Seven honored at RAHS 89-plus birthday gala
The party hosted by the Roscommon Area Historical Society honored Mary Louise Hughes, 101, of Ottisville; Dorothy Gage, 98, of Houghton Lake; Roy Wehnes, 98, of Roscommon; Mary Loughray, 96, of Higgins Lake; Velma Bushre, 95, of Roscommon; Hazel Hirshfeld, 95, of Higgins Lake and Margaret Lindsay, 95, of St. Helen.
RAHS President Ron Swain said the celebration is a way to recognize residents in the area who have had a long life and to give them a chance to share stories and fellowship with people of similar age.
Before having cake, the group sang four songs including “Daisy, Daisy,” “Five Foot Two,” “While Strolling Through the Park One Day” and “The Church in the Wildwood” all accompanied by pianist Gary Forsleff.
Swain then asked the group to share parts of their lives that had an impact on them or changed them in some way.
The first to share her story was Hirshfeld who said the Depression “fixed me.”
“I can’t throw a thing out,” Hirshfeld said including broken tools and worn clothes.
She remembers the Depression as being the hardest part of her life especially keeping nourished.
“The Depression was hard, I’ve never eaten cabbage soup since,” Hirshfeld said.
Like Hirshfeld, Bushre also commented on the harshness of the Depression, but also spoke about happier times including her love of traveling.
“There’s a lot of things to see in the United States,” Bushre said as she has been all over the country.
At 95 years old, Bushre said she still drives herself around, however, the only difference between driving in her early adulthood and now is the fact that she drives much slower.
“I got pulled over once for going too slow,” Bushre said.
She said when she drives on I-75, the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour is too high.
“I had to drive 70 and that don’t work for me,” Bushre said.
The Depression was noted several times, however, during that time Hughes was attending Alma College to become a teacher.
“It wasn’t an easy time to be living,” Hughes said.
She recalls her tuition being $75 for a semester and her room and board was $1 a day. The $1 covered three meals a day and a room.
To help support herself during college, Hughes worked at 15 cents an hour in the library and cleaned the dormitories for 25 cents an hour during the summer.
The remaining women gave small details including the fact that Gage worked for an insurance company for 30 years in Houghton Lake and now likes to spend her time at the Houghton Lake Senior Center. Loughray was a school teacher and has been living at Higgins Lake since her early adulthood and Lindsey said she spent her childhood working on her family’s farm.
The only man present was Wehnes, who was the last to share parts of his life including his love of family history. His genealogy has been traced back to the 1500s and he found out that two of his distant grandmothers were “burned at the stake” for accused of being witches. He also mentioned that “the old country” was Germany and he has pictures of the ship that his family came to America on.
In addition to his detailed family history, Wehnes spoke about his 1907 Sears Catalog ordered home. He bought the house for $175 or $174 and he said it is still in good condition just like the well that was installed about the same time as his home.
“Well it’s [the well] still working, it was when I left home,” Wehnes said.
After everyone shared their stories, Bushre said she thinks the reason she and the others at the party have been able to live so long is because of the way they were raised.
“I think we worked more, you had to get out and work,” Bushre said.
Now she said children aren’t expected to do as much and they are more interested in playing on their computers.
“I don’t like computers,” Bushre said.