Peterson will celebrate 100 years


Hazel Peterson has lived through 18 United States presidents, seen the effects of the "Dirty Thirties" era, the Vietnam War and WWII and was born in 1917, just one and a half months before the start of WWI. She is the oldest 1935 Beloit High School graduate still living, that celebrated 80 years in 2015. She is also the oldest living continuous member of 90 years, to attend the Christian Church in Beloit.   

Peterson says, "God willing", she will celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday, September 23, with an open house and card shower in honor of her century old birthday. All relatives and friends are invited to the celebration, which will be held from 2-4 p.m. in the south dining room at Hilltop Lodge, 815 N. Independence, Beloit. Hosting the event are her children:  Barbara and husband Larry Linam, of Texarkana, Texas; Joyce and husband Ronald of Derby, Kansas; and Ronald Peterson of Sherman, Texas.

The family requests no gifts, but cards may be brought or mailed to Hazel Peterson W-25, 815 N. Independence, Beloit, KS 67420.

Peterson was born Hazel (Johnson) Peterson in Morland, Kansas. She moved to Beloit with her mother Jessie (Sproul) Johnson, older brother Charles and younger sister Dorothy in 1924 after their father Charles Johnson died.

The family only lived in three homes in Beloit with their main homestead located on 623 W. Chestnut, which has since been torn down.

"We had a lot of kids in the neighborhood that got together in the evenings after school," said Peterson. "We played games and I always loved to read, especially early history and Christian novels."

Peterson says today, "We seem to pay a lot more attention to the weather then we use to. We didn't have all of these electronics they have today and didn't worry about things so much. I guess we just lived to survive and kept our eyes on the clouds when we needed to."

Winters were much more harsh back then and sledding was a main event. 

"I remember bob-sledding when I grew up and also when raising our children," said Hazel. "Now there isn't even enough snow to add a sled to the Christmas shopping list. It use to always be an item on the list."

Living through the "Dirty Thirties", also known as the "Dust Bowl", taught families some of those surviving skills through economics.

It was a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930's. 

"I was a senior when those terrible dust storms occurred," said Peterson. "I remember using wet towels under the doors to keep the dust out and we had a small little fan to keep cool. I remember working long hours to get rid of the dust and dirt from inside the house. Laundry was not a simplified matter either and we had no dryers. Everything had to be hung on a clothes line which was impossible at that time."

"People are pretty spoiled today," said Peterson. "They get upset when the electricity goes off for just a short amount of time. We were lucky if we had electricity and we had no indoor plumbing for a long time. Siblings stayed in a small room growing up and you ate what was put on your plate, or you would go hungry."

"There was no driving to supermarkets. It is just so amazing to see all the prepared foods nowadays. We had to eat a lot of navy beans and the main staple foods. I don't much like beans anymore," Hazel laughed. "We had our milk delivered in cartons and left on our porches and if you didn't get to them soon enough, they would be frozen in the winter time." 

Discipline was swift and spankings were in order when needed.

"You don't see kids getting spanked anymore," said Peterson. "It seems discipline is frowned upon now-a-days, but I felt it helped us growing up as kids."

School activities included football and basketball as the two main sports but since Peterson's mother was a widow, they didn't always get to do all of the things other children did. 

"I was in pep club in high school and it wasn't too often that we got to attend the out of town games," said Peterson. "People seemed to be very compassionate to my mom since she was raising us on her own. I didn't ever have a vehicle and never even thought about asking for one because I knew we couldn't afford it."

"I remember my boss at the city office would throw me his car keys and tell me to go get some lunch. I'm just glad I didn't wreck his car, because I didn't really know how to drive that well," smiled Peterson. 

"We walked miles and miles as children and I relate that towards my good health today. That, and being lucky to not having any terminal illnesses."

Peterson was looked upon as being quite the tom-boy growing up.

"My mom always told me I could climb over the fence, while my brother crawled under the fence," laughed Peterson.

Faith has always been a factor in Peterson's outlook on life.

"I was baptized when I was around eight or nine years old," Peterson said. "My mother was very faithful and that helped me be very faithful as well."  

During her working years, Hazel was employed at the Beloit City Clerk's office; the office of Drs. Collins, Dobratz, and Neinstedt; and Beloit 5&10.

"I really liked the City Clerk's office job," said Peterson. "It was the kind of work I had training for and I really liked working with the people."

Hazel married John Peterson of Beloit on Feb. 4, 1945. They were married for 56 years before John's passing in March 2001. They had two daughters, Barbara and Joyce and a son Ronald. 

"We had a lot more home life raising children back then," Hazel said. "Today, there are so many activities that take away from family time. I was a stay at home mom until my youngest son started attending junior high school. My children played outside. Back then, you could drink out of a hose and let your children run free, knowing the neighborhood would watch as a community.

"Our children were pretty good at helping as a family,"said Hazel. "They didn't have all these cell phone and game items and probably had know idea they would be living in this kind of an era. Our neighbors were the first to have a telephone and I remember all of us going over to their house to see it work. My son was around five before we even had a television. They didn't even have movies at the theatre yet. I have seen the economy go up and down."   

Hazel's father was spared having to go to WWI but her husband John served in WWII.

"We were only married for one year at the time of his leaving," said Hazel." He returned after being wounded and he never discussed the war with me. After he was released we rented a house in Beloit on Campbell street. John was a barber for many years and he knew everyone because he cut a lot of children's hair."

After John retired, the couple was able to travel in a motor home.

"We had a simple life together, but we had a good life," said Hazel. "We traveled the west coast, into Nebraska and basically covered the southern states since that was the direction our children were at the time. My favorite place was when we traveled to Grand Lake, Oklahoma in the 70's. It was a nice campground that looked over the water. Back then, you could pretty much feel safe parking anywhere. Not like today."

Hazel remembers voting for President Calvin Coolidge, but her most memorable moment was when they got to meet President Jimmy Carter who was elected from 1977-1981. 

"John and I were on a trip near where the president lived at the time. He was teaching Sunday school and after church he announced that anyone could come meet with him and his family afterwards. He was a friendly type of president."  

In addition to her three children, Hazel has six grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren with one more to arriving in May.

"I am trying to be excited, yet trying to remain calm," Hazel said about her upcoming 100th year birthday. "I didn't even really start thinking about being that old until a few years ago. To be able to participate in a 100th year birthday is exciting. I am not giving up. I just hope my mind continues to do well." 



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