Ellis Leaherwood

Ellis was born in 1929 in Mt. Airy, Md. He talks about his time in Carroll County. He went to Carroll County schools and began working at a young age.


LAUREN KING: All right, well, I’m Lauren King. And I’m here with Mr. Ellis Leatherwood. Today is Thursday, March 31, 2011. Can’t believe March is gone.


LAUREN KING: Um, here in your lovely home in Carroll Lutheran Village. So thank you so much for having me again.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: You’re very welcome.

LAUREN KING: And Mr. Leatherwood, I’ll just start off by asking when and where you were born please.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: OK. I was born in June 21, 1929 in Mount Airy, Maryland.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: We uh– my folks lived in town. And uh, we lived on the Fredrick County side of Mount Airy. Just uh– in the edge of town, so to speak. And uh, went to Mount Airy schools, Carroll County Schools. Um– walked about 3/4 of a mile to school.

And uh we– we were– I was the middle son of three boys in our family. Had an older brother and a younger brother. And um, we all went there to school. We did, I guess, the usual things that kids at that age do.

I had a cousin who lived next door. Well, and another cousin who lived two doors up. So um, a lot of– my father’s family lived in Mount Airy. And so I had family around. And it was fun. We– we got together quite often.

LAUREN KING: And who– who actually lived in your household with you? Besides your brothers?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Uh, well– my grand– my mother and father. When my mother and father were married they stayed at– at my grand– at my mother’s home. I grew up in my grandfather’s home. And his brother lived next door.

And so his– his children and my mother were first cousins. I was first cousin once removed. Uh, their youngest daughter and my older brother were essentially the same age. So we grew up together so to speak.

LAUREN KING: Very close-knit family.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And uh, then my father’s– one of my father’s brothers lived one house beyond that. And as a matter of fact, growing up, he was a huckster who raised chickens and sold eggs and produce in the summertime in Washington DC area. And when I was 13 I started working for him.

The first summer I– I worked just in the summertime in his garden so to speak. And my older brother had worked for him. And then he started college. So I went to work for Uncle Guy.

And all through high school then I would work after school for two hours and on Saturday. And um, for a while I worked an hour in the morning before school.

LAUREN KING: Oh my goodness. You had busy days.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And then two hours after school and on Saturdays. So I started working early in life. But I enjoyed it.

LAUREN KING: Very good. Now, may I ask were you working to help support the household? Or was this just for you to have your own spending money?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: No, this was– what I earned was my money. Uh, and it was– it wasn’t much. But you were learning to deal with things. And it was good. I– I was glad I had the opportunity to work. And uh, it uh– yeah, I’ve– have always thought it was a good experience to start when I did.

LAUREN KING: That’s good. So it sounds like you probably– you probably grew up with a very strong work ethic.


LAUREN KING: I would imagine you probably carried on then through your whole working career?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And then uh– well, I always say I worked from the time I was 13 till I was 68 I guess. Yeah.

LAUREN KING: OK, all right. Well that’s 55 years.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Because we moved– we moved here when I was 68. So–

LAUREN KING: OK. OK. To Carroll Lutheran.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I worked at one job or another up till then.

LAUREN KING: Mhm. Well, let’s– let’s go back. So you went through school.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: We went through school. We uh– we, of course– I was in school during the World War II. I was in Boy Scouts in Mount Airy.

Um, one thing– one of the few things I remember about scouts was during– this was during the war of course. And um, Scouts were assigned as messengers for the um, air raid warden’s in town. So as kids, everybody had their lights out at night.

And there were air raid wardens were out on their job. And the kids were running– the messengers were running around helping the air raid wardens. That was a lot of fun for a kid.

LAUREN KING: Oh wow, I’m sure.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I mean, we didn’t think we were going to be bombed. So it was fun for us to be out.

LAUREN KING: Right, right. Didn’t quite seem like– right.


LAUREN KING: That would happen.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Everybody impressed on us the fact that we were doing a necessary job.

LAUREN KING: Yes, absolutely.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And it was fun. So that made it–

LAUREN KING: That made it better, right.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But uh– I– I never– I never progressed very far in scouts. But I don’t know. At that point in time Mount Airy had a scout troop as I said. Actually, scouting was on and off in Mount Airy for that period of time. And they had just started a new troop when I was 12. So um we– we got into it. But it was not uh, a driving force in my life as a kid.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And um, after high school I uh, went to Western Maryland College. I graduated in 1950. Uh, I was an ROTC student. So that was the summer the Korean War started, when I graduated from college. So basically I was waiting to go in the army. Because by the time I received my commission, um, which was in August actually, some of my friends were already going in.

