Rosemary Brophy wasn’t supposed to work the polls that day in 1957.
Her mother was supposed to work but, for some reason, couldn’t, and asked her daughter to fill in.
Brophy was 19 when she walked into the old Rockholds farm stand, about three miles south of Lisbon in Columbiana County.
“It was out in the country,” recalled Brophy, who now lives in Brookfield. “It wasn’t used anymore.”
There was no bathroom in the building, which was heated by an “old iron stove.”
“I remember being surprised that my old school teachers were working there,” Brophy said.
There was no lunch or other break period, but the teachers had food laid out on the old stove.
No one had to show ID to vote – there was no need.
“You knew everybody that came in,” she said. “They were all neighbors.”
Voters signed their names in a “large, black, thick book,” then went into booths, drew curtains, and marked paper ballots. Brophy said the ballots had to be counted individually by hand, which made for a long day, but she enjoyed the experience.
Brophy has not worked the polls every year since then – she wasn’t always needed – but the Democrat-turned-Republican has always made herself available, and has since worked the polls in Mahoning County, in Arizona, and in Brookfield, the last time being the Aug. 2 primary.
“Whenever I could, I always worked,” she said. “I felt it was my duty. When they called me, they needed me. I believe everybody should work at the polls.”
In elections such as the first one, the stream of voters was sporadic, but there were times when she worked very hard.
“When I was a clerk in presidential elections, your head never goes up,” Brophy said. “You’re writing – that was when we were writing – constantly. For all the hours you were there, your head was down writing. Your neck hurts, even when I was young.”
Each county did things a little differently.
“In Arizona, it was out in the country,” she said. “I had to stand out there a half hour before and – nobody’s out there – I had to yell, ‘The polls close in a half hour.’ I felt so dumb.”
Brophy, 84, a widowed mother of two, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of seven, said the Aug. 2 election was her last. She no longer has the control and strength in her hands and arms to tear down the polling station equipment.
“I figured, I wouldn’t be doing my job,” she said. “I would feel guilty.”
“That’s a really long time,” Trumbull County Board of Elections Director Stephanie Penrose said of Brophy’s 65 years of service. “We have a lot of older people who have been doing it for years, and they love it. It gives them a chance to see their neighbors. It’s the younger people that don’t stick with it as much.”
Penrose said devotion to the democratic process such as Brophy’s is found more in the older generation.
“You have some younger people who feel a duty, but I’d say it’s normally the people who have been doing it for a while and the older people that usually feel more of an obligation, a civic duty,” she said.
Penrose added she always needs poll workers and backups of both political parties. Anyone interested can call the board of elections at 330-369-4160.
Rosemary Brophy of Brookfield is a devoted bridge player and is head over heels for the new Penn Ohio Bridge Club building at 4423 Logan Way in Liberty.
“It’s first class,” she said of the former bank building, which opened Aug. 8. “It’s beautiful. I’m so proud.”
Bridge is played starting at noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and lessons are offered at 10 a.m. Tuesdays. All games are sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League.
Anyone interested in learning about the club or bridge can call club President Ted Gough at 330-261-5471.