Elizabeth Murdock

Elizabeth was born in 1932 in Asheville North Carolina. Moved to Washington DC when she was 19.


JACKIE: Mrs. Murdock in her house in Westminster, for the Carroll County Living History Project. Hello.



JACKIE: Let me first ask you where and when were you born?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I was born November 14, 1932 in Asheville, North Carolina.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I grew up there.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Lived there all my life until– well, not all my life, but I mean– my– my formative years, say.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And I moved to Washington, DC, when I was 19.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So, you want to know about my life there?

JACKIE: Yeah, tell me about your childhood. What was it like in North Carolina?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Well, I was an only child. My mother and I lived with my grandparents with lots of aunts and uncles, cousins–

JACKIE: Big family.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Big old house, kind of a– it was a small farm. And I guess that was, you know, the depression years. But we didn’t have to worry about anything because we had food, obviously. And my grandmother made everything on her old Treadle sewing machine. And it was kind of, in a way, a Little House on the Prairie experience, I guess. Real happy. You know, you felt really free in those days. You weren’t afraid of anything. And I really– we had a nice neighborhood that we lived on the edge of. And I went to school that was first grade through 11th. At that time, they didn’t have 12th grades, at least not there.

JACKIE: Gotcha.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I didn’t have kindergarten. I went to first grade when I was five. And had to walk to school, probably a good mile–


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: –at least. And walked to church on Sunday, about two miles. We didn’t have a car. And I had– my grandfather at the time had a barn, and a cow, and some chickens, and so we kind of lived that way. And– and then when I got a little bit older, I wanted to get on the bus and ride to the schools in town.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Because most of the kids that I knew went to school there.

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So my mother finally said I could. So I’d ride the bus to junior high school. It was then the seventh, eighth, and ninth. And then I went to another school for high school by bus.

And Asheville was a beautiful place. I loved it. And knew everybody. It wasn’t that small, but you sort of knew everybody because my family had always been here. And I didn’t go to college. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college. And I didn’t really think about it too much. I took secretarial classes in high school so I could get a job when I got out of school.

JACKIE: That was good planning.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And I worked as a secretary in Asheville for a year, and then I moved with some friends to Washington, DC. They had gotten jobs with the Navy department.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And so I thought that’s what I would do. But when I got to Washington, I didn’t want to do that. I went to work for the Holland America steamship line and did that for three years. And met my husband, and my first husband, who was in the Navy at the time. We had three kids.

And then we moved to– when he got out of the Navy, we moved to Montgomery County. His family lived in Potomac. And we were living in Rockfield. So we lived there till the kids were– well, the youngest was nine. Then we moved to a place called Brinklow in Montgomery County. We lived there. And that’s when my– my marriage fell apart.

And so then I met my second husband at church. And we got married a few years later. And he had three kids. I had three kids. We had six.

JACKIE: The Brady Bunch.


JACKIE: Without the maid.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And then– and so now we have– let’s see– one, two, three, four, five. We have nine– nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. So I guess that’s right. And so that’s my story up to now. We moved to Carroll County in– well, we– my husband and I, we were living in Harod County, and he wanted to– he wanted a business. He bought a business in Reece [INAUDIBLE]. And I wanted an old farm house. I thought that was the best thing I’d always wanted– I guess ’cause I grew up in one.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So we bought an old farm house out of Gorsuch Road. Really neat place, lots of lands and a creek running through it. And I loved it. But unfortunately the driveway was like– like that.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And you felt like you were falling off the earth when you pull to the edge of it. And the winters were just horrific because of that.

JACKIE: I can only imagine.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So then I got sick. I had something called Guillain-Barre syndrome, and I was paralyzed–

JACKIE: Oh wow.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: –for six months. And anyway, then we– later we moved to this house. And he wanted a business in the backyard, which was nice. And when I first came to Westminster, I was– I was still recovering from that. And my son and his daughter and little children came to live with us here so she could kind of– they were in between building a house. So she sort of helped me out so I could go to work and come home. And she’d have dinner and all that.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I went to work for the Ascension Episcopal Church as the parish secretary, and I worked there for 16 years. And I thought Carroll County was a little– it was a little hard for me to get used to because I didn’t think people were very friendly where we were living. But I learned later that everyone was working, so there really wasn’t much chance. Like when we were younger, you had small kids, and you had neighbors that had small kids–

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: –like that, but it’s a big difference when– when you’re not in that kind of neighborhood. And most people work and– and drive away someplace to work.

