Howard Stevenson

July 26, 2010
Howard Stevenson, who turns 81 next month, has held numerous and varied jobs. “I’ve got to keep busy. I’m just a person who loves people,” he said. NONE HENRY J. EVANS JR. PHOTO

Howard C. Stevenson Sr. likes to stay in motion. Over the course of his lifetime, Stevenson, who turns 81 next month, has held numerous and varied jobs. “I’ve got to keep busy. I’m just a person who loves people,” he said.

He grew up in Georgetown and went to Richard Allen School through eighth grade. He graduated from Howard High School in Wilmington with an emphasis in business administration.

Stevenson said his father, Charles Edward Stevenson, set him up in a small barbershop in Georgetown after he earned a certificate from the Lincoln School of Barbering in Philadelphia.

“We had a carport at our house, and he turned that into a barbershop for me. I only got fifty cents a haircut. You didn’t make any money back in those days,” he said.

Stevenson continued to study business administration, attending Maryland State College and Temple University. In 1951 he joined the army was shipped to Korea.

“I was on the front line. We got there on a ship, and they sent a lot of people to the front line the very same day we got there. One company was killed the very same day they arrived,” Stevenson said. He said it was the day after the company had been wiped out that he learned about it.

“It was scary, very scary, because we knew we were going out the next night. But we made it through,” he said.

Stevenson was an assistant Browning Automatic Rifle soldier. “The guy that I worked with would let me sleep during my time, but I wouldn’t let him sleep when it was his time because every time I heard a noise I’d call him,” said Stevenson, laughing.

He was a corporal in the U.S. Army’s 159th Field Artillery, 125th Airborne Division. His unit was all black. After he was moved from the front, Stevenson worked as a clerk-typist and infantryman at a base camp.

“Even as a clerk, sometimes we’d be moving from one area to another, and there were mines. Sometimes trucks would get blown up. There were mines all over those fields,” Stevenson said. He said no one was ever sent ahead along a route to detect mines – so the unit, in effect, became a minesweeper.

After returning from Korea, Stevenson worked as a Philadelphia Police Department file clerk. That’s where he met Alice Golden, his wife-to-be. They were married in 1957. She died 42 years later.

Not long after they were married, the couple moved into a home on Sand Hill Road between Milton and Georgetown, where Stevenson still lives.

From the late 1950s until 1964, Stevenson was a requisition clerk at Dover Air Force Base, where he ordered airplane parts.

From 1964 until his retirement in 1986, he was a senior lab technician at General Foods in Dover.

“That was quite interesting. Everything they processed at General Foods, we had to go out in the plant and get samples of it. We had to make cheesecake and taste it and see if it was OK. We had to run tests on Jell-O and see if it was going to set and have the right flavor. All the puddings they made we had to cook and taste,” he said.

Stevenson said he tasted so much cheesecake that eventually he no longer liked it and has stopped eating it altogether.

But Stevenson said he still enjoys Crystal Light iced tea, once a General Foods product now produced by Kraft Foods, which merged with the company in 1989.

Since his “retirement” Stevenson, who doesn’t like sitting still, has been busy.

For six years he worked at First Omni Bank in Millsboro and then Delaware National Bank for two years. After that, he went to the movies.

“I take tickets at Atlantic Theaters Movies at Midway,” he said. For the past 11 years almost everyone who has gone to a matinee movie at Midway has come in contact with Stevenson, who takes moviegoers’ tickets and directs them to a theater in the multiplex. “I see all kinds of people at the movies. They keep me going. If I didn’t have the movies, and I had to stay home all day and all night, I’d be crazy,” Stevenson said.

“I’ve seen quite a few movies. But the movies they’re putting out now don’t interest me at all,” he said.

Stevenson’s three children are all accomplished in their fields. Oldest son Howard C. Stevenson Jr., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Philadelphia.

Youngest son Bryan A. Stevenson is an attorney and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based organization that fights for new trials, reduced sentences or freedom for those sentenced to death.

Daughter Christy L. Taylor lives near Harbeson and holds a master’s in education. She has a studio where she teaches students how to play a variety of musical instruments.