The year was 1913. The sitting president was William Howard Taft. And, my mom was born on Sept. 10 of that year. Yes, on Sept. 10, 2013, my mom was 100.
She was born in Nebraska to Clarence Veryl and Olive LaVinna Freese. I love their names, especially my grandma, Olive LaVinna, or “Ollie” as she was known. They welcomed their new daughter, Aletha Vivian, the second of their later to be four children. My mom was never fond of her first name, so she has always been known as Vivian.
What else was happening in 1913? Well, William Howard Taft was only president until March 4, 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as the new president. For most of us, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson are just names in a history book that we were required to read about in grade school. The idea that my mom was actually alive when Woodrow Wilson was president is just, well, remarkable!
Other newsworthy items of 1913 included the Mexican Revolution ... yes, the Mexican Revolution. Pancho Villa returned to Mexico from his exile in the United States. My history lessons were obviously a long time ago — I didn’t realize that anyone came to the United States for “exile.” Seems kind of strange. I think of exile as being something in a not very nice place — not in the United States. Of course, we are talking about 1913 — maybe it wasn’t very nice where he was then.
OK ... 1913 is a year that many of us should not look fondly on — that is the year the 16th Amendment was passed by Congress. What is the 16th Amendment? You can think of the 16th Amendment every April 15 – that is the amendment that was passed to allow Congress to impose and collect federal income tax. Thank you to the 1913 U.S. Congress — we will remember you, maybe not fondly, but we will remember.
The Lincoln Highway, the first automobile road across the United States, was dedicated that year, and Henry Ford invented an assembly line for his automobiles that took the time to build an automobile from 12.5 hours to 2. And, you can also thank 1913 for the introduction of mayonnaise by the Hellman Co. Popular songs of the day included “Snookey Ookums,” “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loora,” and “Peg O’ My Heart.” Do you remember any of those? Actually, I remember my mom singing a couple of them.
So, on Sept. 10, 1913, my mom was born. She married my dad when she was 17, and they lived in Nebraska prior to relocating to Illinois. The dryness of the Dust Bowl in Nebraska of the 1930s brought them to the greener fields of Illinois. We always lived on a farm when I was growing up. My mom took advantage of those greener fields, planting gardens wherever we lived. She would can the fruits of those gardens for us to enjoy during the winter months. At one point in my childhood, we had an apple orchard. I remember coming home from school to find a stack of apple pies made by my mom. Those pies would go into the freezer, and she would tell us that if she had unexpected company, she would always have a dessert that could be baked and be ready to share. Those pies tasted great in the winter. I find myself doing the same type of things. My daughter says I freeze everything. She’s probably right. That way if I have company, I will have something that I can cook to be ready for a special meal. Thanks to my mom, I am always ready.
My mom, now a resident of Liberty Village, was and is many things to her family and friends. She is mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother. She is a friend to many and an aunt and great-aunt to even more. My daughter misses the macaroni and cheese Grandma made, and we all miss her fried chicken. I make fried chicken, but it’s just not quite as good as what my mom made when I was growing up.
My mom shares the year of her birth with Richard Nixon, Vince Lombardi, Gerald Ford, Tony Martin and Danny Kaye. Those people are all famous, but for my family, none are as special as Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma, and Great-Great Grandma. The family will gather at my house on Sept. 15 to celebrate this 100-year milestone. It will be a special day for Mom and for all of us. Unfortunately, my dad died in 2012 at 104, but he will be there in our hearts, and his spirit will liven up the day.
So, Happy 100, Mom! You impress us all with your lively mind and your ability to adapt when changes come. You are definitely one of a kind. Happy Birthday, Vivian!
Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.