Perryville woman looks back on a century of experiences

November 06, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

PERRYVILLE - Laura Belle Douglas Clark has no complaints about living a century. She's had a good life and has kept her sense of humor.

Clark turned 100 today. She was honored with a birthday party Wednesday at the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center.

A Perryville resident for 30 years, Clark likes to keep busy. She still works in her flower garden and comes to the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center three days a week. She's also active in First Baptist Church.

She's amazed at the changes that have taken place during her lifetime. Just the other day, she and her son, William, took a ride to Aliceton where she attended school in her younger days. She said much of the place has grown up in trees and had changed completely since she lived there more than 80 years ago.

"I was shocked," she said. "The railroad was gone; the stores were gone. I might as well been in Europe. It was like a different world."


She did not expect the community to be the same, but neither did she think it would change that drastically.

The old school was within walking distance of the Aliceton Camp Meeting grounds, about the only thing she recognized. She remembers carrying water from the Camp Meeting grounds to the school and hunting chestnuts in the woods. The two stores were on each side of the L&N Railway tracks.

She later moved from Aliceton to Marion County with her parents, William and Corine Smalley Douglas, who eventually had 12 children.

Clark, a Washington County native, has spent her 100 years in Washington, Marion and Boyle counties.

She and her husband, William, had one son, also named William, with whom she lives. They also reared her husband's daughter as well as Clark's youngest brother.

When the depression hit in the 1920s, Clark's family hardly knew it. "We never went hungry," she said. "We raised everything we ate. We had plenty of chickens, hogs, cows, and a large garden with fruit trees. About all we had to buy was sugar and salt."

Family didn't need a lot of money

The family did not have a lot of money, but they did not need it.

"We had everything you can buy at the store. My mother taught me to sew, and I made all our clothes. We had nourishing food and was a healthy family. We did not spend much time in a doctor's office."

She recalls the family had a horse and buggy, which was not large enough for their 12 children.

"The younger children would pile in the buggy and the bigger ones walked," she said. "We did not think anything about walking a mile or two to church. We were happy."

She was next to the oldest of the children, and has two younger sisters still living. Nellie and Pauline are in their 80s.

Her husband was a farmer in his early years, then served as janitor at a Lebanon school before he retired.

Clark believes hard work has kept her young. "Don't let anyone tell you that work hurts you. As long as you get your rest at night, it won't hurt you," she said.

She has a garden and works in her flowers during the summer. She worked as a housekeeper and cook for other families and crocheted afghans before she began having trouble with her eyes.

She can't do as much as she used to, and she doesn't cook much anymore. She leaves the cooking to her son.

"I have been a part of the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center since before it was a gathering place," she said.

She said she depended on the senior citizens agency to take her to the doctor and grocery for several years.

She enjoys visiting with friends and making small crafts at the senior citizens center. "We do what old people do, and they treat us like children," she said, laughing. "If I didn't go there, I'd be sitting home. It's like home away from home."

"I've heard people say 'who wants to sit among the old people.' I like old people," Clark said.

"Older people have a better chance now than when I grew up. They just sat around and died."

Clark is in "pretty good health" but never thought she'd live to be 100.

Her father died at 80, and her mother died at 47 and left an 8-month child, whom Mrs. Clark raised.

As a young bride, Clark kept busy raising her younger brother, her husband's infant daughter, and their son, William, who was a year or so younger than the others.

"I had a good life. I have enjoyed it. I really don't have anything to complain about," she said.

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