Retirement may mark the end of a career for some, but for Susan Anderson (maiden name Susan Robbins), of Boulder, Colo., an Abington Heights High School class of 1962 graduate, it marked the continuation of work she’s loved doing for the past 40-plus years: computer programming.
After retiring in 2011 from a position in the programming department at the University of Colorado, Anderson said three things prompted her to create her own website, www.talkinperson.com. The first was the desire to continue programming. Second, she said, there’s not much enjoyment in a program that requires no human input. And third, she missed the social interactions which came with going to work in the office each day.
“When you retire, you’re at home a lot more,” she said via e-mail. “I thought it would be good to provide a way for people to casually meet—especially older or unemployed or retired people.”
Anderson said the website is free to access and users need not include their names or e-mail addresses anywhere on the site. Before scheduling conversations, however, they must register with a username and password for the purpose of editing and/or deleting conversation listings in the future.
She described the site as “a way for people to invite others to meet for casual conversation at a coffee shop or fast foodery (or wherever), to discuss a particular issue or just pass the time of day; to talk with someone new, someone who also wants to talk, whom you might otherwise never meet.”
The introductory text on the homepage of the website explains, “Sometimes you just want to talk in person—especially if you’re retired or not working at the moment and missing the interaction that the office used to provide. In any case, it’s always good to get out of the house and have a real-life conversation, which this site can help you do. You can find conversation-meetings in your town that have been suggested by others or initiate one yourself.”
The site’s suggested meeting places are coffee shops and restaurants, where each person can place their own order at the counter.
“Although getting together requires specifying a time and place,” the introduction continues, “that’s the extent of the formality: there’s no need to put your name anywhere, join a group, or pay anything—except for your own coffee.”
Anderson said the website hasn’t gotten much traffic or conversation listings yet, as she just recently launched it, but she hopes it will provide a good service for those who will use it in the near future. She said she created it with small towns in mind, such as Clarks Summit, where people desire to get to know their neighbors.
She has many fond memories of growing up in Clarks Summit, although she said she hasn’t returned to visit very often since moving to Colorado in 1969. She resided in Clarks Summit from 1955 at age 11, when her family moved from Long Island, N.Y. until 1962, when at 18 she went off to college at Penn State.
Shortly after she began college, she said her parents, William P. Robbins and Esther Robbins, moved to Fleetville, where they both died in 1991.
She has two brothers: William P. Robbins, who is a year older, married and living in Williamsport, and Christopher who is eight years younger, married and living in Pittsfield, Mass. William graduated from Abington Heights in 1961 and Christopher from Lackawanna Trail in 1969.
Some of her memories from Clarks Summit include attending the Methodist Church on Center Street for gatherings such as Sunday school, Methodist Youth Fellowship, choir practice and various special events; co-ed dancing classes at the women’s club on School Street and visiting the various businesses downtown, such as Westlake’s Shop, The Summit Diner, the A&P, Patterson and Hepplewhite, Hotel Tennant, the Holly Lane Shop, Bunnell Hardware, Davis Variety, Quigg’s, the Dutch Door, Keen’s Pharmacy, the Comerford Theater and Abington Lanes.
She said a typical Friday afternoon in seventh grade in 1965 began with arriving home from school and taking a bath in the claw-foot tub (their house had no shower) while re-reading a “Seventeen” magazine article on “How to Talk to Boys”. Then, she would put on a party dress, which was made by her mother, along with the required white gloves and walk over to the women’s club.
“Girls went up to the second floor to leave their coats and comb their hair,” she said. “Boys used a cloak room below. Everyone reconvened on the first floor in a large room with benches around the perimeter, the boys on one side and the girls on another. A woman provided accompaniment on a grand piano while Mrs. Connolly demonstrated a step (we learned the foxtrot, waltz and cha cha), and then the boys came over and said ‘May I have this dance?’”
After graduating high school, Anderson said she attended Penn State, where she graduated in March of 1965 with a B.A. in music. A week later she moved to New York City, where she worked as a typist in the music department at ABC. She studied shorthand at night and moved up to a secretary position.
She said after two years, she quit ABC and accepted a job with a temporary agency, working at a different company every week.
“The eye-opener,” she said, “was landing in the computer-programming department of J.C. Penney, where a woman programmer told me what her job was like. It sounded perfect.”
She said next she got a job at Metropolitan Life, where she was trained as a programmer, and later went back to college for a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in computer science. Next, she got a job at IBM, retired from there, and began working at the University of Colorado, from which she retired in 2011.
“My most recent fun project while still employed,” she said, “was designing and programming a system whereby students could apply for scholarships via the web at CU.”
She found programming to be an enjoyable career, one she wasn’t willing to give up even after retiring.
“What I love most about programming is that it includes both puzzle-solving and detective work,” she said. “You get so wound up in solving a programming problem that the hours fly by, and when the answer comes, the satisfaction is major.”