Michael Bixler

Michael Bixler moved from Cumberland, MD to Westminster when his father’s job moved his family. Michael talks about his memories in Carroll County.

Transcription

JIM MAYOLA: Good morning. It’s Wednesday, July 7th, 2010. My name is Jim Mayola, and we’re at the North Carroll Senior Center, and it’s my pleasure to be interviewing Mr. Mike Bixler, a good friend of mine. How you doing today Mike?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I’m doing fine. How are you Jim?

JIM MAYOLA: I am great. Mike, you didn’t start out in Carroll County, did you? You started out somewhere else?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. I lived in Cumberland, Maryland until I was 11 years old.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: My father worked for the telephone company.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And his job transferred him down to Westminster, and– which was coincidental, because he had grown up in Westminster. His parents lived in Westminster.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding? OK. Now, what year were you born?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I was born in 1945.

JIM MAYOLA: 1945. So how old are you?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Right now, I’m 64, soon to be 65.

JIM MAYOLA: That magic age. OK. Fantastic Mike. So what was it like to grow up in the late ’40s, early ’50s in Cumberland, Maryland? This is right after World War II, and so you were a young man. What was it like in Cumerland?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, um, it was interesting, because I lived in what I call the city.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, so it was very easy to get around. Back in that day and age, my parents weren’t worried about me getting kidnapped.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, I had a bicycle that I could get around Cumberland on. And mom would say, OK. Just make sure you’re home in time for supper.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: That type of thing. And we would get down to some of the local grocery stores and read the comic books. We could sit there, and the owners wouldn’t chase you out of there. They’d allow you to do that.

JIM MAYOLA: That was a different world, wasn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Different world, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Kind of a slower pace. Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Very easy to get around, because I lived in the city. It wasn’t a rural area.

JIM MAYOLA: So you had a bicycle?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: What did you guys do for entertainment? What kinds of things did you do?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, one of the big treats for me at the time was they had a– in a suburb of Cumberland called La Vale, they had a frozen custard place. So on Saturday evenings, my father would take us out in the car for frozen custard. So that’s one of the things. The summer time, I lived right across the street basically, from the elementary school, where I went to school. And the summer time, they had crafts that you could do, organized crafts that they had, teachers, and so forth.

JIM MAYOLA: At the school?

MICHAEL BIXLER: At the school. So that was an activity too. And we played sports. You know, there were a lot of neighborhood young guys my age who lived in the neighborhood. And we’d get together for pickup baseball games, football games, basketball, what have you.

JIM MAYOLA: Fantastic. OK. Then at the age of 11 now, at 11, you were probably– well, you were going into sixth grade, I guess.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I was, I was in sixth grade when we moved down here. It was right before Halloween.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. So you started your, your education though in Cumberland?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: So one through five in Cumberland. What was that like?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, very enjoyable, very enjoyable. Um, because I could– you know, I made friends, and I could walk or ride my bike to their house and vice versa, and–

JIM MAYOLA: And stay with the same group of guys for the first five years?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And then you came down to Westminster and had to make a whole bunch of new friends.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: Tell me about that.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, that was a little bit rough for me, because at the time, where we moved, I considered a rural area, because it was two miles outside of Westminster.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Definitely too far to walk.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I would have to ride my bicycle and go past some houses that had dogs that liked to chase me.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, and the friends that I had were starting to make in school lived pretty far from where I lived. So it wasn’t like an easy walk or bicycle ride to their house like it had been in Cumberland.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. So you went from being a city boy to a country boy?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Absolutely.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Now, you– what school did you go to?

MICHAEL BIXLER: When I came down to Westminster, I went to Westminster elementary school, which ended up being the same building that I retired from.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding? So that’s the building– that’s the school of that– that’s across from the government center?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, Carroll County Government.

JIM MAYOLA: Carroll County Government Center. So that’s um, where the business and employment resource center is.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Exactly.

JIM MAYOLA: Isn’t it a small world?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It’s a small world.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, Mike, you mentioned earlier, before we started our interview, that you had a connection with your family to Westminster. What was that about?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, my grandparents lived in Westminster.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Now, another interesting connection was that when I started working for the state of Maryland for the job service, we were located on the corner of Liberty and Green Street.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And diagonally across the corner from our building was a– the former location of William F. Meyers’ meat packers.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: William F. Meyers’– William F. Meyers, coincidentally enough, happened to be my great grandfather.

JIM MAYOLA: Amazing.