So uh, I guess I– the spring of 1951 I went on active duty. And um, that was my first real experience away from home. Because going from Mount Airy to Westminster to college wasn’t that much of a deal. I went home on weekends and all that kind of stuff.

So I went to– to Fort Knox. And that– and that was– that was a good trip. And that was a real experience.

LAUREN KING: I’m sure, to say the least.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But uh, I spent in Fort Knox. I went to uh, Fort Benning of course, to the infantry school. And then I went to Japan and Korea. And in the spring of ’53 I got out. I was wounded, incidentally, on the last day of 1952. Sept– December 31, 1952.

LAUREN KING: Do you mind me asking what happened?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I was wounded. And I spent three months in a hospital in Japan. And then I was sent home and released back to the reserves. So that was my military experience.

LAUREN KING: May I ask what– what happened? How were you wounded? Was it–


LAUREN KING: If that’s OK?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: A mortar shell. A mortar shell went off behind me in the trench. And uh, I was in the shoulder and the hip and the leg. Um, I was wearing a flak jacket. I say that saved my life. I don’t know. But I say that because um, uh, it– it uh– it spared my spine. And I’m sure that that was an important factor.

LAUREN KING: What– can you explain? A flat jacket? Is that what you said?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: A flak jacket we called it.

LAUREN KING: Flak? Flak?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Yeah. It was like well, a bulletproof vest people call them now. Yeah.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Um, but they were– they were mandatory for Korean– when you were on line in Korea. And uh, of course in the summertime people didn’t want to wear them. But this was wintertime. And–

LAUREN KING: So it served a couple purposes.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: You were– you were glad for the extra protection. But it was protection. It really was. Now, of course when you see these fellas today in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the equipment they wear, I don’t see how they can get around quite personally.

LAUREN KING: They’re just like, weighed down.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But this– but this flak jacket was an important piece of equipment for us. And I say–

LAUREN KING: Well, you can vouch for that.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I say it helped me. Anyway. Um–

LAUREN KING: Thank you for sharing that by the way.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Before I uh– let’s see. I was home after– on leave before I went to Korea. And Jan and I became engaged. And then when I came back we got married.

LAUREN KING: Can you talk a little bit about how you met her?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Oh yeah. We um– my mother and father took in um, school teacher boarders at that particular time. And one of the women that they had as a– as a teacher was involved in a group who played– a group of young teachers who played cards once a week. And they would always often ask me to play with them. And so I did. And um– we would play bridge or canasta most of the time.

And when Jan came to teach in the middle of the year, well, the girl the– who was living at our house um, said, we have a new teacher. Uh, we’ll have to– we ought to get her involved. And I says, well, sure. You know? One more girl. I’m one man and– and six or seven or eight women playing cards, you could always take on another.

LAUREN KING: Quite a ratio for you.


LAUREN KING: Good for you.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I um– that’s how I met Jan. She– they invited her to play cards. And I met her. And uh– She uh– we dated a little bit. And she asked me to go to the– she was a chaperone at their senior prom that year. And she asked me to go with her. And so we started dating then. And dated through that year until I went in the army.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But um, came out and I majored in biology at Western Maryland. Minored in education. So I was looking for a teaching job. And here and Carroll County the– we knew the supervisor well. And uh, it’s– I was over at Western Maryland watching um– uh, a track meet in the spring time.

Watching a track meet. And he was over there. And I started talking with him. And I asked him– I had applied for a job and all this kind of stuff. And he says something about I was going to get married. Yes. He says, well, I can get you and your– and your wife, both your new wife, both a job at Sykesville if you want to do that.

So I said, sure. So I ended up teaching eighth grade science and seventh grade math one year at uh– at Sykesville. And she taught girls phys ed. So we moved to Sykesville. And during that first summer, a friend of mine got me a job at Springfield Hospital in the laboratory.

They were um, expanding and moved into a new building. And uh, the summer job that I had became permanent and they asked me if I wanted to stay. So I decided to stay. And that’s how I spent 30 years with the State of Maryland in the laboratory at Springfield. Well, in the– in the state system.

LAUREN KING: I guess that was more up your alley.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Most of the– Most the time at Springfield.

LAUREN KING: More up your alley being a biology major.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Well, it was, yes. Biology, um, was a good um, start for lab work. And I enjoyed it very much. And so I was always glad that I stayed there.

LAUREN KING: Well that’s good. Do you want– so when did you retire then?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I retired in summer of ’50– of ’83. And uh– or ’84? ’83. And um, shortly thereafter then I started a chair caning business at home. The chair you’re sitting in I caned.



LAUREN KING: It’s very nice.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And we– we did– we did that um, until we moved here, to the village.

