Monday, February 16, 2009

Former Pin-up Girl Now 102, World's Oldest Columnist

This story was first published by OhmyNewsInternational. To read their version, with interesting illustrations and live links, please cut and paste this address:

"I have packed more into my lifetime than most."

Margaret Caldwell, 1940s pin-up girl and friend of famous film stars, now 102 years old, is the world's oldest newspaper columnist. She lives in Nevada, but never visits Vegas.

"I think the slogan 'What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas' is totally wrong," she told OhmyNews. "It denotes the wrong kind of reputation for Las Vegas. What happens in Las Vegas should be in the public domain as far as I am concerned."

Margaret writes a weekly column for the Desert Valley Times in Mesquite, Nevada, owned by Gannett Co., Inc. which publishes 85 daily newspapers, including the national newspaper USA TODAY (circulation 2,284,219), and nearly 900 non-daily publications.

David Bly, editor and general manager of the Desert Valley Times, says "I interviewed Margaret as a centenarian, and was so taken with her wit and sharpness I asked her to write a weekly column, which she has been doing faithfully ever since under the title, 'Memoirs of a Crone,' which was her choice of titles.

"She simply writes about her life, and our readers are very fond of her... She still has a way with words."

OhmyNews interviewed Margaret by email. Here are the Q and A:

Q. When and where was your first writing published?

A. My first writing was published in 1980 by Warner Books, a novel called "Born To The Sun". I have written another book which is a sequal called "I Married A Genius", which I am presently attempting to sell.

Q. Which newspapers or magazines have published your work?

A. I wrote for the Chicago Tribune during World War II as Administrator for Women's Actuvities Civil Defense and now here in Mesquite for the Desert Valley Times.

Q. How many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren do you have, and where do they live?

A. I only have one child, a daughter, who lives with me here in Mesquite. [Her 76-year-old daughter, Patrisha, posts Margaret's columns for her.]

Q. When and why did you move to Nevada?

A. I moved to Nevada to be with my daughter and son-in-law, now deceased, in 1997. They lived in Las Vegas and I lived with them for several years.

Q. Do you ever visit Las Vegas and play the slots? Have you written about gambling?

A. I do not visit Las Vegas. I don't care for gambling and am not a gambler. However, if I do want to throw away some money, there are three casinos in Mesquite where I can go. I do, sometimes, like to go to the casino for a buffet, but that is all.

Q. Do you agree with the slogan "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas"?

A. I think the slogan is totally wrong. It denotes the wrong kind of reputation for Las Vegas. What happens in Las Vegas should be in the public domain as far as I am concerned.

Q. What are your favorite subjects in your columns?

A. The only things I write about in my columns are my life experiences and my thoughts on what is going on right now. I have had a long life and met a lot of people, famous or not, and have had a lot of experiences.

Q. Do you receive much feeedback?

A. I have received some postcards and letters but not many. However, my daughter and I are constantly getting verbal feedback from people in this town whenever we go out.

One of those people is Barb King,
who praised Margaret's and daughter Patrisha's performances in a New Year's Eve stage show a few weeks ago.

"In this play she [Margaret] was Miss Patience, and what a wonderful job she did re-creating a sweet, prim and proper school marm who had once been engaged to the sheriff.," Barb wrote. "Margaret continues to amaze everyone who meets her, with her wonderful humor and fabulous abilities with story-telling."

Margaret's columns cover a wide variety of subjects, ranging from My First Kiss
to her latest column, Hard times again — when will we ever learn?

She wrote My First Kiss last year, when she was only 101.. Here's a copy:

When I was young, about nine years old, there was a preacher who came to our country schoolhouse to preach.
Mama, who was very religious, always went to hear him and took me along. He almost always brought his granddaughter who was my age. On one occasion Mama gave me permission to return with them to Ackley, a small town about 15 miles away.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when we were served dinner by the wife. The preacher got a serving of a very savory roast, the rest of us half of a boiled potato, no butter, just salt, and no dessert, while he had apple pie.

I was hungry when I went to bed with his granddaughter and hungrier after being served a small bowl of gummy oatmeal for breakfast. It was at that time I began to make decisions. I took my paper bag of possessions and, after telling the minister’s wife where I was going, I left.

I went to Grandma Johnson, who was raising my dead sister’s little boy, my nephew Lyle, who is, at this time, 80 some years old and living in Yuma, Arizona. Grandma Johnson opened her arms. The rest of the week was pure joy. We went to a dance at the little town hall. Grandpa took me to the dance and then said, “You know the way home. See you later,” and left.

One of the neighbors had a boy of about 11 who danced with me and later walked me back to Grandma Johnson’s house. He was so polite. He opened the gate in the back yard fence and walked me up to the house.

I was thrilled and tongue-tied. We stood at the door staring at each other, when he suddenly grabbed and kissed me, turned and ran like the hounds of hell were after him.

I forgot to worry about getting back home; the preacher would have to take me. Gee whiz, he really kissed me! What was his name again? I couldn’t remember. The kiss on my cheek still tingled.