MICHAEL BIXLER: My– he was my grandmother’s father.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And uh, so that– what are the odds that you could go full circle like that in life?

JIM MAYOLA: OK. Before we start talking about your career with the state of Maryland, let’s talk about other employment that you had. Now, you went to grade school in Westminster, then high school?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Westminster High School?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Westminster High School.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. And is that the school that they have now? Or is– was it the old school?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It– I went to the old school. Graduated from the old school.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. And any excitement things, any stories about that that you could think up?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, well, one story about Westminster High School that I thought was interesting was that we used to call our class rings cigar bands, because they really weren’t too fancy.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: My father, who had graduated from Westminster High School at a different location, had one and graduated in 1936. And I graduated in 1963. So our rings looked pretty identical, except it was the six and the three on mine, and the three and the six on his.

JIM MAYOLA: How amazing, yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I always thought that was kind of interesting. But um, one of the rewards that I got for moving where we did was that even though it was in a rural area, we were basically located behind one of the landmark businesses in Westminster called Hoffman’s Ice Cream.

JIM MAYOLA: Oh.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So that was, that ended up being a part time and summer job place for me to work, because one of my friends who worked there, his sister was married to one of the Hoffman brothers who operated Hoffman’s Ice Cream. So he put in a good word for me–

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: –and got me a part time and summer job there.

JIM MAYOLA: How old were you?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I was 16 years old then at the time.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. Working at Hoffman’s. What a great place to work. Why don’t you weigh 300 pounds Mike?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, that is a good question, because everybody that I met that I told I worked in an ice cream place, they said, oh, I know how that goes. When you work at an ice cream store, you get sick of it. That’s not true at all.

JIM MAYOLA: I bet.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I never got tired of ice cream.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: They make delicious homemade ice cream.

JIM MAYOLA: And Hoffman’s is so good.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It is, it is.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, so what year would have this have been Mike?

MICHAEL BIXLER: This would have been about 1962.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. And in ’62, how long had Hoffman’s been going? I know they’ve been around for a good long while.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I think they opened in the late ’40s.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Early ’50s.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Because I could remember as a child living in Cumberland, we’d come down to visit my grandmother in Westminster. Um, they had an ice cream truck that rode around ringing the bell. And–

JIM MAYOLA: Hoffman’s did?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And so I can remember that years– from some years before we moved down. And that continued, of course, after.

JIM MAYOLA: So Hoffman’s was already a treat for you when you came down to visit?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It was a thriving business before I started working there.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. So what, what kinds of things did you do at Hoffman’s?

MICHAEL BIXLER: OK. Well, back at that time, they actually had a grill that you could make hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches. So I did that for the customers.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: We make milkshakes, sundaes. And of course, the big item was dipped ice cream cones.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Now, back in that day, the price of an ice cream kind was $0.06 a dip.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And the largest cone was three dips.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So for $0.18, you could get yourself a pretty big ice cream cone.

JIM MAYOLA: Amazing. Wow. Now, did you also ever get involved with the making of the ice cream?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I saw them make it, but I actually didn’t do it myself.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. You were out there serving?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I did think that that was very interesting, how they made you know, the variety of flavors.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Some of the seasonal, depending on what time.

JIM MAYOLA: Because it’s a regular production, isn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It is. It absolutely is.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, do they do that down in the basement?

MICHAEL BIXLER: They had a back room that they did that.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. Yeah. And it’s an ongoing process. I mean, they’re carting that ice cream out all the time.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And they run through some ice cream, don’t they?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, they absolutely do.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It was a treat to see the looks on people’s faces when I’d hand them their– a nice, big ice cream cone or milk shake, whatever they had just ordered, because they enjoyed it.

JIM MAYOLA: As a 16-year-old, you must have had a lot of friends, if you were working in an ice cream shop?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes. My friend, Bill, I could say, his sister was a wife of one of the owners. So that helped me get a job. Bill helped me get a job in there, which proved very interesting. Uh, one particular story that I always felt was very funny was that– and we weren’t extremely busy all the time. They– we would have streaks where we might only have one customer.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So one, one particular Sunday, I was filling the soda machine up. And my friend Bill was working behind the counter. And I glanced out front. It was May.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And of course, May of the year, the people around here don’t have much in the way of sun tans.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I saw this big, white Cadillac pull up with Florida license plates on it.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And out gets this older lady and a beautiful teenage girl who had shorts on, blond hair, and this bronze tan.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I thought, wow. And they came in, and I’m still filling the Coke machine, glancing up front. And my friend, Bill, goes over to wait on them. And I don’t hear anything for a little while. And all of a sudden, I hear the grandmother say, young man, would you please get your eyes off my granddaughter and wait on me? And I thought, oh, thank you lord. That could have very easily been me.

