What’s in a Name?
“I named her Inez Beryle,” Opal Collins Marsteller told her husband after the birth of their daughter on April 1, 1922, in Geneva, PA. Harold Marsteller was delighted with his daughter, but he was less than enchanted with that name. He renamed her Emma Maxine.
Maxine – yes, Maxine, not Emma – laughed when she told the story.
“Then, for some reason, they decided to called me Maxine,” she said. “It would have made things a lot easier if they had named me Maxine Emma, or if they had called me Emma.”
While Maxine was still an infant, the Marstellers moved to Wheatland. Harold was a streetcar conductor for a while, then went to work at Carnegie Illinois. Her mother stayed at home to raise their seven children.
“The best thing I remember about my mother is her baking bread,” Maxine said. “She baked eight loaves, three times a week. I can still see them lined up.”
Maxine went to Farrell High School for two years, then transferred to Sharon High in 1937 when her family moved to Sharon. That led to the most important event in her life.
“Just after we moved to Sharon, us girls were out playing ball in the street,” Maxine said. “I had just hit the ball when this boy named Chic Chizmar was coming down the street. He picked the ball up and took it with him. I said, ‘Give me that ball.’ He said, ‘Not unless you give me a date.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t date you if you were the last guy on earth.’ Chic’s sister was playing ball with us. She said, ‘He really is a nice guy.’ So that’s how we got started.”
Chic’s real name is Joseph, but few people called him that.
“After we had been dating a year, someone asked my sister Mildred if I was still going with Joe. She said, ‘Maxine never dated anyone named Joe. She goes with Chic Chizmar.”
That same year, 1937, Chic graduated from Sharon High School and went out looking for a job.
“I had a good recommendation from a former Westinghouse foreman,” Chic said. “I was offered the job, but I couldn’t pass the physical because I only had one good eye.”
So Joe kept looking for a job.
“I visited a printer named M. C. Conner. They used to call him Little Mike the Big Printer because he was really a shorty. He gave me a job. He used to put out a paper called the Penny Saver. I helped him print that.”
Chic found that he liked printing, and decided to learn more about it.
“I wanted to learn a trade because that was my only option. So I went with Victor Printing, run by Bill Richards in a garage on Orchard Avenue. I learned a lot from his employees.”
When Maxine graduated from high school in 1939, she went to work as a clerk in Autenreith’s Five and Ten in downtown Sharon.
“It was down where the army-navy store is now,” Maxine said. “The manager was Mr. Ball.”
That was about the time many young men were being called into military service for World War II broke out – but not Chic, because of his bad eye.
“I hated that because some people were very cruel about slackers and stuff like that,” Chic said. “But we didn’t let it bother us.”
That bad break turned into a good one.
“I found out a young gentleman who was a pressman at Eagle Printing was called into the service. I went there and got the job. Eagle Printing was the biggest printing shop around.”
That was just three weeks before Chic and Maxine got married. The wedding on September 12, 1942, was a happy event, of course – but not flawless.
“I had bought this outfit,” Maxine said. “When I went to pick it up the day before the wedding, it was all moth-eaten. So I ended up wearing just a beige suit. I was furious.”
Maxine worked at Autenreith’s for another year. In 1944, their first son Raymond was born.
Chic continued to develop his printing skills at Eagle Printing.
“We were strictly type printers, setting lead type from trays by hand. I was an all-around craftsman, so to speak. Wherever I was needed, that’s where I was put.”
Chic enjoyed taking photographs, mostly casual pictures of people and events, such as the aftermath of the tornado in 1947. He developed and printed his photos in a dark room at home.
“It was strictly black and white back then, but I learned to tint pictures by hand.”
His photography prepared him for the huge change that came to the printing industry in the late 1940s – the transition from lead type to lithography and offset press.
“Lithography is a photographic process,” he said, “so I fit right into that. I became a compositor. I learned a lot from the 3M Company’s agents, and went to their seminars on how to use their products.”
The job gave Chic the opportunity to be creative. “I loved the layout work. We printed everything from wedding invitations to instruction manuals. We were a major vendor for Westinghouse Electric. We printed a lot of instruction manuals for their transformers.”
Their first daughter Kathryn was born in 1949, followed by Mary Jo in 1951 and son John in 1956. Maxine enjoyed the role of full-time wife and mother, a role for which she had an excellent model, in principle if not in detail.
Like her mother, Maxine stayed at home to raise her family. She was also actively involved in the community as a PTA member, cub scout den mother, girl scout leader, and home room mother.
Chic and Maxine loved music. Chic sang with the Penn Ohio barber shop singers, and Maxine learned to play the piano. They encouraged their children to develop their own musical talents.
“When I was a youngster,” Chic said, “my father insisted that I go for violin lessons. I hated it. I was more into saxophones and guitars.”
Both of those musical interests blossomed in their children. Kathy took violin lessons and played in the school orchestra. And Raymond found himself at home in the arena of popular music.
“Raymond was a musician and had a beautiful voice,” Chic said. “He and a few friends – the DePretas, and Mickey Farrell – formed a combo. They called themselves the Fairlanes because the Ford Fairlane was so popular. Our cellar was their practice area. Every time they had a session I had to replace the light bulbs because they were blown out by the amplifier. Then I wised up and put fluorescent lights in.”
Maxine laughed. “It was very loud, but at least we knew where they were.”
“Those were the best years of our lives and we didn’t know it,” Chic said. “They had so many nice friends. We enjoyed knowing them and their parents.”
On December 20, 1968, Raymond was driving home from Indiana to play a gig with the band. His car hit an icy spot and hit an abutment. He was killed instantly.
Such an tragedy can damage a lesser family, but the Chizmars worked their way through it.
“A few years ago our son John saw an old Ford Fairlane, and this old lady owned it,” Maxine said. “He wanted to buy it in memory of his brother. She didn’t want to sell it, but finally she did. He still has it. It’s beautiful.”
Maxine found a lot of fulfillment in doing volunteer work. In 1998, she was honored by the AARP volunteer of the year for her work with AARP Chapter 3775, the Red Cross, and Sharon Regional Health Systems. She also worked at the polls on election days.
But their life always was – and still is – centered on their family. Their daughter Kathy, who married Sam Collovecchio, owns Curves over in Cortland. John and his wife Marcey live in Champion, Ohio, where he works for Penney’s. Mary Jo married Tom Hannahan from Sharpsville, and they now live in Mississippi where she teaches school. She’s the only one with kids – Tommy, Jeffrey, and Erin. Erin, now Fussell, is the mother of their only great grandchild, Kate Olivia.
“We have a wonderful family,” Maxine said, “the Chizmars, the Hoaglands, and the Generaloviches. We get together every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. We’ve had as many as 35 or 40 from just the local families.”
It’s safe to assume that Chic wouldn’t have cared if his wife had been named Inez Beryle, Emma Maxine, or Maxine Emma.
“I consider myself a very fortunate man to have been wedded to a woman like this all these years,” Chic said. “We took care of each other, and we still take care of one another.”
Excerpted from Lives of Quiet Inspiration, Volume 1, by Joe Zentis. Hermitage, PA: Green Street Press, 2007