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: But I got to know people through the church and really lovely people that I met. And so I did that. And then I retired from there. And I haven’t– I haven’t worked anywhere that– then I– after that I inherited my– my grandson for three years.


Raised him.

JACKIE: How old was he at the time?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: He was one when I got him.

JACKIE: Oh no.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So I raised him here in this house. And then my granddaughter, one of my granddaughters lived with me for a year. And then my mother got ill, and then I was back and forth to North Carolina all the time for awhile. And then she passed away. And then my aunt, her sister, lived in my mother’s house. So then I was back and forth there for a of couple years. So that kept me busy.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And then my son got ill. He’s been really ill for seven years. He has a– some kind of neurological disorder. I’m not sure what. They still don’t know exactly. But he’s in a wheelchair. So for the last few years I’ve helped take care of him down there at his house. He lives down at Hoshua in the caretaker house. His wife, she was caretaker– she was– she was head of the office for– for years and years and years and also lived in the house. So– so that’s where they live. And now she’s retired, so I don’t have to go down to Mike’s all the time.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I have one son in Tacoma Park. And he has two– two kids at home. And one just got married, and she’s living in Anchorage, Alaska.

JACKIE: Oh, Alaska, wow.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Yeah, she got married to a man– a guy in the service. And they got married one day. And then two days later, they start driving to– all the way across the country. And then a ferry boat to somewhere up there and then– oh then they had to drive up the Alaskan highway. And she said that was really awful. But anyway, she’s living in Anchorage. Her husband’s in the– he’s studying to be a medic.

And then my daughter Jenny lives in Frederick. She’s got three children, all redheads. And–

JACKIE: Good genes.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Good gene– well, I don’t know about that. That’s another subject. [LAUGHS] Maybe– maybe if you don’t have the– the Irish skin and the freckles.

JACKIE: It all comes in one package.


JACKIE: Can’t have one without the other.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So– so anyway, she’s got– she doesn’t– she’s a stay-at-home mom. But her kids are all– her kids are all grown. She still stays home. But she always liked that. And then my– my youngest, he’s– he’s down, as I told you, at Hoshua. And– so that’s about all I can think to say in one breath. [LAUGHS] I’m sort of out of breath. [LAUGHS]

JACKIE: Can you– can you think of any maybe historical events that made an impact on you? At some point in your life, did something happen– maybe something national, international, even something on a personal level that you feel?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Well, World War II, I– it didn’t affect me, you know, real close, of course. But I was very aware. At school, we had– they talked about it all the time. And we would make packages to send over to England to kids who– they didn’t have, you know, very much food to eat because of the bombings and everything.

And so then I had a pen pal from England, which was kind of neat. But I always remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt on our radio in our living room, saying that we were at war. And I didn’t know that all of the– you know, how serious that was. But he sounded real serious. And I– for some reason, I just never forgot that.

And my uncle was in the Navy. And he was away at sea. When he would come back, he would tell us a lot of stories. And the only thing that we got to see– of course, we didn’t have television. But we would go to a movie once in awhile. And they would always have a newsreel, a film about the war.

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And then Life magazine, and of course your newspapers would always have all the information. But I didn’t really have any other close contact. We had rationing. And so we had limited amount of sugar, and coffee, and different things like that. But because we lived– we were self-sufficient, we had plenty of food and didn’t have to worry about anything.

But my mother– my father had left when I was just four years old. And my mother was still young. And she dated a few soldiers. And she’d– she’d bring– bring them home for dinner. And that was always neat, because my grandmother had this great big table. And anybody was welcome to eat. So we enjoyed that.

And I used to love to go to church. And I always went to church and always liked it. I played the piano, and–


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Wish I had kept up with it, but I didn’t. I took lessons for awhile. And I used to just play all the time, pretend I was– [LAUGHS] somebody, play and sing. You know, get the sheet music, you know?


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: From all the– the hit parade we had on the radio. And they would sing all the popular songs at the time, you know? Crazy songs they had in those days. “Mairzy doats and dozy doats. Liddle lamzy divey,” things like that. Woody Woodpecker. I think that maybe it’s because of the times that we lived in that were so serious and they made up songs that were funny.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Anyway. Aside from World War II, I– I guess the most traumatic thing in my life was when my– was personal, you know, when my father left. I don’t– that was always hard for me. Because I think there weren’t so many divorces then like there are now.