[LAUGHING]

JIM MAYOLA: That’s a great story. Oh, to be 16 again.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes, because that was definitely a treat, because a lot of the young, beautiful girls from Carroll County would come in there in the summertime to get ice cream cones also.

JIM MAYOLA: Absolutely. So how long did this job last? This was your uh, part time job and a summer job while you were in high school?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I actually worked there the summer after I graduated from high school.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And then uh, I didn’t know at that time for sure that I was going to go to college.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But I knew I needed to get a job that could give me more hours. And of course, in the fall of the year, the ice cream business slows down somewhat.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I left, I believe, it was in September of 1963.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And actually, I stayed in the food industry, and some of the skills I had learned at Hoffman’s came into play there.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure, yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And then I saved up money and decided that the next year, I wanted to go to college, how important a college career was.

JIM MAYOLA: You did go to college?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And where did you go?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I went to the University of Baltimore.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: We commuted. And Bill, a friend of mine who had helped me get the job at Hoffman’s, he went. He was one of my college schoolmates too.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yeah.

JIM MAYOLA: So you went on to college. What, what did you major in?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I majored in business management.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. And paid your own way?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Do you recall how much it cost to go to college?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I know this is going to be shocking, but it was $250 a semester.

JIM MAYOLA: For your classes?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Basically, my parents helped me with the tuition.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But I had to buy all of my own textbooks.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I actually thought that that was a very good idea, because they wanted me to have an investment in it, a financial investment too.

JIM MAYOLA: Absolutely.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I did the same thing for my son and my daughter when, when they went to college. I paid pretty much for their tuition.

JIM MAYOLA: Tuition, right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But I made sure they paid for their own books.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah, that’s good, because they’ve got a share in it.

MICHAEL BIXLER: An investment, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: $250 for tuition per semester? Mike, times have really changed, haven’t they?

MICHAEL BIXLER: That’s for sure.

JIM MAYOLA: Oh my goodness. So you’ve got your college degree, and then you were going to conquer the world? What, what happened next?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, my first job out of college was working for a business called Rowan Controller.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I did the accounting, cost accounting work there.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, so I wanted to find a job that paid a little bit more.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I heard they had an opening for cost accountant down at Westinghouse in Sykesville.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I applied at that, applied for that. And I also took the state professional career test.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Now, I knew the state test, it would be sometime before I’d hear from them. I knew that wouldn’t be a quick fix. So in the meantime, I got hired at Westinghouse.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And a couple– worked there for four months. And four months later, I got a letter in the mail. Uh, and I had put down on the application for a state job that I would work pretty much anywhere in the state of Maryland.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I got a letter saying that there was an opening in Westminster. And I thought, what are the odds that I live in Westminster and there’s an opening in it? So I definitely went in.

JIM MAYOLA: It was meant to be.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And interviewed for the job. And the lady who was the manager that interviewed me, some years later, she told me. She asked me what I liked about my previous jobs. And I said, waiting on customers.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And she told me some years later that that was a big selling point of why she hired me, because of my liking of waiting on the customers, enjoying that.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Now, what were you doing? You got hired to work for the state of Maryland. What department?

MICHAEL BIXLER: OK. I was in the Maryland job service.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And my job duties at that time started off to be interviewing the customers that came in looking for jobs.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And it was very rewarding.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: When you’d give referrals to a person, and three or four days later, they’d call back and say, hey, that one job that you told me about– I got that, and I start it next week. So that was very, very– and it always– it never ceased to be rewarding doing that when I worked for the state of Maryland.

JIM MAYOLA: How long did you work for the job service?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I worked for 40 years for the job service. They changed, changed names over the years, but it’s still– continue to try to help people with employment.

