Howard has seen many changes in her 100
By DANIEL BRUCE
In those days it would get so cold that a horse and buggy could easily and safely cross Harlan County’s many rivers.
“Trees would freeze and burst open,” said Cindy Howard, who celebrated her 100th birthday on March 8.
Not more than 4 at the time, Howard said one of her earliest memories was when she and her oldest sister were alone during a cold day “keeping house,” as she described it (since both of her parents worked.) They had almost let their coal-fueled heating fire die out when the sisters decided to rekindle the fire using some of their father’s black powder (gun powder). Once the powder hit the fire, the ensuing conflagration burned Howard’s face. Thinking quickly, her sister took her outside and soothed the burn by rubbing freshly fallen snow on her face. Their father arrived moments later, having heard the girls’ screaming while he was working as a logger in the mountains. The year was 1906.
Polly Clem, one of Howard’s three daughters, who herself is in her 70s, described her mother as a hard worker, possessing incredible endurance.
“She used to dig coal out of the bank (behind their home) with a coal pick. My sister would hold a light for her so she could bring the coal back in,” said Clem. After her father’s death in 1937, Clem said her mother worked much of the day just to make ends meet for her family. “She took good care of us and worked hard.”
Her mother would work hard in corn fields and doing laundry for local residents throughout most of the day.
In those days people worked, said Howard. “Work — eat — go to bed,” she said.
Getting to Harlan wasn’t easy from her home in Cawood. Howard had never visited the town until she was in her 20s, and then the journey was done completely on foot.
In her 20s, Howard bore her first child and rode in one of the first automobiles in Harlan County. “It was a Model-T,” she said.
In all, Howard said she lived through five major wars, including World War I, which the United States entered in 1918. At the time, Howard was nearly 16. She attended school in a large one-room school house with 121 other area children. School normally lasted only five months in those days from July until December when the weather became too cold for children to make the walk to school. Howard said there were many days when she completed the four-mile trek to the school building bare-footed with snow on the ground. There were no grades and education proceeded according to the school’s books. While she didn’t recite them, Howard said she could recall the names of all her fellow students. While some students later attended high school (which Howard said was located in Harlan), Howard’s formal education ended with the one-room school house.
Howard said she also remembers the day the Titanic sunk and can recite two verses of a three-verse song (which was written shortly after the ship sank in 1912.)
“Come one Monday around 10 o’clock the great Titanic began to sway and rock.
People began to scream and cry and said Lord we’re going to die.
It was sad when that great ship went down,” said Howard.
Throughout the multitude of advances and changes in her life, Howard said the one primary constant has been her faith in the Lord. She was first saved at a prayer meeting at her grandfather’s house in 1933. Since then, Howard has been a devout Christian.
Until the mid 1970s, Howard said she attended a host of churches.
“It doesn’t matter about the name of the church,” she said. “It’s what you have inside.”
She has been a member of the Cawood Church of God for more than 25 years.
When asked what the secret to living such a long life was, Howard said, “Honor your father and mother, eat good food and stay out of the doctor’s office.”
Story created Monday, March 24, 2003.
from Harlan Daily Enterprise