Northwest NEWS

September 4, 2000

Front Page

Duvall resident recalls century of living

* by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   DUVALL -- Etta May Alldredge says she isn't sure how she has managed to live 100 years, but she does offer a fairly obvious clue.
   "I just kept living," she says.
   Looking back, she recalls a "wonderful childhood" in the early part of the 1900s, filled with horseback riding, milking cows and weekend dances.
   "We did everything," she says.
   Etta May Bryant was born August 14, 1900 to a family as progressive as the new century. Her family had the first car in town, "a Ford," and was also the first in the area to have electricity, courtesy of a battery house Etta's father built behind their house.
   The battery house gave them electricity for lights and a washing machine for their home in Rice, Washington, a small farming town 20 miles south of Kettle Falls.
   Etta's father kept several horses so she and her sister and two brothers could ride to school.
   But the horses eventually took a back seat to the Ford, which arrived in 1914. In 1916, the family took a two-week road trip of California and Mexico.
   "We were gone about two weeks, camping out," she said. "The roads had ruts so deep their sides were right up to the door. I saw a rattlesnake right out the window."
   Shortly after their return, Etta's brothers taught her to drive. She didn't have to worry, though, about passing a driving test. It would be years in the future before licenses were required.
   The car came in handy for those Friday and Saturday night dances‹the only real entertainment offered. But when it broke down, the horses were still there to lend a hoof.
   "You couldn't really rely on cars then," she said. "When the car broke down, we would hike back home, harness up the horses, walk back to the car and the horses would pull it home. I never missed a dance, though."
   Then there was World War I. Both her husband-to-be, Ward Alldredge, and brother were called up to fight, but just as they were getting ready to ship out, armistice was declared.
   In 1920 she and Ward were married. The couple homesteaded in Montana where their first daughter was born in 1921.
   She still remembers the first time she saw an airplane.
   "It was in Great Falls...I looked out the window and a plane flew over. I thought it was wonderful."
   The couple returned to Kettle Falls, where they had two logging trucks and helped build the first airport.
   They had three daughters, Barbara, Ruby and Wanda, "all still living and well."
   They settled in Seattle in 1942, where Ward worked at Boeing. Later, they bought a Mom and Pop store in Wallingford where Etta could indulge her passion for meeting people. She always had a large garden, and did lots of sewing and entertaining.
   "I always worked hard," she said. "And I never worried about anything."
   Ward passed away in 1969 and seven years ago, Etta moved into a small, comfy trailer next to her granddaughter's home near Duvall.
   She has received birthday greetings from three different presidents, but the latest was the big one.
   It reads, "As you celebrate your centennial birthday, we are delighted to send our warmest congratulations. In the past 100 years, you have had the opportunity to be a part of one of the most fascinating times the world has ever known. We wish you good health and every happiness as you commemorate this special day."
   Etta has always enjoyed good health, except for losing an eye in an auto accident 19 years ago.
   She celebrated her 100th birthday August 14 surrounded by 90 friends and relatives. She has attended all of her seven grandchildren's high school graduations. She also has 16 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
   She enjoys every day, but observes that in past times, "people were more neighborly. They had time to just come over and visit."
   Etta keeps very busy reading and doing word puzzles, and spending time with family.
   She marvels that she has actually made it to the century mark, but notes that time really does seem to go faster as the years pass.
   "The last six to ten years have just flown by," she says.