JIM MAYOLA: And you worked your way up ’til you were manager of the office, weren’t you?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Before you retired. I bet you helped thousands of people to find employment.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, the people that work for me towards the end mostly were the ones that were helping in that direction.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure, no.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But yes. It– and another thing that happened over the years is that I’d get someone to came back and said, you got me my last job 40 years ago. And I’d have to think about– oh, yeah. Now, I remember them.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. So lots of rewarding experiences.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Absolutely.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Course, probably lots of frustration too Lots of frustration with any job. But think of how many people you were at least partially helped or instrumental with helping their next careers, to help them along when they were in between jobs, or, or struggling along now.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: When you first got started, unemployment insurance and job service were combined, weren’t they? The two units worked together?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: So if somebody got out of work, they were unemployed, they’d come in for unemployment assistance. And then you’d help them to find a job right away. And then later on, unemployment was not connected with the job service anymore, because they weren’t at telephone call centers?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Exactly, exactly.

JIM MAYOLA: So could– do you remember any– any special experiences that happened while you were working for the job service? Anything that kind of stands out?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, well, I know an embarrassing moment one time. They would have the lines of people coming in to file unemployment claims.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And uh, one time, before I was married, about a year or two before I got married, I was walking back through the building. And I happened to look over and see an attractive looking young lady standing in the line. And I wasn’t watching where I was walking. I was looking over there, and I walked into a pole. What I didn’t realize what I’d bumped into, and I started to say excuse me before I realized it was a pole.

I remembered that.

JIM MAYOLA: Could be embarrassing.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It was interesting seeing the people. And after I started working for the job service, people who had been there for years started retirements.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I– you know, that, that was uh, a little bit disappointing, because I had formed a connection and friendship with them, and to see them.

JIM MAYOLA: Absolutely.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I realized that they had earned their retirement and were going to really enjoy that.

JIM MAYOLA: As have, as have you.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: How does it feel to be retired Mike?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It’s great. My wife worked at Random House for 41 years, and she retired a month before I did, so we are enjoying retirement, and we have an eight-month-old granddaughter who lives in Charlotte.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So that takes some of our time too.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, you have the whole future to look ahead. It’s really exciting. Mike, in your spare time though, you do some other things. You’re an avid bicyclist?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: I know that. And what got you started in bicycling?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, um, as I think I had mentioned before, in Cumberland, I had a bicycle and enjoyed riding my bicycle.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Years ago, I was a competitive weight lifter.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: In– living in Westminster, and had a friend who competed also. And he didn’t live in Carroll County, but he would call me occasionally, and we’d talk about weight lifting, and what have you. So one day, he said to me. He said, Mike, he said, you know, this weightlifting doesn’t do too much for our cardiovascular system.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: He said, have you ever thought about bicycling? And I said, well, I used to do it as a kid, but I haven’t done it. He said, you ought to seriously consider that.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I, at that time, I was living up in Hanover.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And they had a business up there called International Bicycle Shop.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I went over there, saw one of their models. The guy said, take it out in the lot.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Try it out, see what you think. I was amazed how light bicycles had gotten over the years.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Rode it and fell back in love with bicycling immediately. And I bought the bicycle. And it was a Panasonic brand.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

MICHAEL BIXLER: So a couple days later, I called my friend who had tried to convince me to get back into bicycling.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I said, Ken, guess what? I bought a bicycle. I went over to the shop and tried it out. And he said, well, what brand did you get? I said Panasonic. And he said, did it come with two speakers?

[LAUGHING]

JIM MAYOLA: I knew that was coming. But you’ve been bicycling ever since. It made you feel like a kid again, didn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. And fortunately, when I started bicycling, I had an odometer, and a speedometer. I can tell how far I was going, how fast I was going.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I kept a log of how many miles and what my average was every day, and have maintained that. I think I’m in my 26th year of bicycling since I started.

JIM MAYOLA: You’ve been bicycling formally now as an adult for 26 years. And you’ve been keeping a log, keeping a record of how many miles you– on an average, how many miles do you do in a year?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I do about 4,000. I’ve done total– a total of 101,000 miles.

JIM MAYOLA: You’ve done 101,000 miles on a bicycle.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And, and when my son was 12 years old, I bought him a bicycle.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And the bug really bit him too.

JIM MAYOLA: Good.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Because he would be home from school for the summer.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And he would go out in the morning and do 20 miles.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And maybe do 20 in the afternoon, and then ride 20 with me in the evening.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And he ended up doing a total, doing that year between 1,200 and 1,300 of 5,400 miles in one year. And he– they did a front page article in the [INAUDIBLE] newspaper.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: With a picture of him because of that performance.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow. Now, has he– has he kept up with it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Somewhat.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: He’s married now.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And he has a trail bike. He lives up near the mid-Maryland trail.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: The central Maryland trail. And–

JIM MAYOLA: Now, does he keep a record of all– of his miles–

MICHAEL BIXLER: No. No– he used to.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But doing the trail riding, he really doesn’t.