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So I didn’t really know anybody else that had divorced parents. So I always felt kind of self-conscious about that.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: But other than that, I had a– sure had plenty of family and neighbors who were real nice to me, you know, so I had a pretty good life.

JACKIE: Good. Did you notice a difference when you left North Carolina and when you went to Washington? Was there a big–

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Oh, culture shock–


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: –for me, because Asheville was– I had never been anywhere, really. I think I had been to Myrtle Beach a couple of times and a few– a few towns and even smaller in North Carolina where I had relatives. But oh, I just fell in love with Washington. I thought that was just heaven.

At that time, it was safe, you know, a really safe place. You could go anywhere and didn’t feel there was any problem. So I lived in an apartment with three other girls from my– from Asheville and out on Connecticut Avenue. And I got the bus and road down to work. And we– we would just go around Washington all the time. You know, they had– they still had a– a few street cars then.

And we’d go to the Capitol Theater and see a movie and see a stage show. And it just was, you know, for my age and all, I thought it was just really neat. I really liked it. I had a lot of friends and lot of fun. I got to see President Dwight Eisenhower riding down the street one day in– in a convertible, standing up and waving. They would never do that now.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Yeah, I liked Washington. And there was a big difference, you know, because it was a big city. Asheville’s changed a lot now. It’s much more cosmopolitan, I guess you’d say than it was then. It was a little tiny town.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: But yep. That’s– a nice time. I enjoyed it. So.

JACKIE: I guess, can you give any advice on how to age healthy? Any insight you’ve picked up?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: [CHUCKLES] Well, I don’t know how healthy– I guess I’m healthy. I’m 78. And except for when I had the Guillain-Barre, that– that would be a different kind of thing.

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Left me with some neuropathy in my feet was all. But I know it’s really important how you eat. I’ve never smoked or drank either like my husband [INAUDIBLE].


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I try to eat healthy, and I should get more exercise. But I’m real active. I never sit down hardly. I clean house and, you know, try to work in the yard and just do whatever. I’m not one to sit still very long.

JACKIE: That’s good.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So I guess that helps. And I think– I think your attitude has a lot to do with it, you know. I love where I live. I love Carroll County. And I just– I have always felt like this was really home. And I like my friends, and my church, and my neighbors, and try to– try to keep positive about things. Because I’ve had times in my life when I wasn’t, of course. I’m not always–

JACKIE: Right.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I’m not Pollyanna. But I think– I think attitude has a lot to do with it. And also staying busy, because if you don’t have something to do, where you feel like you’re needed, that’s a good word. If you feel like you’re needed, and you feel like your life matters, you know, a lot of people get older and they don’t maybe have anybody. And they don’t feel necessary maybe.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Then you’d– you’d be real– really sad, you know. I know people that are like that. And so I– I think that’s– I think that’s really important, try to keep busy and be positive and be around people that are positive helps too.



JACKIE: So other than being active in the church, which you mentioned, do you have any other hobbies that you recently started or maybe have had for a while, something you enjoy doing?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Well, I like– I love– I love to work in the yard. But as you can see, my yard, it hasn’t been worked in awhile, because I have bad knees. But I enjoy that. I enjoy flowers, and I enjoy reading. And I enjoy, you know, just doing things with church and with the Lion’s Club.

I’m not a member, but I– I got to a lot of the functions, you know, with my husband. And I keep active. I– you know, I see the grandkids a lot. And–


I like to sew. And I like to make greeting cards.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And I really enjoy doing that.


I sort of make my own. I don’t– I tried making a scrapbook.


Took a class.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: And I didn’t like it. It just–


I just– it just– that drove me crazy. Because every page, there would be so many embellishments–


–on the page.

JACKIE: You can get that if you want.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Oh, he should be there, I thought.

JACKIE: He is there.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Anyway, that wasn’t my thing, so. But I like to make cards.



JACKIE: What do you use to make the cards?

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I cut pictures out of magazines and–


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: I cut up old cards and take parts of them, and I do– I like to do stamping sometimes. And mostly I just try to do like layer things, pictures, and dried flowers, and just whatever I can think of. That’s a good way to relax.


ELIZABETH MURDOCK: Sit and play– we call it playing paper dolls.


Which is what I loved to do when I was a kid. I loved paper dolls.

JACKIE: And you’re recycling too.


JACKIE: You’re recycling old cards–


JACKIE: That’s neat.

ELIZABETH MURDOCK: So. Whenever I get a chance, I do that.