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Letter to the Editor – Ethel McCallie

Dear Editor:

I recently read the story River Stillwood wrote about turning age 51.  So, I’m going to tell my story about turning 94 on Aug. 11, 2011, and how I thought about it.  This was just impossible, and as I kept thinking of it over and over and saying to myself, it just can’t be that I’m 94, it can’t be.  It seemed only a short time ago my children were small, and I’d sit in the floor with them and play games.  And now if I get down in the floor it’s a struggle to get up.

So River, how do you think you’ll feel at my age?  To me, you’re just a child.

The folks here will try to get me to go to the senior citizens for lunch and play games.  And, I say, that’s for seniors or elderly folks, isn’t it?  (Ha! Ha!)  Then, my thoughts turn to my last birthday, and I know at 94 I’m definitely a senior citizen, and as it whirls around in my mind that it’s true, it just doesn’t’ seem possible that I’m 94.

But then, I’m finding out there are many things I’m not able to do anymore like taking down my window curtains, washing them and hanging them back up.  I had a remedy for a while – you see I’m very determined to do the things I want to do, and being stubborn and hard-headed, I tell myself I can and I aim to do it.  So, I would get my little footstool near a very sturdy end table close to the window, get up on them and do my job, but very carefully.

Now to backtrack a little.

In 1935, polio was raging all through the United States, and as luck would have it, I got it.  I was ill for six long months, but thanks to the good Lord, I wasn’t paralyzed.  The girl in the hospital with me was paralyzed from the waist down.  We were both 18, and I had a little one-year-old son, but again, thanks to the good Lord, he didn’t get it.

At that time, I never dreamed I’d live to be 94.  Life is strange sometimes, you imagine a lot of different and odd things, and then sometimes I wonder how many more years I can sit at my kitchen table in the mornings and watch the little birds as they fly to and fro to the feeders I’ve prepared for them.  They are such beautiful little creatures and one of God’s best and most beautiful creations, I think.

But, I admire so much of God’s beautiful universe. He’s created so much for our admiration and useful benefit.  And how often do we talk and thank Him for it?  Not often enough, I’m sure.

Then again, I wonder how much longer I’ll be here to see and enjoy it for I’m only a little less than six years of being a centurion.  Now that is really something.  That’s hard for me to fathom; it just doesn’t seem possible.

Now, I’m going to confess that I’m not an educational writer like River Stillwood or Wilda Moses.  To me, they’re both good, correct, and both well educated.  I have to confess that my education didn’t exceed the sixth-grade, but I love to put my memories and experiences on paper. It’s something I enjoy doing.

But, I’m sure our lifestyles of growing up were entirely different.

Mine was more like poverty, poorness and lack of needful material provisions.  My mother passed away when I was age four and that left my father with a heavy load caring for me and three other small ones.  So, I’m pretty sure both River and Wilda came up differently at least I hope so.

So, now that I’m approaching age 95, I just can’t believe it is really me but has to be someone else.  It’s just not real for me to be that old.

I only know of two persons still living in the Ava and Silver Shade school area that can reminisce about those old events and happenings, they are Tom Johnson and Dorothy (Haden) Kimbler, my cousin.

Where we attended school, I started there in August 1923; I’d just turned 6 years old, so Dad made me go to school.  I attended there until October 1929.  I was in the 6th grade, when Dad sold our farm at the insistence of his sister and bought a 1929 Model A Ford.  We then journeyed our way on old Route 66 to California, where I mostly lived for the next 70 years.

But after arriving in California in 1919, my cousin turned my Dad in to the school authorities, so they came out.  They told Dad that California state law said all children had to be in school from ages 8 through16.  So my brother Adrian and I had to go.  I went until March 1930 when I got the mumps and was quarantined.  School was out by the time I was well and the quarantine was lifted. No more school for me.   Hooray, I didn’t like California school anyway, so I never finished the 6th grade.

Then the next year, 1931, my grandmother got very ill and Dad was looking for a driver to take us back to see her and be with her.  And this 28 year-old fellow Dad had met, volunteered to drive for him, which he did.

So now, River how do you think you’ll feel, a 94?  It’s a strange thing to deal with. (Ha! Ha!)  It’s very hard for me to realize.  Also, a bit hard to accept, but at the same time I’m very thankful to the good Lord for it.

So long now, and have a great week.

With my best regards to all,


Ethel (Haden) McCallie



Belated happy birthday wishes to you as you celebrate another year of life. 

Warm wishes,

Douglas County Herald staff