JIM MAYOLA: Mike, 101,000 miles. That’s more than around the equator. That’s like going around the world.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, one of the ladies who was a receptionist in our office, job service office, uh, she lived in Westminster.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And so she didn’t have too far to drive.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: To get the work and didn’t use her car for too much else.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And one year, she asked me how many miles I had done on my bike. And I told her. And she said, Mike, you have more miles on your bike this past year than I put on my car.

[LAUGHING]

JIM MAYOLA: That’s amazing. But it keeps you in good health?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. It keeps you in good health.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yeah.

JIM MAYOLA: And I– I’m guessing that you’re going to continue bicycling?

MICHAEL BIXLER: As long as I can, as long as I can.

JIM MAYOLA: It’s– it’s a good feeling, isn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It absolutely is.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. It’s a wonderful exercise. Um, I know when I go out, I just feel just like a little kid again. I feel– I’m all of a sudden, I’m eight or nine years old all over again. Now, um, where do you do most of your biking?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, I live up near the horse farms in Hanover, so there are a lot of back roads that aren’t real well traveled by traffic.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I have little routes that I do, and uh, so um, over the years, I’ve cut back. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cutback somewhat on my total distance. I used to do 50 mile rides quite often. In fact, I even used to do what they call century rides, 100 mile rides occasionally. But now, it’s more like 15 to 20 miles, maybe 25 at a time.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But I still get the same enjoyment out of it.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah, I’m sure you do. Now, are you uh, involved with any associations? Bicycle riders or anything like that?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. There was the Hanover Cyclist Bicycle Club.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: In fact, this evening, at 7 o’clock, we’re having our ice– ice cream social in Hanover. We do that once a year in the summertime.

JIM MAYOLA: Fantastic. So you’re an active member of the Hanover Bikes Association?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And they do other things, don’t they? Don’t they sponsor– you mentioned a century. They sponsor centuries, don’t they?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. We have two big rides during the year. One in May called the Horse Farm Tour.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And one in uh, Labor Day, the Labor Day Century, which you could do 100 miles. Or you can do less than that. 15, 25, 50, whatever.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. And it’s well attended. You had quite a few riders.

MICHAEL BIXLER: We ususally get 300 to 400 people that attend from all over these coasts, pretty much. And a lot of them come back year after year.

JIM MAYOLA: And that’s been going on for a number of years?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. Uh, I think the club started in ’70, 1974. And I think it started very shortly after that. I’ve been a member since 1985.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. I live up next to the Union Mills Homestead. And I know when you do your tours, they always– that’s always, I live on Merkel Road, and that’s always one of the trails that you guys take. And so I’ll see the bicyclists all day long, running up and down. And those guys are in great shape. It’s amazing. But you don’t have to do 100 miles, do you, if you want to get involved?

You could do a shorter, shorter run. And it’s a great way to stay in shape, and it’s a great way to meet people, isn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, because when I would tell someone I had done 20 miles, they’d go, 20 miles? And I told them. I said, you don’t realize how easy. I say, you might not want to do that your very first ride. I said, but it is so easy to build up to that distance.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. Now, you mentioned that your son lives on the– did you say, the York Heritage Trail?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Close to it.

JIM MAYOLA: Close to it.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Close to it.

JIM MAYOLA: Does– so he rides on that trail regularly?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. Yes, he does.

JIM MAYOLA: And tell me a little bit about that. What’s that all about?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, that is a trail that uh, I think it ends in Phoenix, Maryland, down hear Baltimore.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: The one end. And then the other end is up in York. And they are continually making branches from that. And they’re going to do one now from York to Hanover, and then eventually, from Hanover to Gettysburg.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow, really?

MICHAEL BIXLER: So people can use that for walking.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: You know, and also riding bicycles.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Pushing babies in carriages, if they so choose to.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, that trail right now goes from York, Pennsylvania, to I guess, to the Mason Dixon Line?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It’s below the Mason Dixon. Well, that– because it used to be called the mid-Maryland trail. Now, it’s, you know, York Heritage. But uh, it’s connected all the way down to– I believe the bottom is Phoenix, Maryland.

JIM MAYOLA: So it’s about 20 miles into Maryland and 20 miles into Pennsylvania?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And it’s a dirt trail?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And it used to be a rail line?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Correct.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, that, that type of thing has become quite popular throughout the country.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Rails to trails, they call it.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Now, so it’s an unused rail line. So I guess it’s safer than riding on the street?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Absolutely, absolutely.

