Celebrating 100 years
Eunice Osburn celebrates 100 years on Wednesday, December 15.
Eunice Aline (Allen) Osburn of Thurston, Neb., now living in Sabetha, will turn 100 years old on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
She was born on a cold December day in 1921 on a farm six miles from Thurston. Eunice was the fourth child of 13 born to Seth and Mable Allen. She had seven brothers and five sisters.
Eunice attended school in Emerson, Neb., and graduated from high school at 17 years old in 1939. After graduation, Eunice studied at Wayne State College in Nebraska and received a degree in teaching that same year. She taught for three years before marrying Rolland “Ossie” Osburn at 21 years old.
The couple eloped on June 15, 1942, in Yuma, Ariz., with some friends present. Not long after, Ossie was deployed in the Navy in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. He and Eunice moved to San Diego, Calif., and lived there, as well as in Long Beach, Calif., until World War II ended in 1945. Ossie was honorably discharged as soon as the war ended. The Osburns moved back to Thurston after Ossie was discharged.
After his service, Ossie became a barber. He attended barber school in Sioux City, Iowa, and worked as a barber in Pender, Neb., for 15 years. The Osburns then moved to La Puente, Calif., in 1957, where they lived for 35 years.
Eunice and Ossie had three kids. The eldest was Gerry, born April 8, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif.; next was Sherry, born April 18, 1945, in Pender.; and lastly was Larry, born Nov. 21, 1946, in Pender. According to Gerry, they used to be called the “Airy” kids. Eunice also has 10 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren currently.
After living in La Puente, the Osburns moved to Palm Springs where they stayed until Eunice moved to Sabetha in 2017 to live with Gerry. Eunice currently lives at the Apostolic Christian Home in Sabetha. Ossie passed away on May 15, 2000.
Growing up, Eunice was surrounded by music and dancing. The Allens were a very musical family. Eunice’s father Seth was a fiddler, and Eunice mostly played the guitar. Her siblings, any one who wanted to play, all had their own instruments, which were mostly string instruments. Seth taught his children how to play and sing. Eunice dabbled with piano a little at a young age before playing the guitar, as well as the mandolin. The family created their own orchestra, singing and playing for house dances, barn dances and boweries (outdoor stages) all over the country, going all the way up to Yankton, S.D.
Eunice and two of her sisters sang together. Her father taught them how to sing harmony together as a trio. The family orchestra also played on the radio at WNAX Yankton, S.D., to advertise Thurston’s Annual Watermelon Day.
She also learned how to play one of Gerry’s favorite songs “Get Out and Get Under the Moon” on piano by memorizing the keys on a player piano.
At home, the Allens all had their own responsibilities. Eunice was responsible for helping her mom in the kitchen – mostly with cooking, canning, etc. She cooked often, especially when she was young, because she had so many siblings.
When Eunice was young, she and her siblings enjoyed being outside and playing games like hide and seek. They also liked playing in the big barn on their property that was like a gymnasium, according to Gerry.
Eunice remembers her parents’ first car – a Ford Model T. It was a gear shift and in order to start it up, you had to turn a crank at the front of the car. Eunice and her family often drove through the pastures of their farm.
“We would go out in the pasture and that’s where we learned to drive,” Eunice said.
Being a Teacher
Not long after Eunice graduated from college with a teaching degree, she began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse with first grade through eighth at Southeast Ward, one mile from her home. Her brothers, who she taught, were difficult and wouldn’t listen to her.
She went to the school board and asked to be transfered.
“I said get me out of here,” Eunice said.
“She transferred to Walthill, Neb., District 29, and that was much better for her, because the kids would actually listen to her. She didn’t have her ornery brothers,” Gerry said.
Eunice only taught for three years and decided to stop when she had to choose between teaching and marriage. Back when she was a teacher, women weren’t allowed to teach if they were married, so she chose to get married rather than continue being a teacher.
“They wouldn’t let a woman be married and teach school,” Eunice said.
“They [women teachers] also had to live with a school board member,” Gerry said. “She [Eunice] loved to dance because she grew up with music. She’d go out dancing with my dad and they [the school board] thought she was having too much fun, but they didn’t ever do anything about it.”
“I decided I didn’t want to be an old maid school teacher, so I got married and left [quit teaching],” Eunice said.
