Celebrating a century of living
By Henrietta Hay
I consider myself lucky.
I believe that the past century was the most progressive in history — and I got to be alive in it. It has been a great ride, even with a few bumps.
The Sentinel is generously giving me this chance to say “Hello,” again. “Glad to see you.” Oh, yes, Mercury the Wonder Cat is alive and doing well.
The War to End Wars started the year I arrived, 1914, and there were more wars, huge and small, through the century. But what I remember were the good things.
The Great Depression was so much a part of life that I have forgotten most details. I guess we all came to think it was normal to carry food stamps and have gasoline rations. I still have two books of stamps. I hope I’m not subconsciously saving them for another depression.
One afternoon I was washing the dishes in our little house in Denver. My husband was in the basement developing film. Baby John was in his crib making peaceful baby noises. Suddenly the news blurted that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. The next morning the headlines in the Rocky Mountain News in Denver announced, “U.S. Congress meets today to enter Second World War.”
In spite of, or maybe even because of it, there was the biggest technological advance in history.
Think of transportation, electronics, medicine, and so many others.
The development of education at all levels had a huge influence on growth.
My dad graduated from the University of Illinois, and there was never any doubt that I would go to college somewhere. College for women was still rare. I had four great years at the University of Colorado before there were many women. But there were enough of us to get what we needed. I finished in 1934 with an athletic letter and a Phi Beta key. Students today shudder when I tell them we paid $25 a quarter to attend school.
When I was a kid, we traveled between Chicago and Denver by train. Passengers were pulled by coal-fed engines, and the trip took 24 hours. In approximately 1936, the Denver Zephyr, drawn by the first American streamline diesel engine, took over. It had the engine and one passenger car. I had the seat by the window and didn’t sleep a lot that night because of my excitement, arriving in Denver at daylight.
My grandfather was a doctor who made house calls via horse and buggy. And in my time a man walked on the moon. (I wish it had been a woman.)
I think our first family car was a Dodge when I was a little kid. When I was an adult, we had a series of cars, but I did love the Ford Model T convertible with a rumble seat. I think I packed 10 girls in it once in college. I did like convertibles.
Next to cars, my favorite modern development is electronics. I made my first computer! Well, I saw an ad for a “homemade” computer made out of paper clips and rubber bands. I made one. It didn’t work. I still have a few little sheets from that first computer of mine I purchased. I wish I had saved the computer, because I can’t remember what it looked like. I have had six since then. I never could have written a weekly column for the Sentinel without them. Pencils are not very efficient.
We are all aware of the growth in medicine. I had a smallpox vaccination when just a kid, and wish I had gotten a shingles shot 90 years later.
The last years of my life have gone to the Second Women’s Movement.
When I was born, my mother could not vote, nor own property. It was not until six years later, in 1920, that Congress finally passed the 20th Amendment. But that was not the final answer, as we all know. In the 1970s we woke up again.
My start came when son Dave struck up an acquaintance with a woman he saw frequently on an elevator at work in New York.
It was Gloria Steinem, who helped found the National Organization for Women and was getting “Ms.” magazine started.
He told me about her and I was off to the races. My son, John, was president of the ACLU. Both sons were both strongly in favor of women’s rights.
I helped organize the local NOW chapter and we went to work. We made speeches, walked in parades, talked to people about NOW. The entire chapter went to Denver as delegates for the state convention one year.
Now we have had several female vice-presidential candidates. Some day there will be a female president. Now women are in leadership jobs all over our town. They would not have been there 20 years ago.
So, it has been 100 years of good Western living: 1914-2014. Mercury the Wonder Cat and I say, “So long for now.”