JIM MAYOLA: And so what do you have on that trail? You’ll get oh, joggers, and walkers, and bike riders. But no– you don’t get any motorcycles or anything like that?

MICHAEL BIXLER: No, no motorized.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. And um– it’s– I guess it’s open mostly during daylight hours?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, now, on that trail up in the Pennsylvania side, there’s something unique, isn’t it? The Howard Tunnel. Yeah. That’s kind of interesting. There’s a– like a little– mini mountain, I guess. And they just dug the trail right through the–

MICHAEL BIXLER: And, and what’s interesting about that, our bicycle club course. Our members have done that drill quite often. And someone took a picture of two of our members coming out of the– our tunnel.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And we made license plates.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I mean, not with a number.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But just you know, because it’s in the state of Pennsylvania, you don’t put a license plate on the front of your card, just on the rear.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And so those license plates, on my wife’s car, she actually has that plate in the front.

JIM MAYOLA: As a fundraiser?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Fantastic, yeah. Yeah. Now, you talk– you mentioned that they’re talking about doing a– an extension of the trail from– I understand there’s supposed to be an extension from York that goes north for another 10 miles or something that’s–

MICHAEL BIXLER: I think there is. I’m not as familiar with that, because that’s kind of going away from my house in that direction then.

JIM MAYOLA: But they’re talking about one from Hanover to the trail. What’s the status of that? Is it anywhere? Has it been done yet?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It– they’ve started on that, but it’s– it’s just in its infancy.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Because it does take awhile to–

JIM MAYOLA: Those things do take a while.

MICHAEL BIXLER: To get, you know, the permits and what have you that you need.

JIM MAYOLA: But that’s great, safe exercise for somebody. If they wanted to, to jog, or to walk. Um, I guess people can walk their animals out there.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: They can feed their dogs and, and walk them, or to bicycle. And it’s extremely safe, because you don’t have any car traffic at all, do you?

MICHAEL BIXLER: No, no, no. And now, one thing that I’m a big believer in is wearing a bicycle helmet.

JIM MAYOLA: I agree.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Because I saw a statistic one time that said 85% of bicycle injuries are head injuries.

JIM MAYOLA: I believe that.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So I have never really gone out without a helmet. Even if I’m just riding in the neighborhood.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And of course, children are supposed to wear helmets. So whenever I see a child that I’ll pass on my bicycle wearing a helmet.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It can be something that looks as old– you know, like a Civil War helmet.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But as long as it’s a helmet, I’ll look over at the child and say, nice helmet.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And they look up at me and see me, an adult, with a helmet on. And they’ll usually– aw, thank you, you know. So I want, I want to encourage them to wear– not just that their father or mother says, you have to wear a helmet. That hey, it’s the thing to do, and it’s cool. Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Well, Mike, you’ve been around for a good long while.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, I have.

JIM MAYOLA: Um, you’ve– you’ve been a resident of Westminster for a number of years. You’ve worked for the state of Maryland for over 40 years, and you’ve got your, your future and retirement to look forward to. Um, through all that time, what kind of changes have you seen in the county?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, well, I guess the big thing is growth.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Unfortunately, another thing that I have seen is with the economy, businesses, uh, that maybe had one in particular that had 3,000 employees at one time, and now, basically, isn’t even in the, the county anymore.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

MICHAEL BIXLER: So that’s the downside of it that some of the big employers. Each little town in Carroll County uh, years ago, seemed to have a big, for them, a major employer.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And, and a lot of those just aren’t there now.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. We had a lot of an industry in the county, uh, when probably in the ’60s, when you first started to recognize what it was about–

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: You mentioned Meyer’s Meat Packing. Not, not here anymore.

MICHAEL BIXLER: No, no.

JIM MAYOLA: I’ve talked to other people. They said that there used to be canneries in the fac– in cannering– canning factories in the county. There used to be um, shoe factories in the county. And I imagine you even know of some others, some other industries that were here that are no longer here.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. Black & Decker, the tool manufacturer, Westinghouse. In fact, I worked at– for Westinghouse for a small period of time, as I said before.

JIM MAYOLA: And even the ones that are here, you take the uh, Random House Books. They really restricted their size from where they were in their heydays.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes. Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: They don’t hire nearly as many.

