A Rutland woman who celebrated her birthday last week has a lot to look back on.
When Evelyn “Dot” Aiken was born, there were only 48 states in the United States of America, and World War I was still underway. Now, the great-great grandmother spends much of her time with her family, watching “Shark Tank” and enjoying conveniences she didn’t have growing up as one of eight children in Barnet, in Caledonia County.
She also likes to watch her great-grandson play junior varsity basketball at Rutland High School.
While Aiken acknowledges she doesn’t do much these days, she is still quick to laugh. Asked what she did for her 100th birthday, Aiken said with a laugh, “Guess I was right here in this chair.”
Adams said there was a party the year before with guests from six different states. The party took place in the summer before because of the challenges involved in traveling to Vermont from out-of-state in February.
A smaller party took place at her home on Saturday.
Aiken moved to Rutland from Barnet almost 20 years ago, living with her daughter, Geri Adams, to be closer to her great-grandchild, Alea Valente, who turned 19 on Thursday.
“(Aiken) wanted to come where the babies were,” Adams said.
Valente calls Aiken, “Gee-Gee,” for “Great-grandmother.” She said Aiken recently beat her in Yahtzee by more than 100 points. Andi Valente, Alea’s mother, said she thinks it’s the time her grandmother spends with her family that has kept her going.
Married at 18 to Leonard “Huck” Aiken, who she met at a dance, Aiken had two children and now has five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She was widowed in 1978 and never remarried. A great-grandchild and her great-great-grandchildren live in her family home in Barnet.
While living in Barnet, Aiken used to be a housekeeper for tourist homes.
Adams shared some memories she had discussed with her mother about events from her life.
Raised in a farm family, Aiken remembers when horse-drawn rollers packed down the snow before snow plows attached to trucks become the usual practice.
Aiken used to snowshoe to her one-room schoolhouse in North Danville.
She remembered rum-runners used to pass by her farm during Prohibition. One time, they got stuck, and her father, George Dwyer, pulled them out using his horses.
The family was so used to horses, Aiken remembers her father initially tried to stop their first car, a Model-T, by yelling, “Whoa!” Aiken’s family embraced cars later, however, as her husband, Huck, had an auto shop that sold used cars on Barnet Mountain.
But Huck wasn’t always behind the wheel. Aiken remembers one time she brought Huck home from a dance after they were married.
“We had Model-T’s then. They got the motor going and put it in gear and away we went. I didn’t change the gear all the way home,” Aiken said. “We had to go over Barnet Mountain. We made it anyway. My husband wanted to know how he got home the next day and we told him. Well, guess his hair was standing right up.”
In the days before television, Aiken used to like to listen to boxing on the family’s battery-powered radio.
When the daughters in the family would go to dances, after mother, Lucy Dwyer, fed them oyster stew, they would curl their hair by heating the curling iron with a lamp.
Asked about the big changes she’s seen in Vermont, Aiken said, “From horse and buggy, I guess it has changed.”
Aiken never had a driver’s license, but tried riding a snowmobile about 10 years ago.
“I didn’t ride them every day though,” she said.
While she has lived in Vermont all her life, she’s visited her sisters in California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Aiken said lengthy lifespans don’t really run in her family. She has outlived her parents and siblings, none of whom have had her longevity.
Adams pointed out it was especially impressive because her mother is a cancer survivor who had two mastectomies.
Aiken said she’s not sure how she has gotten to a century and beyond.
“What’s my secret? Good living. I guess I’ve had good living,” she said.