You can see five photos of Margaret at different stages of life posted on MySpace

And here's an edited copy of this remarkable woman's autobiography:

I was born on February 1, 1907, in the backwoods of Minnesota on a homestead, 25 miles from Backus, which now has a population of 2,500 people, the year before Henry Ford came out with his first Model T Ford.

I have seen the history of the 20th Century; watched the boys leave for war -- World War I, that is, as well as World War II, The Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq. I remember the 1918-1919 flu epidemic.

Any 100 year old has done a lot of living. I think I have packed more into my lifetime than most.
I have:

o lived all over the country, from California to New York City to Richmond, Virginia,

o seen the first rocket go off at White Sands, New Mexico,

o visited Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, among other places,

o counted movie stars such as Lillian Roth, Marie Dressler, Peggy Ann Garner, Elizabeth Taylor and Wallace Beery as friends,

o started the Virginia Cerebral Palsy Association and spoken at the Virginia Health Conference on Crippled Children,

o worked as Authorization Manager for Lord and Taylor in New York City,

o made a commercial for McDonald's,

o met Grant Woods, Albert Einstein, Bill Pachner, Gustav Rehberger, Leonard Goldenson, founder of ABC, among others,

o published a successful novel and written another for the Eldred (my maiden name) family.

I am presently completing another novel about a marriage made in heaven or hell, as the case may be.

Presently I write a weekly column for a local newspaper, based on my insights and understandings of the past and present.

I'm currently putting together my own website called

I welcome anyone who wishes to e-mail me and will answer as many as possible.

Margaret Caldwell's email address is (replace AT with @ and put "Margaret" in the subject line).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Feb 12: A Date to Remember

Charles Darwin's and Abe Lincoln's 200th Birthday

This story was first published by OhmyNewsInternational. To read their version, with interesting illustrations and live links, please cut and paste this address:

The 200th birthday of two great thinkers, English naturalist Charles Darwin and U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, both of whom have inspired millions, will be celebrated worldwide on February 12.

The two men, born in different countries on the same day, never met, and probably never heard of one another. Yet, thanks to modern communication, more people read about them now than in their entire lifetimes.

Two other famous men, French inventor Louis Braille and German composer Felix Mendelssohn, were also born in 1809.

Under the heading Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin? in Newsweek seven months ago, Malcolm Jones wrote:
It is a measure of their accomplishments, of how much they changed the world, that the era into which Lincoln and Darwin was born seems so strange to us now. On their birth date, Thomas Jefferson had three weeks left in his second term as president. George III still sat on the throne of England. The Enlightenment was giving way to Romanticism.

At the center of what people then believed, the tent poles of their reality were that God created the world and that man was the crown of creation... the institution of slavery was still acceptable on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line—it would not be abolished in New York state, for example, until 1827, and while it had been illegal in England since 1772, it would not be abolished in English colonies until 1833.
A new book on Charles Darwin, Darwin's Sacred Cause says a passionate hatred of slavery was fundamental to his theory of evolution, which challenged the assumption held by many at the time that blacks and whites were separate species.

Hundreds of plans to celebrate Darwin's birthday in countries ranging alphabetically from Australia to Yugoslavia are listed on a Darwin Day website
And the Lincoln Bicentenary Commission in Illinois displays a long list of coast-to-coast US events planned for this month.

Louis Braille, son of a French saddlemaker, was blinded in an accident at the age of three. He later developed the system of raised dots that enables the blind and visually impaired to read and write, which bears his name.

"Over the centuries Braille has had an enormous effect on the lives of millions of people across 120 countries worldwide," says Britain's National Braille Week website.

" It is not a language but a code by which all languages may be written and read. The ability to read and write in Braille opens the door to literacy, intellectual freedom, equal opportunity, and personal security. It is an extremely important gateway to opportunity for the UK's blind or partially sighted people, enabling them to be more independent."

German composer Felix Mendelssohn was famous in Europe, and visited the UK many times. Now his works are enjoyed by music lovers everywhere. "We must rejoice in celebrating the bicentenary of one of the great geniuses of the art" Akrita Reyar wrote recently in India's SpiceZee.

"A child prodigy, he revived works of some of the old greats while setting new benchmarks for musicians, whereas for us, ordinary music lovers, he left behind a treasure trove of compositions. Alas, he died young; he was only 38 (Feb1809-Nov 1847). But brilliance is never measured by age, for it is the legacy that a man leaves behind that counts for all times to cherish."

On Jan 23 Martin Steinberg wrote in an AP story, "The world is getting a musical present for Felix Mendelssohn's 200th birthday — the first performances of 13 long-lost works of the German composer.

"The compositions were among 270 Mendelssohn pieces hidden in libraries or in private collections around the world, according to Stephen Somary, a conductor and musical sleuth who spent more than a decade hunting the composer's forgotten works.

"The 13 compositions — for voice, string quartet, piano and violin — are being performed at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage."

It's obvious that 1809 was truly a vintage year for people who have left their footprints in the sands of time.