Rocky Fork Enterprise

Turning 103

Centenarian recalls horses and buggies, Sunday school parties

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MARLA K. KUHLMAN/THISWEEKNEWS
Ersel Caddes shows a photo taken of her with family members during a surprise 100th birthday party three years ago.
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The Titanic was launched the year she was born in 1911.

William Howard Taft was president.

Ersel Caddes, a resident of the Worthington Independent Retirement Living in Gahanna, will celebrate 103 years March 24. Being a centenarian, Caddes said, many people question the keys to her longevity.

"I have no answers for it," she said. "I take it day by day. As far as I know, I have no ailments but occasional indigestion."

She said several family members lived past 100, including an aunt, who reached 105.

Caddes was born next to the youngest of four brothers and one sister and raised on a farm in New Concord. She attended Westminster Presbyterian Church, where astronaut John Glenn's mother, Clara, taught her in Sunday school.

"I was at their house many times," she said. "Back then, they had Sunday school parties. I knew John. He was a young kid. He married his high school sweetheart. John was a good boy. He still is."

Caddes said one of her most vivid childhood memories was when she was only 3 years old.

"We had a horse and buggy, and we had to go to Cambridge to do our shopping," she said. "We were on our way to Cambridge, and I leaned over the dashboard. Mother said not to do that. We stopped at a watering trough for the horses to drink. Father was tending them. I leaned over the dashboard and fell down by the horses' feet. My father had to rush to get me."

Caddes said her job on the family farm was to gather eggs and feed the chickens.

"We had cows, chickens, pigs, lots of sheep, the whole works," she said. "I enjoyed the farm life I had when I was young. It was a lot of work. My family had two gardens.

"We had the war garden that dad had in a wooded area that animals would eat. Mother had a small garden close to the house. Times were hard."

In Cambridge, she said, there was a band in the pavilion and dancing every Saturday night.

"That was fun," she said.

She's also fond of cakes from Cambridge's well-known bakery, Kennedy's.

Another clear recollection from her youth, Caddes said, involved gypsies who would set up camps east of New Concord.

"Early the next morning, six or eight wagons would come through," she said. "Women would go to back doors to beg. My mother would lock our doors when the gypsies were coming through. The women would walk though, and the men would pick up the women at the end of the street. I'd watch. I remember so well.

"There were wagons for sleeping in. There were bags made of rope in the back, and there were little children who would ride back there," she said. "I felt so sorry for the children. They rode in the little bags in the back of the wagons."

She remembers mail being delivered by horse and buggy.

"Our mail carrier rode for many miles," Caddes said. "She drove a horse and buggy."

When cars became the new means of transportation, she said, she learned to drive the family car in a pasture field.

"When I started driving, it cost 25 cents a gallon for gas," she said.

At 17, before finishing high school, Caddes decided to go to beauty school in Cleveland.

"I decided I wanted to go to Cleveland," she said. "I had family there. I quit high school to go to beauty school. I worked as a hairdresser. I had a great time in Cleveland with all the activities there. There was Vaudeville and always something going on."

She returned to Cambridge, however, because her parents were getting older and they wanted her close to home. That's where she met husband Francis Caddes, a mail carrier, whom she married in 1935. The couple have one son, Gene, who's a retired sports writer for United Press International.

Caddes said her son was 7 and they were living in Virginia and her mother died and then her father the next morning.

"I thought I could never live," she said. "I thought who would I ask (for advice). I went through a bad time missing them. Mother was 70 and father 71. Father was really sick, and we expected his death. My mother hadn't been sick. It was all a shock. It was during the war."

About six years ago, Caddes moved from Cambridge.

"I had gotten to the place I couldn't work outside," she said.

Her immediate family also wanted her to live closer to them. Two of her three granddaughters live nearby: Carol Seiffert of Blacklick and Julie Creasap of New Albany. Her son lives in Grove City.

Caddes also has seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

These days she enjoys watching Ohio State Buckeyes basketball and football, she said.

"I also love to watch golf, although I know little about it," she said. "I like Tiger (Woods). He's my favorite. I root for him. I also watch the news. I'm interested in the news."

Caddes said television is the invention that changed America the most in her lifetime.

"I was sad my father didn't live to see television," she said. "I have no cellphone. It's shocking you can take a picture so quick and put it on Facebook."

Caddes said she has tried to live a clean life.

"I never smoked," she said. "I just take it day by day."

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