Eunice continued to stay active in schools after that. She became an employee of Bassett Unified School District in La Puente for almost 30 years working as an assistant in the Physical Education Department and developing a “life-long friendship” with P.E. teachers Tokiyo Ochi and Marian Huetinck, never missing a birthday celebration.
Life with Children
When raising her children, Eunice didn’t ever have to discipline them. Disciplining was something Rolland did, but it didn’t happen often. Eunice is grateful that she hardly ever had to tell her children what to do.
“It seemed like they knew what to do,” she said.
Though she didn’t have to guide them as much as other parents do for their children, Eunice still offered words of wisdom to her children when they needed it.
“They [Eunice and Rolland] really let us grow up, let us have our own opinions. She says to me now still, ‘You just need to take it slow, and you really need to think about this,’ just things like that,” Gerry said. “She let us think on our own, but just a couple of words from her really stuck.”
On Sundays, Eunice and her family went to the Methodist Church in Thurston. Eunice’s kids enjoyed singing during the service.
“Gerry, Larry and Sherry had this woman who really liked to listen to them sing, so she got them to sing ‘How Much is That Doggy in the Window,’” Eunice said.
“My brother would go ‘woof woof,’” Gerry said. “And so on her [Eunice’s] 90th birthday, we got up and sang that song together.”
Eunice’s Interests – Music, Dancing and Sewing
Music and dancing had a large impact on Eunice’s life, both in her childhood and adulthood. She and Rolland often enjoyed dancing every week and going into town on the weekends when they were dating.
“Since they lived out in the country, they would go to town every Saturday night, pile in the back of a pickup, go into town and maybe go to a movie,” Gerry said. “Most times they would just walk up and down the streets, to see neighbors they hadn’t seen during the week.”
Some of Eunice’s happiest memories growing up involved dancing and music. She considers her favorite dance the waltz.
“Most of all, I just remember going to dances and dancing every weekend. Sometimes we played, sometimes other people played,” Eunice said. “I loved the waltz, I think that was my favorite dance.”
According to Gerry, Eunice’s favorite song is “The Last Cheater’s Waltz.”
“She doesn’t care much about the words, y’know, it’s just the beat. She loves the waltz,” Gerry said.
Besides dancing and music, Eunice greatly enjoyed sewing. Her favorite sewing machine is a small, black Singer, which she still owns.
“I’ve always loved to sew,” she said. “I’ve made quilts and made all of the clothes they [her children] wore.”
Eunice also made Sherry’s wedding dress and t-shirt quilts for many members of her family.
Living in Sabetha
About four years ago, Eunice flew all the way from Palm Springs, Calif., to live with her eldest daughter Gerry. Since she would be living in Kansas from then on, the first thing Eunice wanted was a Kansas drivers license.
“When she came back here to live with me, the first thing she wanted to do was get a Kansas drivers license,” Gerry said. “She drove until she moved back here; she was well into her 90s. She wanted a Kansas drivers license, and we thought that would be simple, but we had to come up with her marriage license from Yuma and just everything to get her that Kansas drivers license.”
Eunice had heart valve replacement surgery after she turned 90, around 92 years old. The TAVER surgery was done on one of her valves where they go through the groin area to replace the valve.
“With her, she just couldn’t breathe, she would have spells. We knew she needed the surgery, but we also knew insurance wouldn’t cover it,” Gerry said. “Well, she ended up in the hospital back here in Kansas on one of her visits from California, and the doctor said, ‘Well, we can do that surgery for you.’ I said, ‘Well, does insurance cover it?’ He said, ‘Yes. By the end of the day, we will have your mother a bed at KU Med Center and we will do that surgery.’ And they did.”
“That was the best thing ever,” Eunice said.
Eunice currently has rheumatoid and osteoarthritis that started in her hands and has since spread, but she says she never feels any pain, except for when her arthritis was unbearable at one point.
“A nurse told us once that arthritis is like a wild fire,” Gerry said. “It’s anywhere and everywhere, but eventually it burns itself out. That’s what happened to her [Eunice]; it just burnt itself out.”
Reminiscing on Life
When thinking back on her life, Eunice is happy with how it turned out.
“I always think I’ve had a real beautiful life, I love my life the way it was,” Eunice said. “My gosh, my family was big. There were 13 children, but my gosh, it didn’t seem like there had been any problems. My life has been a good one.”
Her kids thought she could do anything, which was exemplified by the life that she lived. She is truly a “Eunique” woman.