A hundred years ago, things were different: More than 95% of all births took place at home. Sugar was .04 cents per pound, coffee was .15 cents per pound and eggs were .14 cents per dozen. The population of Las Vegas was 30, and crossword puzzles, canned beer and iced tea hadn’t yet been invented—that’s to say nothing of the advent of gas-powered vehicles, computers, cell phones and the internet.
Felton’s own Millie Kaitschuck has seen it all, and then some. Kaitschuck, who turned 100 on May 9, celebrated the century mark with her friends and family, and sat down to reminisce about a few of the changes she’s experienced since 1923.
“I can remember when I was little, they used to deliver milk in Chicago with a horse drawn carriage. During the winter, if the horse slipped on the ice, the neighbors would take ashes from their stove and dump them in the streets to help the horses get off the ground and get some traction,” Kaitschuck said.
Born and raised in Chicago, Kaitschuck used to take the “L” (short for elevated trains) to Logan Square for her ballet, toe and acrobatic dance lessons.
“At that time, I could get to the ‘L’ and go to my lessons by myself,” said Kaitschuck, who was one of five children, and now has six great-great grandchildren of her own (and one on the way).
She’s eager to speak of her former husband, Melvin, whom she met when they were at the same high school in Chicago.
“He was being initiated into the Football Letterman’s Club and his classmates were walking him down the aisle. As they were approaching me, one of his classmates said to him, ‘Propose to that girl,’ and he did.” Her response? “I said, ‘That was stupid.’ We ended up going together after that.”
When the war started in 1941, Melvin wasn’t able to get into the Navy Air Corps, so he took flying lessons in Chicago.
“He was in Iowa City to be a fighter pilot, but the Navy came up with a program called Lighter Than Air (LTA), and if you enlisted with that outfit, you could exit the service sooner. So Melvin was sent to Moffett Field to fly blimps, but he took one look at them and said he didn’t want to do it. His captain, however, told him he was not being released to another unit.” Ultimately, said Kaitschuck, that was a good thing—95% of Melvin’s class died in the South Pacific.
Melvin and Millie got engaged in Iowa City, were married in Oakland, Calif., and moved to the San Lorenzo Valley to start a family and a life together. (When asked how she went from Chicago to Iowa City to California, Millie quipped, “I came by train.”)
“I was alive when Lindbergh took his flight in 1927; there have been a lot of changes since then,” said Kaitschuck, who admits that technology is not something she’s kept up with.
Her father and husband, however, were fairly forward-thinking in their day. They purchased an Ercoupe, a low-wing, monoplane aircraft that was first flown in 1937, which Millie describes as a “two-seater plane that kind of drove like a car, and was very popular.”
Millie said it was from the air that Melvin selected the lot for their single-wall kit home in Felton, which was built in 1946 and has withstood earthquakes, fires and the passage of time.
Millie had always wanted to be a nurse. “When my last child was 2 years old, Cabrillo had only their second LVN class, and I enrolled.”
Millie began her career at the old Sisters Hospital on West Cliff Drive, and trained at the old County Hospital on Emeline; she went to work in the emergency room after she received her certificate, and remained an LVN until her early 70s. That was no small feat while raising six kids—and two of them were born in 1948.
“One in January and one in December,” said Kaitschuck, who admitted to being a little busy.
After completing his military service, Melvin became a woodshop teacher at San Lorenzo Valley High School, and went on to author a book on the subject despite never having graduated from college.
“You know, it’s just another year,” said Kaitschuck, who humbly dismisses the idea that reaching 100 deserves special attention.
Her secret to a long life?
“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. Never have. I’ve been a member of the LDS church since I was in my early 20s and I never get angry. It doesn’t do anybody any good,” she said.
Kaitschuck, who is a member of the Relief Society (the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), is in charge of sending birthday cards to the female members to this day.
Happy birthday indeed.