Vivian Prindl never learned to drive a car.
The 107-year-old says that helped her live a long life, since she had to walk everywhere she went.
Her father tried to teach her on an old gear shift.
Her husband, Frank, tried to teach her as well.
She even took a driving course, but it just never took.
“I’ve never been very heavy. I’ve never eaten a lot,” she said. “And then all this activity, I didn’t have time to get old.”
Prindl spent most of her adult life teaching. She was a longtime teacher at Sanford Street Elementary, then volunteered at the school for an additional 25 years.
After reading an article in a magazine about the Kurn Hattin School in Vermont that takes in abused and neglected children, she decided to volunteer there — at age 91 — and kept it up until about four years ago.
“I’ve been happy as a teacher,” Prindl said. “I’ve enjoyed my teaching.”
Born on Halloween in 1911, Prindl remembers vividly her childhood in Detroit, Michigan. She would go to the movies once a week.
“There was just a newspaper,” she said. “But no radio, no television. The cars were not sedans, they were just touring cars.”
She has a keen recollection of the first armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, when she was 7.
“The whole first page of the paper were Parisians dancing in the street,” she said.
There were no supermarkets, but rather, people shopped in small stores like bakeries, dairies and butcher shops.
She and her friends walked to school and ate lunch at home. People were married before they lived together. And women stayed home to take care of their children.
“My mother was the first woman in the neighborhood to learn to drive,” she said. “The women didn’t. There would be one car and the man would take it off, and the women didn’t drive that much.”
For fun, kids went roller-skating, rode bicycles and swam in swimming pools. They played baseball during the summers. They made their own scooters.
She worries about children today, who spend much of their free time on computers and gaming devices.
“I think there will be a price to pay because they’re not getting the social skills, they’re not getting to play,” she said. “And they’re relying too much on the tools.”
She remembers when Charles Lindbergh made his nonstop flight from New York to Paris.
“In 1927, when Lindbergh went across the ocean, all they had were those airplanes where you had to climb up,” she said. “But there were some trains. There were telephones and there were these luxury liners.”
Her first job was teaching kindergarten in Kentucky. She then taught in Germany, where her husband worked at the embassy. They came back to the states and settled in this area in 1961 when her husband got a job at the newly opened Adirondack Community College.
After she retired from Sanford Street Elementary in 1976, she took time off in the winters to travel, and she went around the world in 105 days, by boat. She even volunteered on the ship as the librarian.
She has traveled to South America, the Mediterranean, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and England.
In England, she taught English to Pakistani women whose husbands worked in the textile industry in Northern England. She learned to love the Muslim people and wrote an essay encouraging people to learn more about Muslims. They are not all terrorists, she said.
“They’re family-oriented,” she said, “and they’re interested in people and they’re very good with people.”
A champion Scrabble player, she encourages people to “get up and go” and do things to keep their minds sharp.
“I do think you have to keep busy,” Prindl said. “And the right choices of study or travel or something makes such a difference in your life.”
She can name all 44 presidents. She has lived through 19 of their terms and names “the second Roosevelt,” Franklin, as her favorite, crediting him with rescuing the country from the Great Depression.
“Everything in Detroit was down,” she recalled. “All the big motor companies were down. All the subsidiary companies were down. And it was a terrible time. They had to have a soup kitchen.”
Roosevelt created jobs and put people back to work, she said.
She has no desire, however, to discuss the current president.
“I don’t even talk his name,” she said.