LAUREN KING: Well it sounds like you– had a– you did a lot of things throughout all those years that you truly enjoyed. Which I think is– is– is–


LAUREN KING: Quite remarkable. Because you know, a lot of people don’t always find– quite find those niches, let alone a couple.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I was– I was– I was always very glad not to have to search for another job. I was glad that I enjoyed what I was doing. And I did. And I thought what I was doing was at least somewhat worthwhile.

LAUREN KING: Oh, sure.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: So uh– you know, I was– I was– I was pleased with the whole situation.

LAUREN KING: And I know in talking to your wife that you know, I know you did a lot of traveling. Lot of camping.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Yes. Our vacations were all camping vacations. Well, mostly camping vacations.

And as a result, we traveled all over this country and we’ve been in 49 states and uh, most of Canada. And uh, I guess the only trip as a civilian I made out of the United States was to Bermuda. We didn’t camp in Bermuda. One summer we flew with some friends to Bermuda.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Um– But our camping was all in this country and in Canada.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I guess our best trip was to Alaska. That was our last big trip, as a matter of fact. And uh, we spent seven weeks on the road that time.

LAUREN KING: That’s a long trip.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: It was fun. We enjoyed. But we’ve been all over this country and uh, twice to the west coast. Most of our– our– our stops were in uh, national and state parks.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I guess because we camped.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But I mean, those were the things we saw. You remember the um, PBS um, program about the national parks? This fella, what’s he? Burns I think?

LAUREN KING: I’m not sure.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Put on– he put on a– a– a series of programs on the national parks. And it was amazing to sit and watch it and say, well we’ve been there. Or we saw that. Or this kind of thing, you know.

LAUREN KING: Oh, OK, so after you’d already been–

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Because so many of our– our, uh, trips were to national parks or state parks and things.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And uh, so yeah, we– we enjoyed that kind of thing.

LAUREN KING: What prompted you to first try camping? Is that something you did growing up with your family?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: No. No. As a matter of fact, our family didn’t vacation. My dad had a number of different jobs.

And um, we uh, we didn’t vacation. But one would think after coming out of the Army I would have had enough of that kind of life. But Jan was interested.

And we borrowed a tent from a friend of mine in reserve– an old army tent, if you believe it– to go camping the first time we went. And uh, we went to– to New Hampshire. And it rained every night.

And you’d think, well, that would certainly be the end of it. But it wasn’t. We enjoyed it.

We had a good time. And so I guess after that year we bought a– we bought a tent. And we camped for– in a tent for a while.

And then we bought a pop-up trailer and camped in that. And then we– we bought a van that I took all the back out of and built our camping equipment into. so you could take it out and put it in.

You could take out the camping equipment, put the tent in– and put the seats back in and that kind of thing. So we used the van for awhile. First time we went west we used the van. And then we bought a second van and did the same thing. And we used it the second time we went to California.

And uh– then we bought the pickup and went to Alaska. . The pop-up and the pickup truck and went to Alaska.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And then um, Jan liked the van. And so we uh got rid of the truck and the pickup. I mean the truck and the pop-up trailer.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And bought another van. But we didn’t camp in it much. Because that’s after we had moved here. And we didn’t camp much after that. But uh, we– we’ve had those kind of– of uh–

LAUREN KING: Adventures.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Camping adventures, yeah.

LAUREN KING: Now, I know you have a daughter. And did– did you instill that in her? Did you go camping with her? Was she– does she have a love for camping like you all did?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: We did. But she was not um, a great camper. She does not camp now. Uh– I don’t know. When she was growing up we oftentimes uh, spent one of our vacation weeks in a cabin in West Virginia state park. We did that for six, seven, eight years I guess.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But then we would still camp some of the time. And she went with us camping. But she was not a great camper. I’ll have to say that.

LAUREN KING: Mhm. I’d have to say that– that would be me. I prefer a hotel.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And not– so we uh, we moved here to the Village.

LAUREN KING: What prompted you to come to this village, if you don’t mind me asking?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Well, we, quite frankly, we had– had and seen problems people had with older parents waiting too late to take– to do something or having– having to have kids do something. And we decided with one daughter we didn’t want her to have to do something with us when we got to the point we couldn’t take care of ourselves.

So we looked at here and I had a cousin who lived here with her husband. We visited them. And we decided that uh, it would be better for us and it would be better for her if we moved to Carroll Lutheran Village. And so we did. And I think everybody was uh, content with it.