MICHAEL BIXLER: And I always thought it was kind of neat with Black & Decker. When I was in high school, uh, particularly as a senior, word got around is that if, if you knew someone that worked at Black & Decker, just go to work with them the next morning, the time you want to start there. And they’d get you to fill out a form, and you could start the same day.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

MICHAEL BIXLER: That, that it wasn’t as difficult obtaining employment then as it is now.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. They had a lot of work. So um, what other changes have you seen Mike? What other kinds of things have you seen–

MICHAEL BIXLER: Computerization was, is the big–

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: People can get on a computer and look for jobs, make it as wider or as narrower as search as they choose to.

JIM MAYOLA: We’ve lived in some interesting times, haven’t we? When you were a little boy, it wasn’t unusual for a family not to have a telephone.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Correct.

JIM MAYOLA: Or if they had a phone, a party line.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: You’ve seen the advent of radio. I mean, radio was there before you were born. But radio was very popular, I imagine. You’ve seen the advent of television. I bet you didn’t have a television when you were a little boy?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I didn’t. We didn’t have a television until we actually moved down to Westminster. I was 11 years old. But I was satisfied. Well, I loved television, of course. But I was also satisfied to listen to radio programs. They had–

JIM MAYOLA: What kind of programs did you listen to?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Well, they had several detective– Richard Diamond, Private Eye, Johnny Dollar.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: They had The Lone Ranger, and Sky King. So there was quite a bit. And they would– I would listen to high school football games, and I could– you know, people didn’t understand it. Said, weren’t, isn’t that kind of boring? But I can picture what was happening in my head, and that helped a lot.

JIM MAYOLA: So with the radio, you got to use your imagination.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Exactly.

JIM MAYOLA: With television, they– they packaged it. You watched whatever you saw. But did you find your imagination to sometimes be more vivid than what you saw on television?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, absolutely.

JIM MAYOLA: And you could go on so many different directions with that. Yeah. Um, so you saw television. What was television like that when you got your first TV?

MICHAEL BIXLER: It was a small screen. It wasn’t a large screen. Of course, they were all in black and white. There wasn’t any such thing as color television back then.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, I don’t think they– of course, I didn’t buy it. But I don’t think they were very expensive really.

JIM MAYOLA: How many channels?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, I think at that time, maybe they had four or five channels. There wasn’t that many. There wasn’t anything like now.

JIM MAYOLA: And it started like 6 o’clock in the morning and ended at 11:30 at night.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It wasn’t a 24 hour a day thing like it is now.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Times have changed. So we’ve seen the advent of television, and then color television, and seen now high definition, and they’re talking 3D. We’ve also seen, as you mentioned, computers, and what a dramatic effect that’s had on, on our um, culture. Uh, when you talk about computerization, it’s like that’s a piece of it. But it’s– there’s the other part of it. All the electronics that we have– how many people have cellphones now? And where are they going with cell phones that can connect to the internet, and we’re all connected now.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes, because my daughter sends us a picture of our granddaughter, her daughter.

JIM MAYOLA: [INAUDIBLE].

MICHAEL BIXLER: On a daily basis.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure, sure. And you get to see her grow.

MICHAEL BIXLER: What her, her outfit is.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Most of the time, my wife has bought for her.

JIM MAYOLA: Well, Mike, isn’t that wonderful? You get– you’re, you’re removed. You’re not there with her, so you can’t see her every day. But you get to share her growth.

MICHAEL BIXLER: See her smile.

JIM MAYOLA: And see her turn into a character. I mean, she’s growing, and taking on her own characteristics, and becoming her own person.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Which is really wonderful. So the electronics have their place. They’re very good. But my question is when you were a little boy, uh, we had none of those electronics. Now, you’re a grown man, and we have all these electronics. Are we more connected now? Or were we more connected as a culture then?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I guess there’s arguments for both sides.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: But I, I certainly enjoyed the life that you know, when I was young.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: You know, I, I mean, I enjoyed the new things that came along. But there’s still value.

JIM MAYOLA: As a youngster, did you know all your neighbors and all the people that lived on your street?

MICHAEL BIXLER: And the crime wasn’t anything like you see on television every day.

JIM MAYOLA: Was there juvenile delinquency?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Not to my knowledge.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Because if you did something wrong, I suspect before you got home, your parents would have known about it. Um, I’ll ask you a personal question. Do you know everybody that lives on your street now?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Not by name.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

MICHAEL BIXLER: I– because I’m out on my bike all the time, and I see someone, I’ll say, good morning. Hi, howdy. But I– I may not know their name now.

