'Friendship is the sunshine of life,' and a newspaper a day doesn't hurt either, finds Ella Wilson
Ella Wilson has been a special part of the world for 102 years. She recalls her early days with pleasure and marvels over the many inventions that have simplified life.
Born Jan. 4, 1903, Ella celebrated her birthday this week at Methodist Manor, where she is still enjoying everything life has to share.
"I must be here for a purpose. I don't know why. I do know I love people and I take time to help people," she smiles.
Ella attended country school near Climbing Hill and despite the two-mile journey to and from school each day, she loved it. "We had a group of 25 little kids and we all loved one another.
"In order to continue my education, I had to go to town which was four and a-half miles away. We had no cars so each family had riding horses. I rode old Tony. He was a pacer and was alright going to school but going home, he raced, especially in the winter. He wanted to get home."
The school featured a barn for the students' horses - the precursor to the 'bus barn.'
"My mom had a special driving team that we took to town. We didn't go to town but every three weeks because we had everything we needed on the farm."
It was 12 miles to town, and a challenge to keep her and her brother occupied.
Her mother always pointed out different things along the landscape. A piece of stick candy or a piece of fruit was a treat for the ride home.
Her mom made all the clothes for the family and they were beautifully made, said Ella, but it was difficult not to notice the dresses in the store windows while in town. "I still remember my first boughten dress. It was plaid with a white lace collar."
After graduating from high school, with a class of five, in 1923, she landed a job in a combination physician/dentist office. Two years later she married Carl Hagemann. "It was a very beautiful day," she said of the Dec. 23 wedding. They drove to Sioux Falls in the brand new 1925 Ford Roadster he bought as a wedding gift to Ella for $525. It was a wonderful gift, she said.
They continued to farm.
"When I was a girl at home, I went out and helped my dad milk the cows. After I was married, I wasn't allowed in the barn. He grew up with the idea that girls didn't go outside to help. So I got out of that!" But she did help when it came time to sort the hogs.
She loved being in the kitchen. "Homemade bread. That was the best. My mom taught me how to make bread. I could make bread now if my hands would let me."
Ella talked about the many changes she has seen over the decades.
"Things became more simplified for us. Like butchering - that was always a big job. Later we were able to quit doing that and take the hogs to town and have some else do it. Then tractors came out and then combines replaces threshing machines. and electricity - we didn't have to use lamps anymore or clean those little chimneys. We were conservative when we got electricity because we didn't know all that it meant.
"There were 10 families on one telephone line so the phone was always ringing; someone was always talking. There were some that would pick up the phone and listen in or gossip with each other. We didn't have time for that. We knew if our phone rang with four shorts, then we needed to answer it. I still don't like the phone unless I have something to talk about."
She also saw the invention that brought stories to life. "We didn't have a TV until the 1950s. We listened to a lot of radio. We used our imaginations to visualize what was going on. The only TV that I watch is to get the local and the world news. That's all I'm interested in. I'd rather play the radio. I love listening to the news. If I listen to the news, I know what's going on."
And the newspaper - it is a daily ritual. Except for the sports section. "I toss that aside."
Dear Ella - most mornings she shares the news with a fellow resident who can no longer see. Reading aloud, she feels, is good for her and keeps her vocal chords working.
She doesn't like all the "scandals" going on now days. "I'm glad I don't have a family to raise today. My hair is gray and it would be a lot grayer."
She also enjoys reading books. "God has given me my eyesight and hearing and I thank him every night."
Computers - "I would rather use my mind. We have to use our minds. My family has tried to talk me in to using one. I don't feel like I'm left out of anything," she says.
She can't understand why everyone is in such a hurry all the time. "Where are we going? We all hurry so. that's life today and it bothers me. In my younger days, land's sake, we were at such leisure. Is the world traveling that fast? I don't draw my drapes at night because I love to see the stars. I watch the moon and it travels by so fast; everything is traveling so fast."
She has lived through 18 presidents. "There were some bad ones and there were some good ones. Reagan was one of the best. I liked that he told a joke now and then. When I turned 100, I decided not to vote anymore. I just go along with the flow now. I'll follow whoever the people vote in."
Ella's husband Carl died in 1971. She moved to Storm Lake in 1976 and married Harrison Wilson in 1978. He died in 1988.
Ella moved to the assisted living portion of the Manor in 1989. For the past four years, since breaking a hip, she has been in the care center.
She enjoys her home and has a friendly hello and a smile for everyone. "Friendship is the sunshine in my life at the Manor," she said.
Ella's advice to people, "Live a clean life and have faith. Those are two things you need in life."