year until recently, she would drive to Barnes and Noble and even spend all day on Christmas Eve wrapping presents, no matter what the weather was like or how she felt.
But perhaps one of Eggleston’s biggest claims-to-fame is her matchbook cover collection. She’s been collecting them since she was a teenager and estimates that she now has more than 100,000. They’re all organized by theme in different binders in her home – she has around 20 shelves full of them.
She’s a member of the Ratchkamp Matchcover Society and has friends across the country that she has met at conventions over the years.
“To me, it’s a big family,” she said. “They’re very friendly – Stella called from Ohio yesterday, Elna called from Milwaukee this morning and so did Steve from New Hampshire. There’s no animosity, no bickering about who does this and who does that. Everybody does the same thing.”
And when asked about her passion for volunteerism, Eggleston didn’t hesitate at all before answering.
“I’ve found that the more you do for other people, it comes back to you twofold, it really does. And I’ve always said that if you belong to an organization, you’ll always have friends,” she said, smiling.
Feb 21, 2017