Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

100 years young and counting

Dave Aranda-Richards

Special to the Village News

Bernice Robidart, born to Gretchen and Edgar Wilkerson in Los Angeles 100 years ago, celebrated that birthday Sunday, Oct. 16 at Regency-Fallbrook. A Fallbrook resident for 22 of those 100 years, she shared some moments in her lifetime with this reporter.

"My father using his Model T Ford was a chauffeur for doctors at the time of my birth," Bernice began.

I remember, at age 5, when horses were being outlawed and taken off the streets as the roads were beginning to be paved. My siblings and I would get the oily tar with our fingers and chew it. Two years later, we bought a used radio, however there were only two stations available, broadcasting news programs.

At age 8, I learned to sew and knit and haven't stopped for 92 years

In 1929, the Great Depression occurred, and it was very hard on our family, although my dad had a job. We were very conservative, never throwing away hardly anything including food and paper bags. I still can't understand how people nowadays are so wasteful, throwing away paper bags and usable things. We were Republicans, however voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, for president when he promised to turn around the economic situation. He installed the WPA program which many were very skeptical of, but it worked, and many found work, saving their families and the country.

In the 1930s, radio programming increased, and everyone's favorite program was 'One man's family.' I also had my first car, a beautiful 1937 brown Chevrolet, that I inherited from my dad.

In the 40s we listened to big band music and danced 'the jitterbug' at 'all night dance marathons.' We also got our first HotPoint refrigerator and said goodbye to the icebox.

In 1942, Gabriel Robidart and I went to Las Vegas and were married. World War II had begun; he was exempt from the draft at the time. Once we were married, he became eligible and was drafted. He went on to serve in the Pacific Theater and I joined the women's workforce with a position at Azusa Rock. We remained married until his passing one month before our 69th anniversary.

I still recall the day the war ended. All the church bells were ringing, people were crying and hugging each other and my Gabe was on his way home on a U.S. Naval ship.

In the 50s, I worked part time at Baldwin Park school as an accountant, while raising our three beautiful children, Nanette, Gretchen and Gene. We are a very close-knit family. Our kids never went to school in anything 'store bought.' They wore custom made stylish clothes that I personally sewed. I have six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren for whom I've made clothes for."

Her children treasure Berniece's 1500-hour needlepoint portrait of "The Last Supper," with petite pointe on the faces of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. They related that "mom entered several projects, including lamp shades, and hooking rugs, in the LA County Fair, winning a Grand Prize."

Berniece, after retiring as the district accountant for Monrovia and Placentia school districts, moved to Bishop, California, where she bought property, built apartments, and owned a very popular knitting store for 18 years.

In 1996, she moved to Fallbrook where she was extremely busy attending First Presbyterian Church and volunteering at the Angel Shop and Fallbrook Hospital.

When asked, "Berniece, what change in America has been the most dramatic during the past century?" She replied, "The breakup of the family! The family has always been the cement of our culture, with parents teaching their children 'right from wrong.' Now the children are being taught how wrong their parents are."

There are currently over 95,000 centenarians alive in the United States with a ratio of 20 males to every 100 females.


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