When asked if he would dispense with any advice to the residents at the continuing care retirement community, he replied, "I don't think so. They're all pretty smart people."
Lincoln's "Garden Spot Address and Visit" was the idea of Arlene Fitzwater, activity director for the community's Garden View skilled care facility. Her first choice to portray Abraham Lincoln was Allen C. Musser, 87, a Garden View resident.
"When I asked Allen, 'Would you play it?' with no hesitation he said, 'Oh, yeah,'" said Arlene adding, "He's always been in the limelight in one way or the other."
At one time Allen did a talk show in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect on WGSA in Ephrata which became WIOV, and did a similar show on Blue Ridge Cable "That's all we spoke at home," he said, referring to his first language. "I went to school and learned English."
Allen with his seven brothers and three sisters grew up on a 70-acre farm, "on the south side of Bowmansville," he pointed out. Although school was only a half-mile from the farm, Allen said his mother worried about the children going even that short distance, especially in winter when the temperatures would be hovering in single gle digits. "She told us 'Don't sit down or you'll freeze to death. Keep going,'" he recalled with a sense of dispatch.
In between radio and cable, he ran Allen C. Musser Appliances & Hardware in Bowmansville, "on the south side of Bowmansville," he pointed out. When he retired about eight years ago, he decided to close the store for good.
It was at that time that he decided to pursue a lifelong love, painting. "I learned to paint off TV, and I took a few lessons at Reading Community College night school," he said. "I was always interested in art but the business kept me going from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m."
He painted landscapes, seascapes, "and whatever scapes there are." Allen said it was quite relaxing to paint, and recollected painting a couple hundred canvasses. He was painting up until last year when he came down with Parkinson's disease, which has limited his artistic skills.
During his 87 years, Allen has witnessed a lot of change in his Conestoga Valley. One of the first signs of change came when he was about five years old when Route 625 was black-topped through Bowmansville. "Oh, my, that was a real sight," he
said. "We spent a lot of time standing in the garden looking out over the fence."
At 16, he got his driver's license and proceeded to operate the family's Model T Ford truck. "It had curtains on it and looked
like a buggy," he fondly recalled. "The roads weren't too bad, except when it rained."
When he agreed to play Abe Lincoln, part of the deal was that he would need the top hat which he had bought from the
Bowman Hat Factory and which he had wone during Bowmansville's 150th anniversary celebration about 30 years ago. The
other part of the deal was that Arlene Fitzwater would sew a custom-made Lincoln-like suit complete with a long coat that was
one of the president's trademarks.
"I was interested in his life," said Allen of Lincoln, "he was a friendly person and I want to be him as a friendly person."
However, he admits that he didn't care much for history in school.
But if he had the chance to speak with Lincoln today, he said he would apologize to him for the job we as a nation have
done since the days after the Civil War. "I would congratulate him for the job he done," he said. "Many people are living
better today because of what he stood for and fought for."
While he agrees that a lot has changed in the Conestoga region over the years, he offers a rather telling overall assessment.
"In a sense it is good," he says of the change. "In another sense it doesn't make much sense, especially people living against
Allen and his wife Elizabeth have been married for 67 years and both now live at Garden Spot Village. And on the first
Monday night of the month, Allen can be heard singing religious solos during the community's hymn sing.
Interestingly enough, Lincoln began his famous Gettysburg Address with "four score and seven years ago..." Allen, at four
score and seven years in age, carried a copy of the address as he made his rounds about Garden Spot Village on Lincoln's