January 15, 2013 | Back to: News

Gladys Hahn celebrates 105 years

Gladys Hahn celebrated her 105th birthday Monday without ever having drunk the elixir of life. Instead, she attributes her long life to good genes.

“I have exceptionally good health for my age,” she said. “And both my mother and father came from farm stock, and that was the healthiest stock.”

She also credits Quail Ridge, where she has lived for the past eight years, for keeping her spirit youthful.

The facility has a host of activities for guests to abate loneliness, Hahn said.

“They have exercise and a movie at 6:30 (p.m.) and loads of many films,” she said. “Saturday morning, they have a Christian church and Bible class once a week. They have art class for people who want to try their hand at drawing. They have lectures and computer class and a little place for people who like to play cards. They do a lot to help us not to be lonely.”

Hahn was born in San Jose in 1908. She moved to San Francisco when she was 3 and lived there until her 60s, then lived in Cupertino for 23 years, moving to Grass Valley 13 years ago.

“I lived in the best period anybody could live in,” Hahn said. “If you didn’t own a car or horse, you walked where you wanted to go. We were content with what we had, which wasn’t much.”

Hahn lived through the roaring 20s and said she enjoyed cocktails and dancing.

“I was a flapper,” Hahn said. “I got married at 22 and had two sons.”

She also lived through the creation of much new technology.

“It was exciting seeing the first refrigerator, radio and TV,” Hahn said. “I loved the dishwasher and clothes washer and refrigerator.”

Hahn said she listened to radio shows and remembers when movies transitioned from silent to talking films, or “talkies.”

“Before TV, we had really good radio shows like Jackie Gleason,” Hahn said. “I remember seeing a movie as a kid, the Johnstown Flood. It was a silent movie. And then when talkies came, they were wonderful.”

Hahn said she was a fan of Shirley Temple as a child.

“When I was very young, I had movies by Shirley Temple,” Hahn said. “They were nice movies. It’d be better for kids today if they all had movies like those.”

Hahn was a Pink Lady, volunteering for 17 years at El Camino Hospital in Cupertino.

“I was a hostess for the intensive care unit,” Hahn said. “I tried office work, but I hated it. I loved being a Pink Lady. I loved the hospital atmosphere and enjoyed volunteering.”

Hahn became a braillist after her church spread news that there was a need for Braille in the Lutheran Church in Germany.

“We trained our own braillist and wrote requests that the blind had,” Hahn said. “The blind are a wonderful group of people. I can admire them so much for the way they learn how to do things.”

During her time growing up in San Francisco, Hahn witnessed the building of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.

“I remember they charged people five cents so they could go over the bridge and walk,” Hahn said.

Hahn said she was happy when she finally moved to Cupertino, claiming to have always been a country girl.

“I tried to get my husband to move out of the city,” Hahn said. “I’m strictly a hayseed.”

Hahn said she remembered when stores were separate, a difference from today’s supermarkets.

“If you wanted bread, you went to a bakery, or if you wanted meat, you’d go to the butcher,” Hahn said. “I remember when the ice man came, we would sneak into his bag. It was a novelty for us to eat ice chips.”

One of her most vivid memories was the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair, which celebrated the creation of the Panama Canal.

“Everything to a kid is wonderful,” Hahn said. “One man flew a two-winged plane. His name was Art Smith and he did a loop-to-loop in his old plane. That was the most important thing I remember.”

She even remembered seeing the first cream-filled cookie at that fair.

“The first time I met a chocolate cream-filled cookie, like today’s Oreo cookie, it was called a Panama Cream,” Hahn said.

Hahn also recalled the debut of the first trans-American phone call.

“There was a little song with a man’s voice that said, ‘Hello Frisco’, and another voice that said, ‘Hello New York,’ and that was the beginning of the long-distance telephone,” she said.

Clinging to her penchant for the country life, Hahn said she loves learning about the Old West and reading Western novels, especially by her favorite author, Louis L’Amour.

“Every time I read a Western, I realized it sounds good in a book to live in a little cabin in the mountains,” she said. “But then you have to put up with wild animals and rattlesnakes, and there’s no indoor plumbing.”

After reflecting and looking back, Hahn said, “I lived a good life. I have a lot of memories.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230.

Jennifer Terman
jterman@theunion.com

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The Union Updated Jan 15, 2013 11:40AM Published Jan 16, 2013 01:39AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.