LAUREN KING: Right, right. OK. All right. So you know you’re in a– you’re in a very nice community within Carroll County, The Carroll County community, aren’t you?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Yes. yes. Well, we still consider this being home.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Uh– because um, this is only 16 miles from where we lived for 43 years.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And uh, oh I said we– earlier, that we lived our first year in Sykesville. And then after that we moved to a house on Route 27 just outside of Mount Airy and lived there for 43 years.

LAUREN KING: In– in– in– the same house?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: In the same house, yeah.

LAUREN KING: For 43 years?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: For 43 years. Before we came here. But uh, we– and we liked that very much. But we thought it was time to do something else. And we have always been glad that we did. I mean, it’s been great for us. It might not be for everybody. But it has been great for us.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: We– we would recommend it to anyone who is interested in that kind of a lifestyle.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Um– Not only the Village, this village. But any– any retirement center. I think there are so many things to do. There are so many things you can do. Or you don’t have to. And uh, you can be involved as much as you want or vice versa. And being here, we’re close to uh, McDaniel college. I still go back to a few things.

Actually, I was never– I didn’t go to anywhere reunions until my 50th. Which may seem strange because I was in stone’s throw of it all those years and never went back. I would go back to football games and you know, activities. I would go to some of those kinds of things. But never to a reunion.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But then I went to my 50th. And I enjoyed it. So I went back to my 60th. And– and uh, it’s nice to be this close. We– We used to go to uh, Theater On the Hill all the time. I really enjoyed Theater On the Hill.

We haven’t been for a little while. I think well, that’s changed too. I guess. But uh, that was one thing that we went to a lot and really enjoyed. While we were still in Mount Airy and then after we came here.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: What uh– the College, of course, has changed tremendously since I was there. As has Westminster.

LAUREN KING: Oh yes. Yes.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: I mean, all of Carroll County. Mount Airy, nothing in downtown Mount Airy is as it was when I was a kid. I mean, of course in later years, while we were still in the area, it changed. But I mean, what– what we used to call Mount Airy, the downtown section, is nothing like it was when I was a kid.

And Westminster either. I went to Western Maryland and would walk to the Methodist church, which all the way through town. And I don’t know whether there’s a single business that was there in 1946. There might be. But there– you could probably count them on one hand if there is.

LAUREN KING: Right. Right.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Uh– the library is where the Catholic church used to be.

LAUREN KING: Oh. I never knew that.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: There was a– there was an– active train station. And of course all that’s gone.

LAUREN KING: Mhm. It’s progress, right?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: A lot of different stores. But yes, probably everything changes.

LAUREN KING: That’s what they call progress, right?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: And then it was basically a one-street town. I mean, of course, residentially. But the business it was– was a one-street town. And now the businesses is out of the town. Not really. There’s a lot of business downtown. But so much more has expanded away from the downtown section.

LAUREN KING: Right, right.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Just as Mount Airy. There’s nothing in um– all of the business was downtown then. And now, all of the business that is very much is out of town.

LAUREN KING: Mhm. Mhm. Yeah.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But uh, things change.

LAUREN KING: Yes they do. Yes they do.


LAUREN KING: Nothing we can do about that, right?


LAUREN KING: You just kind of– go along with it.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: We wouldn’t want them– we wouldn’t want them not to.



LAUREN KING: Exactly. That’s a very valid point.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: You wouldn’t want them not to change.

LAUREN KING: Mhm. Well, is there any other thoughts or stories or opinions or advice or anything that you’d like to have on this video?

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Oh no. I don’t– I don’t know. I’m uh– I’ve been uh– a very low-key person as far as I can– as far as I would assess myself. Uh, I’ve– I’ve uh– I have been content with who I am. And as a result, I think uh, I have been low key. We’ve been– We have always been involved in church one way or another. More so when we were younger and more active than at this particular point in time.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: But uh, it’s always been an important part of our lives. And uh, I grew up in a small country church prospect church. And then we went to uh, a Methodist church in Mount Airy. And then when we moved here, to the Methodist church in Westminster. But uh, it has uh– it’s always been a back– a background uh, thing. It’s always been uh, something that has motivated us to do the things that we do. I believe. And as a result, uh, a low key, but an important part of– of life.

LAUREN KING: Oh yes, yes. Very much so. And it sounds like you know, like I stated this earlier. That you– talking to you, it sounds like you’ve really enjoyed um, all your great experiences.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Well, I’d– I’d have to say that yeah, basically that’s true.


ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: Basically that’s true.

LAUREN KING: Well, it sounds like you– you have a wonderful story to tell. You really do. And I’ve enjoyed listening to it. And thank you for sharing it with me.

ELLIS LEATHERWOOD: You’re very welcome.

LAUREN KING: And um, you know, thank you for letting me get to know you.