100 years and counting…
The date is April 17, 1913. Gasoline cost $0.08 per gallon. The average wage in the U.S. is $1,296 per year. You can buy a car for less than $500 and a house for less than $3500. Woodrow Wilson has just taken office as the President of the United States and will soon hold the first presidential press conference… ever. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is only 3 months old. In a few months stainless steel will be invented by a guy named Harry Brearley, and Henry Ford will institute his famous assembly line concept. The first paved coast-to-coast highway is yet to be built. Jack Johnson is immersed in his boxing career, giving his opponents the beats while simultaneously unifying black people all over the country. And Charlie Chaplin will soon start his career in film, earning a staggering $150 per week. And in a little town called Annona, TX my great-grandmother, Elzeler Turner Jordan, is born.
I can’t tell you much about her childhood. I can’t tell you how many siblings she had, and I have no idea what her parents’ names were. I do know that she married my great-grandfather, George Jordan, in Chillicothe, MO in 1927 (she was 13, he was 25). My maternal grandmother would be the first of their six children not long after.
During the Great Depression, Grandpa Jordan moved the family to Ponca City, OK as he searched for work. He landed a job as the overseer of a ranch that set right outside of Newkirk, OK, where they eventually moved. He earned $45 per month.
The two were married for over 60 years until Grandpa Jordan died in the late 1980s. Grandma Jordan, however, kept on living. To date she has outlived 3 of her children, several of her grandchildren, and even some of her great-grandchildren.
Last weekend (April 20) close to 50 of her family members (including daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren) came together from all over the country to celebrate her 100th birthday. It was a great event. My mom did a great job handling much of the organization, and my dad spent days cooking and barbecuing.
It’s crazy to think about everything that Grandma Jordan has seen over her lifetime. Two World Wars… Well, actually, she’s seen every modern war in which the U.S. has ever been involved. 17 different U.S. presidents. The invention of the TV. The first black… well, almost everything. She’s lived through the Great Depression, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. She’s seen her own children grow into old age and spawn more generations.
As I watched her this past weekend and listened to her talk about all the things she’s thankful for, a part of me wondered if it must feel lonely to live in a world that’s changed so much. To see things that no one else around has seen. To no longer have a mother or father or sisters or brothers or husband or a single friend left. I hope that’s not the case, and knowing her, I doubt that it is. She’s thankful for her long life, and she doesn’t mind telling you how blessed she is.
Until next time…