The collection of newspaper articles in our archives gathered by Mary E. Morgan yielded one suitable for Women’s History Month from a publication called “Camerica” (was this section of a newspaper or a periodical of its own?).
Another profile of Jeannette Drake can be found in her Yellow Springs News obituary.
CAMERICA – June 21, 1964
‘Too Many People Put Off Living’
By Diane Heckert
Camerica Staff Writer
Jeannette romps with Doc, a visiting weimeraner, near pasture-framed pond on her farm. Pond is populated with invited ducks and uninvited muskrats.
IMAGINE, FOR A MINUTE, that nothing depends on you. That suddenly you have no ties and must carve a new niche in the world for yourself. What would that niche be like, and how would you fill it?
This kind of situation isn’t always imaginary. Jeannette Drake of Yellow Springs discovered this nine years ago.
Till then her life had been pleasantly predictable. As a college girl studying dietetics at Antioch, she met Jack Drake, and they were married. Jack became head of his own milling machine business. They acquired a farm, raised cattle and spaniels and spent their free time fixing up the former tenant house on the place.
THIS WORLD came to a sudden end. Jack was killed in an auto crash.
She could have plunged back into dietetics and kept herself too busy to think.
But she’d already found that the loss of her husband and the kind of life she expected to lead couldn’t kill her fascination with the world around her.
“There are too many people who put off living,” Jeannette declares. “I believe in having your cake and eating it too.” Her well-chiseled face, framed with short brown hair, becomes animated as she describes her life today.
“I have to work, but I won’t, that’s all,” she says with a quick smile. Actually, she has filled so many jobs at Antioch that she’s known all over the campus. She has worked in psychological testing, in admissions and as Antioch Inn hostess. Because she loves drama, she occasionally ushers during Area Theater summer seasons.
Cosy blaze in living room fireplace is pleasant antidote to chilly afternoons. This is favorite spot for a continuous stream of guests.
“Somebody gets a grand idea for a project and says, “Help us out for three months.” It turns into two years.” She is now in the sixth year of what was supposed to be a two-week stint as secretary to the director of Antioch’s Outdoor Education center.
Pause for afternoon coffee with a friend. Jeannette had glass wall cut into dining room, overlooking lake.
But if a job becomes full time, I quit.” Jeannette laughs. “I’ll work full time when I get old.” In the meantime, she saves half her day just for living.. So many things interest her that she has forgotten how to play bridge.
JEANNETTE’S home, most people would consider an outlandish place for a woman alone. The aging farmhouse is buried in the green countryside, five miles from town.
“Everyone thought I would be unhappy in the country, but I like to spread out, and there are always decisions to make. The farm needs me. That’s why I like it. I never get the house ready for company, because there’s company all the time. There’s no such thing as solitude—and I always thought I was an introvert!”
VISITORS range from Jeannette’s Pennsylvania relatives to overflow college commencement guests—even to friends’ dogs, who stay while their masters travel. Antioch students ride out to skate on the pond in winter, cook bacon and eggs in the kitchen or type their term papers under the trees in hot weather. They sit around Jeannette’s fireplace when it’s cold, and outdoorsmen among them chop wood.
Her favorite way of entertaining is with a Sunday breakfast of cornmeal waffles, made from corn grown and ground on the place., Foreign students who work at the Outdoor Education center have made her house a haven.
SHE HAS PAPERED the walls of her old house. It is part log cabin underneath and grew haphazardly as old-time farmers pushed sheds together. Upstairs ceilings are so low she didn’t need a ladder. The house overflows with antiques, old pewter, books and travel mementos.
Jeannette has quit the cattle business. She rents the pasture and has a neighbor farm her fields on shares. But the pond, cradled in a hollow below the house, is her domain—hers and the muskrats.
“They dig holoes like Swiss cheese in the dam.”
“Sometimes when I get up and find a 10-foot snowdrift on my lane, I wonder why I don’t move to town. But on a lovely June morning when the orioles are singing, I say, “This is why I didn’t move to town!”
JEANNETTE AVOIDS frills for the house and hoards every spare dollar for travel. She once sold sod from her farm fields to buy a trans-Atlantic ticket. Before her fireplace is a copper wash boiler stuffed with maps, and she hopes to cover them all. Instead of going to Europe every four years, as she once planned, she now gets there every year, sometimes with friends, sometimes solo. She asserts it can be cheaper than staying at home.
“Everyone kids me about Copenhagen,” she says. Her week there stretched into a month, even though she was alone and couldn’t speak a word of Danish. American Express, she explains, found her a book and flower-filled room in a widow’s attractive house for a song, with lavish breakfasts thrown in. She explored glass and porcelain factories, as well as Danish cooking, rode streetcars to find out what was at the end of the line, went to concerts, and had trouble tearing herself away in time to see Greece.
SHE DOES’T believe in mapping out your life for years ahead.
“Some people save up to do things in style some day, but I’ve seen that shattered. Things never turn out as you plan, so I try to be flexible. I couldn’t possibly be bored.
Big screened porch is one of the attractions of plain old farmhouse. Main rooms were cramped and dark, so Drakes added area adjoining chimney.
Preparing Sunday breakfast for a crowd, Jeannette shells corn. She makes corn meal in blender for special waffles.
Camerica Photos by Joe Wissel