COTTONWOOD RESERVATION LINE ROAD — “I don’t have any secrets,” Evelyn Ogden shook her head. “I never in my life dreamed I would live this long.”
Ogden will turn 102 years old Saturday, March 17. She was born in 1916 in Harrison, Idaho.
“My grandparents ran a lodge there in Harrison,” she said March 8 from her home halfway between Cottonwood and Ferdinand. She lives next door to her nephew, Kimron Torgerson, and his wife, Daryl.
Party is March 18
A birthday open house celebration for Evelyn Ogden is set for Sunday, March 18, 1 to 5 p.m., at her home at 664 Reservation Line Road, between Cottonwood and Ferdinand. Look for signs and balloons.
When she was 3 years old, Evelyn’s family’s tarpaper shack home burned to the ground. She had to run to tell her mother — who was out watering cows — the house was on fire. Though it was -32 degrees, he mother was able to get her infant daughter out of the house and put her inside her coat, put Evelyn on her back and walk nearly two miles to the nearest neighbor’s home.
The incident left Evelyn with severely frost-bit fingers.
The family moved around quite a bit, as her father was a logger and a plasterer. She said although he was drafted in World War I, the Army would not take him as he had lost his hearing at the age of 11.
She attended first and second grades in College Place. By the time seventh and eighth grades rolled around, she was back in Harrison for school. She had one older brother who died, and three younger sisters.
“During the Great Depression, almost all the banks closed,” she said. “My grandfather lost all his money in a Spokane bank, but my grandmother had her money in Harrison, and that bank didn’t close, so she was OK.”
The end to building because of the Depression led the family to even more moves so her father could get work. They lived at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Wenatchee and Benewah, among other places.
Her father proved up 160 acres of land and made fence posts,” she said, trading them for flour, sugar and other necessities.
One memory of her childhood includes riding on the back of the flatbed truck with her sisters, legs dangling over the edge, bumping over narrow roads, overlooking the cliffs below.
Did she help with chores?
“Not too much,” she smiled. “My mother said the worst thing she ever did was introduce me to the library!”
She kept her nose in a book a lot, she recalled, and graduated from St. Maries High School in 1934.
She received a scholarship to Kinman Business College in Spokane, but said because of her frost-bitten hands, found out that type of career – typing and shorthand – was not going to work.
“Then I went to Spokane Beauty College,” she said. “I had a dream to have my own chair in Harrison, but that didn’t happen.”
She said the cream they used at the school “gave me acne.” I just didn’t think looking like that I’d get a job!”
She moved to Seattle where she had various jobs and eventually returned to St. Maries where she obtained her certification for teaching.
She went on to teach in Boulder Creek, Troy and Elwood, where her father had attended.
“I wore fur mittens, I remember, in the winters when I taught because my hands were so cold. That frostbite always kept them cold.”
It was when she was at Elwood that she boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Ogden and met their son, Voyt. Several years later, in 1953, the couple married.
He logged and worked at mills as a lumber machinist, also working for a time at a garage in Deary. The couple eventually ended up in Lewiston where he worked at the mill.
“We didn’t have our own children as we got started kind of a late start,” she said. “But we were able to spoil our nieces and nephews.”
Although Voyt didn’t want his wife to work, she said, she did begin part-time at the Lewiston City Library. Soon it was full time and she retired from there after nearly 40 years.
“I was the oldest employee there,” she nodded.
Voyt died in 1971 and in 2003 she made the move to her current home.
“She always tells me she has a ‘tricky ticker,’ but at 102, I don’t think it’s too tricky,” her niece-in-law and next-door neighbor, Daryl said, grinning.
To that, Evelyn laughed.
And as far as the secret to longevity? Daryl said she doesn’t think it’s a secret – just good, clean living.
“She eats balanced meals, does crosswords, doesn’t smoke or drink and reads her Bible daily, memorizing scriptures. She’s a generous, Christian lady.”