Centenarian: Lola Droge reaches 100 years
Submitted by Catherine Knapp and family
What does it mean to live a hundred years? Can we grasp that? Step into the shoes of Lola Droge for a few moments as you read.
You walked to school and in bad weather, there was the horse and buggy. Your parents had a Tin Lizzie, and to keep off the wind, you buckled on isinglass windows. You grew up and drove cars that had solid glass windows in doors that each passenger could control. Now you’re driving in a car with electric windows controlled by the driver or individually.
In 100 years, you have voted to obtain leadership for the country in 20 presidential elections. A penny and one-cent stamps had stand alone buying power. There was no air conditioning when you were born, and for heat, you went from gathering cow chips for fuel to a wood stove to a gas stove to central air — heating and cooling.
Your parents celebrated the end of World War I and the safety of your uncle in the U.S. cavalry a year before your birth. Your husband was a paratrooper in World War II, sons served in the Vietnam Conflict as a Marine Corps pilot and in the Army National Guard in Bosnia as a historian.
Two children served with Peace Corps in Brazil and Africa. Grandchildren served in a hospital unit in Desert Storm with others serving in Iraq and in the U.S. Navy on a ship so large the population dwarfs the towns nearest you.
College was paid the old-fashioned way. When you ran out of money, you stopped and worked some more. In the middle, you got married, so you went from being a student to a wife.
Farming you saw first with a horse and plow. Many of your adult farming years were seen from cabless tractors. You finished out with cabs but not air conditioning. Now, a tractor could almost drive itself.
At the start of your life, the privy was the norm. Cream and eggs were kept cold in a spring house, canning produce was a widely known skill, and you made your own clothes even as a young adult. Latin was studied in high school. Calculus was not.
The shape and scope of the population changed with the vast majority being in agriculture at the beginning to the vast majority being in something other than agriculture. The consumption of sugar went from holidays, special occasions and some in your coffee to a culture of avoiding it. The produce available went from seasonal to an array of delicious fruits and vegetables from the world over. Table meals went from largely sustenance with nothing wasted to being able to choose from multiple options for any meal, but you still favor liver and onions, beets, creamed spinach and homemade bread that your oldest son makes and brings you. You love having ice cream on hand for anyone who comes by.
This is our matriarch, Lola Fern Hubbard Droge.
Childhood & Family
Lola and her twin, Lois, were born on Oct. 16, 1919, to E. Russell and Mabel Clark Hubbard. They were the middle children of 11 and lived on a farm near Leoti in western Kansas. Her earliest memory was a tender one. Even as a tiny child, she loved babies. Her new baby brother, Eldon, was born. He lived but two days and she remembers a grown-up would not let her go into his room. She wanted to see him so she went outside and all around the house until she found the right window and climbed up to look inside to see the baby. She was only two.
Another early memory when she and Lois were about 4 years old, they found some bran that was sweetened with molasses. Lola didn’t like it, so she just put hers in her pocket, but Lois really enjoyed it and ate quite a lot. They did not know that it had been poisoned for grasshoppers and Lois became very sick.
Lola had the sorrow of seeing an older brother paralyzed with polio, and another succumb to pneumonia. Lola also had an older brother especially dear to her who intervened to protect and defend her and also gave her advice on how to handle bullies. That affection lasted a lifetime — and she was blessed to have three of George’s daughters, and a son, with their spouses come from Nebraska and Colorado for her 100th birthday.
She and her sisters gathered annually together to renew friendship over embroidery and conversation, taking turns hosting each other. She was delighted that baby sister Opal’s son Keith and his wife could come from Colorado for the reception. When she was nine, she was given charge of her youngest sibling, Sidney, and they had a special bond all of their lives. Sidney joined the sisters for their gatherings, bringing his wife along. In his last years, his son and nephew’s family would drive him out. His passing marked the last of Lola’s siblings. It was a funeral she yearned to attend and yet her sense of what Sidney would tell her to do prevailed, and she stayed at home with cherished memories of a beloved baby brother.
To live a hundred years can mean that you are the last of your original family. That you mourn their passing alone. It can mean that when you read the obituaries in the paper that you travel through your generation and on into the generation of your children as you read of the deaths of their schoolmates. To live a hundred years can be lonely.
At age 11, Lola went to work for a neighbor family who needed help with the care of their children. Her twin stayed at home to do the work there. It was an arrangement they would keep for years, and so it was Lola who earned the money for the both of them to attend college.
After graduating as salutatorian from Wichita County High, Lola went to work for the extension agent in soil conservation. When there was enough money, she and Lois went to K-State. She worked several jobs while she was there to earn money for room and board and sundries. When they ran out of money, Lola went to Denver to work for Montgomery Ward in the shipping department to save money to return.
Marriage & children
In the meantime, Leslie Droge proposed and Lola accepted. They were married Jan. 26, 1941, and until his passing in 2008.
After college and the births of Dennis and Joann, Leslie headed off to the South Pacific in WWII. Upon his return, the troops found they were stuck in California for train repairs. Leslie and another fellow couldn’t stand it and got unofficial permission to hitchhike home, making it to Lola and the children in Colorado in record time. Douglas, Duane and Beverly were added to the family, and life continued in Nemaha County on Leslie’s family farm. There, in the front yard, was a Chinese Elm tree planted by Leslie’s mother years before. It is reckoned to be around 100 years old.
Lola remembers her first time voting for a president was when she was 21. Wendell Willkie was her choice, against Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leslie later served as a senator in the Kansas legislature from 1964-1976. During those years, she supported his efforts, attended events with him, and took care of the farm and family when he was gone. They were followed years later by a daughter who served in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Lola has always loved to read and has been self-educated this way. She encouraged reading and learning in her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as modeling having an interest in one’s surroundings, community life, volunteering and serving one’s country.
All five children graduated from KSU. One demonstrated horseback and roping skills while promoting beef in Japan and later became a veterinarian. The others were an agronomist, a teacher, a home economist and a commercial pilot.
Lola lives in her own home, cared for by loving family and caregivers, and one step ahead of us much of the time. She is a fine listener, even to the youngest of children, and is good at preventing problems through her keen observation.
No longer able to see to read she listens to books on tape and articles family and caregivers read to her. As articles are read, they are checked off. One caregiver left a note beside a checkmark, “Not interested.” The article title? “How to Live Longer.”
What is a hundred years of living? Not very long in the span of time. Quite long to us. Worth thinking about and weighing how we’d spend it if it were ours.
If you have time, come by and see that Chinese Elm tree. Lola will be pleased to greet you.