Charles Socha | Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Charles "Charlie" Socha, retired veteran

Charles "Charlie" Socha

Gary Socha

Charles "Charlie" Socha is a man of extremes. At 93, he is defying the aging process. He's had two heart attacks, the most recent one three years ago, but he still chews tobacco and eats bacon and eggs for breakfast ? and the doctor says he's in great shape.

The youngest in a family of 12, Socha served in the Navy during World War II. The first presidential election he voted in was Franklin Roosevelt's second-term campaign against Alfred Landon. That was in 1936, the same year Socha got married. This year, he and his wife, Eva, 87, celebrated 70 years of marriage.

Charlie, who lives in Shamokin, Pa., still drives, though he no longer ventures outside city limits. He shovels snow, hauls out the trash, goes to church, feeds the birds and buys groceries. He uses neither a computer nor a cell phone.

Socha spoke with Managing Editor Evamarie Socha, his daughter, about how one manages in this day and age, at his age, without technology. He also offers some insights he's gleaned from observing nearly a century of the large and small events that have shaped U.S. history.

WT: How did you vote on Nov. 7: with electronic voting or paper?

Socha: We had electronic voting machines. It was no problem at all. The machine was easy to operate. I voted straight Democrat.

WT: Why don't you use a computer?

Socha: I'm 93 going on 94 ? what the hell do I need a computer for?

WT: What do you think of the Internet?

Socha: I don't have Internet. If it comes on TV, I knock it off. You know what I watch? The Weather Channel, the SciFi Network and football.

WT: Your driver's license was recently renewed. How do you feel about driving these days?

Socha: That's no problem. Driving the car, I have rules for that: only so fast, watch every corner and all signs, no driving at night.

WT: You're quite mobile for your age. How do you manage?

Socha: Groceries are no problem. When I hang onto the cart, it's like a rolling cane. I'm supposed to walk. What I should do is go to the store, get a cart and time myself around Wal-Mart for an hour.

WT: What do you think of today's military as compared to the military in which you served?

Socha: In my day, we didn't have nuclear things to worry about. [The bomb] came out at the end of the war, but that was the only time. I think the military is about the same, except now they have more air power and mechanical things to use. But they still need the doughboys.

WT: Doughboys?

Socha: Servicemen. It all still comes down to the man who is running these things. Things are computerized to a certain extent, but they get knocked out and go haywire. It comes down to what the soldier thinks is the best way to go.

WT: If you could start a career today, what business do you think would be interesting?

Socha: I'd get into aeronautics, because that's the future. This is going to be a main source of travel, and speed is going to come into it, which is going to be faster.

WT: What about cars?

Socha: One thing, they are too darned fast, they don't need all that damn horsepower. They don't need the speed they're putting in. It's a waste of gas.

WT: Speaking of gas, what do you think about alternative energy sources?

Socha: Get the railroads back in operation, and get those semis off the road. Railroads were a little slower, but they were there all the time. And the gas and oil companies ... gas prices came down, but the election was coming. I figure by the end of the month, gas will start to jump up.

WT: What's a good use of your tax dollars these days?

Socha: Education is one. Health care is another. And you got to take care of the elderly.

WT: What do you think has kept you alive?

Socha: No cigarettes. Not a lot of alcohol. I had a beer here and there, usually in the summertime. I love garlic; I eat a couple cloves a day. I love habaneros and jalapenos, they give me pep.

WT: What advice do you have for people today?

Socha: Be tolerant and be faithful. When I could walk better, I used to go to church every morning. Don't get too mad at anybody or anything. And don't expect too much from life. The only thing I wanted was enough of a job and enough money to keep the house going. I was never crazy for millions.

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