One hundred years ago was the beginning of a new era – the Roaring ’20s. This decade birthed numerous advancements and is considered one of the most pivotal decades in history. Because the ’20s were so powerful in economic and cultural development, the ’30s had a lot to live up to.
The 1930s were in stark contrast to the 1920s. During the ’30s, the world was afflicted with economic and political turmoil. The Great Depression began in the U.S. in 1929, then spread throughout the world. The sociopolitical climate was in shambles as well, as the world sensed the approach of another major conflict – the Second World War.
Fear and power were main characters during this time in history, but that didn’t stop people from living their fullest lives amid the chaos. Men and women who endured some of the most brutal moments in history don’t seem to recall the heartache, but rather the beauty of everyday life.
Janet Shifflet is a 92-year-old resident at Life Care Center of Banner Elk, North Carolina, and has lived an extraordinary life. She was born in 1929 in Belgium. Janet only lived there for the first few months of her life before her family moved to Switzerland.
In Switzerland, where she lived until she was about 4 years old, Janet remembers walking around Lake Geneva with her father, as well as playing with a dog named Boy, who roamed her neighborhood. She would throw the stick for him and say, “Go get it, Boy!” Janet laughed while sharing this memory and expressed that she was more interested in animals than the surrounding landscape of Switzerland, and she’s fine with that because she enjoyed playing with the neighborhood dog.
Following her time in Switzerland, Janet’s family moved to Denmark. She lived there for about three years and met her friend Heidi while there. Heidi and her family were Jewish and survived World War II. Janet gives the credit of knowing Danish to Heidi, who taught her the language. Janet’s first language is German.
One of Janet’s fondest memories is playing in the snow with her neighborhood friends while living in Denmark.
Janet smiled as she said, “All the kids would slide down the snow pile, and once they got to the bottom, they’d bring snow to the top of the mound so that it would stay big. It was too warm for the snow to stay.”
England was her family’s next destination before coming to the U.S. one year later. Her family lived in Oceanside, California, for eight years, and Janet went to grade school and high school there. She attended an all-girls school, where she learned how to write and speak Latin.
Janet’s family moved once more after she graduated high school. Their next destination was Quebec, Canada, where most people speak French. There, Janet attended Laval University in Quebec City and immersed herself in French literature. Reading was her hobby, especially reading the works of Molière. Molière is the stage name of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, a French playwright, actor and poet. Janet remembered him being known as “France’s Shakespeare.”
Janet adored Quebec. While sharing the memories about her time there, she had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. Although she wanted so badly to stay in Quebec upon graduating university, her family decided to move to their next destination.
Janet’s life has been filled with many adventures, but it seems that her greatest adventure was having her children. At the age of 18, she met Royal Herbert Graves while living in California. Janet and Royal married and had two boys, Johnathan and Raymond (whose nickname was “BB”). Royal and Janet’s relationship didn’t work out due to Royal’s bad temper, so Janet took her boys and started anew.
Although the marriage didn’t end well, Janet says that her boys inherited their father’s talent of fixing things. The boys grew up and opened their own repair shop, and their slogan was “Fixing the Impossible.” People in the community would purposefully bring them hard to fix items to see if they really could fix the impossible. They always did.
Janet married Robert Hopkins in 1950, and they had two girls – Marilyn and Kathleen. Janet shares that the girls grew up to be artists. Sadly, Janet and Robert parted ways, but afterward, she met Truman Curtis Hazeltine, the love of her life.
Janet said that Truman was the only man who truly held her heart. The two met in Death Valley, California, and their love blossomed naturally. Her memory is fragile, but she recalls their love with ease and expressed that he was so important in her life that she can remember his full name. Unfortunately, Truman passed from a heart attack before he and Janet had the chance to marry. She reminisces on their love to this day.
Janet has had the opportunity of a lifetime – traveling the world and experiencing all that it has to offer. She’s lived in six countries, knows five languages, has four children and has endless stories of her adventures throughout her life. She was born and grew up during one of the most difficult times in history, but her story is abundant in love and happiness.