JIM MAYOLA: So in that regard, we’re not as connected as we used to be. I’m not going to say that we had more time then. But now, everybody’s working. You know, everybody’s so busy, and they have so much to do that we don’t have– we don’t have the time to take to get to know people like we used, which is kind of sad. Yeah. Mike, um, any other changes you can think of that you’ve seen in the county?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Mm, one thing that jumps into my mind are the uh, movie theaters and– because I can remember when the Carroll movie theater and this state movie theater were– I want to see, I can remember seeing High Noon there, and–

JIM MAYOLA: Right on, on Main Street–

MICHAEL BIXLER: On Main Street in Westminster. They actually had drive in movie theaters in Taneytown, and Westminister.

JIM MAYOLA: Talk about that a little bit.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, that was– it started off basically, for me, as a family.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

Where mom and dad would say, hey, we’re going to the drive in movie theater. And you’d go into the concession stand and get popcorn to eat during it, and so forth, and, and you’d have a speaker. Uh, you’d take off a post to put on the side of your– on your window.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. So it was a family–

MICHAEL BIXLER: Family.

JIM MAYOLA: And you just sat in your car and watched the movie?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Now, double feature usually, wasn’t it?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, yes.

JIM MAYOLA: You get to see two movies. Where was the theater?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, out near where the current Westminster High School, the Ridge.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding.

MICHAEL BIXLER: The Ridge Drive In, it was called.

JIM MAYOLA: Right on Route 29– 97.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Between, between, yeah. Between 97 and 32.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding. Wow. Now, it’s all gone.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It’s all gone.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Wow. Amazing. That was a different time.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It was.

JIM MAYOLA: A different kind of entertainment, family entertainment where you could go out, and get some fresh, and you didn’t have to run around or anything, but just everybody was there all together, watching a movie in their car. Just– just that times have changed. Mike, um, you’ve got a few years on you, and you’ve seen a lot of people coming up. You’ve got your own children and now grandchildren.

You’ve helped a lot of people to get their jobs. You’ve helped them with their careers and to make career decisions. Um, for those people who are just starting out, and I’m thinking about kids. I’m thinking about people that might be watching this video in the future, people for 10 years from now, 20 years from now that are watching this. Um, what advice would you give somebody just starting off? Somebody, let’s say, getting out of high school, or getting out of college, and getting ready to start their own family, or start their own business, or get their first job. What advice would you give?

MICHAEL BIXLER: I think an important thing is goal setting.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, try to figure out what you like to do.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, for the most part, I think a good advice is listen to your parents.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Advice, because they’ve been through it.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

MICHAEL BIXLER: They’ve experienced it. They can, they can lead you in the right direction.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, form friendships, because you never know when you may end up working either with or for one of your friends.

JIM MAYOLA: Absolutely.

MICHAEL BIXLER: In business.

JIM MAYOLA: And those connections are important. A lot of times–

MICHAEL BIXLER: Lifelong–

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. People say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And there is something to that. It’s making associations that you carry. It can be very valuable. Anything else you can think of? Any other advice for somebody getting started off? It’s not as easy as it used to be.

MICHAEL BIXLER: No.

JIM MAYOLA: When you and I started off, I mean, you– one income. Your father probably provided for the whole family.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Exactly.

JIM MAYOLA: In his income. Nowadays, um, it’s all relative. I mean, things seemed to be cheaper then. They were cheaper. Um, but it didn’t take as much of your income to provide for a family. Now, everybody’s working, and we have to run as fast as we can to keep up. Any other advice you can give for somebody getting started?

MICHAEL BIXLER: Um, form good practices, in terms of you know, having a pride in the work that you’re doing.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, make sure you go to work on time.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Uh, and try to grow on the job. If you see opportunities for advancements, take advantage of those.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. So be on time, ask questions, and be reliable. A good work ethic will, will get you ahead on a job.

MICHAEL BIXLER: Yes, because it is noticed.

JIM MAYOLA: Absolutely.

MICHAEL BIXLER: You might not realize it, but it is noticed.

JIM MAYOLA: And over time, it really does make a difference. Well, anything else you can think of to–

MICHAEL BIXLER: Can’t think of anything right now. I think we’ve covered a lot of area.

JIM MAYOLA: We’ve covered a lot of territory Mike. I really want to thank you for taking the time.

MICHAEL BIXLER: It’s been my pleasure.