Quilcene celebrates ‘distanced’ 100-year-old birthday

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In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. The League of Nations was founded—but the United States declined to join.

Thousands of men returned from war, prompting the construction of hundreds of thousands of homes—a boom that ultimately crashed in the late 1920s and was partially blamed for the Great Depression a few years later.

Henry Ford began mass producing cars, which ranged in price from $595 for a Model T to $1,800 for a sleek Studebaker, a four-door touring car.

The sound of crackling radios hit the airwaves—not an easy accomplishment, as most American homes didn’t yet have electricity. But they brought entertainment and news into peoples’ homes for the first time.

Airplanes were first used as a weapon of war; and for the kids, ball-bearing velocipedes—tricycles—teddy bears, Tinker Toys and Radio Flyer wagons were popular.

Prohibition was enacted, bringing with it an era of moonshine, speakeasies and gangsters; it wouldn’t be repealed until the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933.

The influenza epidemic was winding down its rampage across the United States, having infected a third of the world’s population and killing more than 40 million people.

And in the midst of those Roaring Twenties, Lura Mae Morse was born on a kitchen table in Quilcene.

Scores of family members, caretakers and friends weren’t about to let a global pandemic get in the way of their plans to celebrate her 100th birthday April 18. They gathered at the church next door before marching with balloons and signs, singing Happy Birthday, while others drove by, honking their horns and waving as she sat outside her Quilcene home.

“They’re doing this for me?” she queried, smiling and waving.

“Social distancing” required due to the coronavirus pandemic kept everyone from getting too close, but the enthusiasm could not be dampened.

Almost all agreed that being ornery and stubborn has enabled her to live such a long life — as well as never drinking, smoking or getting into trouble.

“I did it,” Lura Mae said, from her porch where she sat bundled against the day’s brisk, chilly wind. “And I can’t believe they’re doing this for me.”

“Every morning, she still gets up, makes her bed, gets dressed, gets her coffee and a sweet roll,” said Dana Morger, a friend of the family.

 

April 18, 1920

Lura Mae was born April 18, 1920, and has spent all but four years of her life in Quilcene, where she has been intimately involved with the community. She is also the hamlet’s oldest Quilcene-born resident.

As a teenager, she worked at the local telephone office, where she met Clifford Schafer, who came in every day from his U.S. Forest Service job to send a telegram. The two wed in 1939—and spent a three-month honeymoon on fire watch at Mount Jupiter, a lookout without running water or electricity.

“He was really a city boy,” Lura Mae said of her husband. “But he loved it here, so we stayed.”

One memory from those days is etched in her mind, when Cliff would leave the tower to get snow to melt for water. One day, Lura Mae decided she could conquer the steep hillside to wash clothes and bathe.

Armed with a backboard for the clothing, she negotiated the hill down without a problem, she said. But the dirt under her feet — despite the rope used to help people ascend — kept slipping out from beneath her on the way back up.

“By the time I got back, with all the wet clothes in the backboard, I needed a bath worse than when I went down,” she said.

The couple moved to the other side of Puget Sound during World War II, where Cliff worked in the shipyards. They later returned to the Quilcene home they’d rented out in their absence.

The couple raised two boys, Mike and Jeff, and has four grandchildren and numerous great-grands.

Cliff died in May 1998 after almost 60 years of marriage.

As a child, Lura Mae attended the local school, even sometimes hitching a ride on the train that passed through town to get there.

She often took a trail that led from their house to the Hamilton-Worthington home where her mother worked as a housekeeper, cook, canner, baker and seamstress for the 10 Worthington family members.

“I knew the Worthingtons real well, and got along with all of them,” Lura Mae said of the former owners. “I can still remember Grandma Worthington. She had snow-white hair and she gave out apples on Halloween.”

Lura Mae wasn’t one to stay solely at home. She’s earned honors from her PTA group, church and for other community work. Over the decades, she has been chosen as Citizen of the Year, and Pioneer Citizen for the Quilcene Fair and Parade.

As a long-time member of the Quilcene Historical Museum, Lura Mae has been keeping an eye on the restoration work at the 1892 Worthington home across the street from her house, said Larry McKeehan, who with Cleone Telling, an elder in the Presybeterian church next door, coordinated the birthday festivities.

She also enjoys visiting with people —despite the pandemic curtailing that activity for the time being.

“I tell about the old times, the way it used to be,” Lura Mae said. “People say they love my stories.”

“The museum is proud to honor this living legacy,” said museum chair Mari Phillips. “We’re also thankful to have a recorded oral history of our community treasure.”

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