100 years of experiences
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” Elva Clark has stories to tell. Lots of stories.
She can tell you what is was like to grow up in a Socialist community on the Western Slope of Colorado. Or the time during the Depression when her family didn’t have enough money to buy a 3 cent stamp to send a letter to her sister.
With 99 years and 364 days of life experience, Clark’s sharp memory is a treasure trove of anecdotes and stories for her family members, friends and others who want to listen and learn from a person who has seen so many changes.
“Everybody likes to hear her stories about the olden days,” said daughter Shirley Wodrick, 79, recalling a story her mom told about how she worked all day to earn 83 cents to purchase a straw hat.
Clark may have more insights and stories to share when her family and friends head to her New Castle home today to help her celebrate her 100th birthday, even though it will actually come tomorrow. Clark, who has 12 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren, called reaching the century mark “kind of a milestone.”
“I am feeling OK,” she said of her health. “I think, well, I made it another day.”
Clark was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Dec. 7, 1908. Her family moved to Nucla, Colo. which is in western Montrose County, in 1911. Only seven years earlier, the Colorado Cooperative Company had organized the town as a socialist farm colony, according to the Colorado Scenic Guide by Lee Gregory.
“My parents didn’t call themselves socialists, but they really were,” she said with a smile.
Although Clark was only three when she moved there, she recalled that the atmosphere of the town changed as some of the residents there “got greedy.” But said the town residents looked out for another and enjoyed each other’s company.
“Everybody there helped each other,” she said. “We made our own fun, our own enjoyment. We went to picnics and dances.”
Clark spent 90 years of her life living in Nucla. She met her husband of several decades, Albert “Sam” J. Clark, there. It is where she gave birth to her eight children, seven of whom would later go on to college. It is one of her proudest achievements, she said.
“That was my goal, to send my children further then I went and keep going higher, higher and higher,” she said. “I think they have done wonderful.”
During their lives in Nucla, Albert and Elva Clark worked hard to provide for their children. They rented ranches near the town, where the family farmed wheat, corn and barley, and had horses, cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens and sheep.
As the years progressed, Albert went to work in the mines in the area. He also helped build Nucla’s sidewalks, worked to pave its streets and served as its town marshal, said Wodrick, who took her mother into her New Castle home in 2001.
“He took those kind of jobs to support the family,” she said of her father, who died in 1985.
Elva remained at home. She cared for her children. She took care of the animals on their small ranches. If her children needed new clothes, she made them. If there was bread on the table, she made it from scratch.
“I had plenty to do,” she said. “In those days, you made everything.”
Clark said she was one of the last people in her community to make many of the items her family needed to get by.
“People began to bring in manufactured stuff, it was easier,” said. “Of course, they took to the easy ways.”
As she remembered those days, Clark looked at her window and said life is much easier now because people “have time to walk” for fun, pointing to a woman ambling by her New Castle home. There was no time for that because there was too much work to do, she said.
During the Great Depression, which swept across the nation in 1929 and lasted until World War II, Clark said the residents of Nucla “didn’t have money to buy anything.” She was one of them. She couldn’t afford that 3 cent stamp to send a letter to her sister.
Because there was no money, the residents of Nucla simply traded for everything.
“If you had grain, you traded it for something else,” she said.
Asked how people could get by with such difficulties, Clark smiled.
“People got by just fine,” she said. “We didn’t think so much about it. We just accepted it.”
As Clark looked back on her life, she said the most important piece of advice she has to give is to make the most “out of every situation that comes up.”
“I don’t think I have accomplished as much as I was supposed to, but with what I had, I did the best I could,” she said.
Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117
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