There are certain people in our town whose career helps define who we are as a community today. One of those people is Margaret Way. As you turn north onto Polk Street from Oak Street and looking to the left, you’ll see the Way Building. That’s City Hall and this is a story about a woman who worked for the city for 67 years. It’s about the lives and hearts she touched.
Miss Way was born in Arcadia in 1923 in the house that her grandparents built. She still lives in the same house. When I asked her if there was a doctor present when she was born, her reply was, without hesitation, “I was too young to know at the time.”
As a youngster, she was a girl about town. Her father was involved with the community, so young Margaret followed in his footsteps. She worked in the candy store and the movie theater. Then in December 1941 she was hired as a temporary employee by the city of Arcadia, and in 1942 she was put on as a full-time employee—she was 19 at the time. In 1959, Margaret ran for and was elected to the office of City Recorder, a job which she held until 2002. She continued her employment with the city as a special advisor until her retirement on Dec. 31, 2008 … 67 years later. When asked about her fondest memories, she replied, “Everything, I loved everything I did; it was not like going to work.” I was not surprised to hear that.
Margaret Way fills her days with all sorts of adventures. She has a 1971 Snapper lawnmower, and up until five years ago she enjoyed mowing her own lawn. She used to mow the lot next door with a pushmower. At 6 p.m. on first Tuesdays of the month you will probably find her at City Hall.
This whole story was brought to light by our City Clerk Penny Delaney. Penny holds a special affection for Miss Way, along with just about everyone who has known her. As a young girl, Penny worked with Margaret, whose sense of humor and open personality allowed a friendship to flourish. Penny affectionately tells the story: “When I was working at Parks and Recreation, I would come over to City Hall and get the money bag out of the vault. Miss Way would pick on me every time I came in, and soon we were playing jokes on each other. One day I was in the hallway minding my own business and Miss Way came out and said ‘who did that.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I said, wasn’t me it was some girl named Bertha. From then on my name was Bertha.”
When we finished laughing, Margaret’s friend Candy Reid chimed in: “She went to church every Sunday of her life and she can still tell the biggest whoppers in town.” Margaret ended our interview with a confession: “I enjoyed whatever it was that I was doin’, and that must be because I was havin fun when I was devil’n.”
Margaret Way is one of those rare individuals whose humor dares you to challenge her wit, and her work ethic was contagious to those around her. I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with her and getting to know her. I now know why when looking to the left on North Polk Street at City Hall, you see the name Way Building above the door.
But I never did get her to tell me what “devil’n” meant.