Former Manila resident celebrates 100th birthday

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Allie Ford, former longtime (69 years) Manila resident, celebrated a century of birthdays with family and friends on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Apostolic Lighthouse Church in Paragould.

Mrs. Ford was born Oct. 13, 1902, in Thayer, Mo., the third child of nine, including eight girls and a boy, born to Tom and Georgie Ann Jackson.

She is one of the few people around that can carry on a "been there, done that" conversation about World War I right up through the Gulf War, two Haley's Comets, give personal details on the Great Depression, talk about the installation of electricity, and travel by wagon and airplane.

Like so many families at the turn of the century, Mrs. Ford's parents moved quite a bit. She said they moved where the work and family were.

They moved from Thayer to Oklahoma, then back to Arkansas by train. She lived near Tuckerman and Pocahontas. She said they even lived in a tent once for six months.

She received her education in a one-room school system.

"All grades were in one room with one teacher. If the teacher needed help she would call on one of the older scholars to assist," Mrs. Ford said.

Mrs. Ford saw her first car when she was seven years old but didn't ride in one until she was 16 years old.

She also remembers seeing her first airplane at the age of 13.

"We were picking cotton at Diaz when we got our first look at an airplane," she said.

At the age of 87, she made her first airplane trip when she went to Florida to visit her granddaughter, Linda Ford Hensley. While in Florida her granddaughter took her to visit her sister, Opal Trout, who also lived in Florida at that time. Mrs. Trout, 81, now lives in Andrews, N.C., and was present for the celebration.

The airplane ride was a first for Mrs. Ford but it was not the only first of the trip. She wanted to see an orange tree and see the ocean. She got both her wishes.

She remembers the Depression as a difficult time for everyone as well as the two World Wars. Her future husband, Cass Ford, served during World War I. She said he turned 21 in May, registered in June and was drafted the next month.

Allie Jackson and Cass Ford married in February of 1924.

They moved to their home south of Manila from the Vail Community by wagon in 1937. Mr. Ford had built a three room house from lumber that had come from clearing the land that he purchased. He gave $50 an acre for the land.

"The water was up everywhere and even came up in the wagon. The water was over the stumps. Our house was higher than a lot of others in the community and eight families shared our three room house until the water went down. We all lived there together for about a week. We had killed hogs so we had plenty to eat," Mrs. Ford said.

The Fords had three children, Andrew Ford, J.C. Ford and Patricia Ford Bradford. J.C. died in 1984. His widow, Odelene, lives in Manila. Andrew and his wife, Betty, live in St. Louis. Patricia and her husband, C.W. Bradford, live in Paragould.

Sixteen School was just one fourth mile from their home where they lived and raised their family. She also was one of the early members of the New Harmony Baptist Church that was built in 1949, across the field from the Sixteen School. Mrs. Ford said they met in the school while the church was being built.

Mrs. Ford has seen many inventions, including the television and automatic washing machine, but none of that would have been possible without electricity. She remembers well when electricity was brought to their rural homes in the 1940's.

Mr. Ford died in 1962 and Mrs. Ford remained in their country home until 1978 when she moved to an apartment in Manila. She moved to Paragould 11 years ago to be near her daughter.

When asked if she had a secret to her long life she replied, "I have tried to live like my mom told me to - never use tobacco or drink whiskey. I never did drink sodas either. I have chewed a lot of gum."

She said she has always been blessed with good health.

Mrs. Ford's family said they had heard her say many times that she was going to live forever and turn into an old gray mare.

She has lived a long time but she definitely did not turn into an old gray mare. She is a very caring mother and grandmother that feels very fortunate to have lived 100 years to see her family grow to five generations.

Mrs. Ford has eight grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great-grandchildren. Many of them were present for her celebration.

She opened her gifts visiting with friends and family enjoying her 100th birthday celebration and looking forward to the coming year. There were approximately 80 guests present.

Mrs. Ford is a resident at Green Acres where she enjoys the activities and visiting with her friends there.

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