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Tuesday March 29, 2011 Edition
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Celebrating A Century: The Spunk & Spirit Of Cora Spaulding

Pretty in Pink is Cora Spaulding and her sister Helen in the flowered jacket. Pictured between them is a close family friend. Celebrating family, life and turning 100 this coming summer.
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Pretty in Pink is Cora Spaulding and her sister Helen in the flowered jacket. Pictured between them is a close family friend. Celebrating family, life and turning 100 this coming summer.

Tuesday March 29, 2011

By Cookie Steponaitis

     The cornerstone of the Bixby Library was laid in Vergennes, Vermont in October, 1911 and a new chapter of Vergennes History was started. During the same month a daughter was born to John Grafton Spaulding and Sara Allen Spaulding in Panton, Vermont. Celebrating 99 years of life this year, Cora Spaulding looks at the century mark as just another milestone in a life that serves as an inspiration to those who know her and get the chance to share her memories and stories.

     Cora never liked being indoors and would always be found outside with her animals and nature.  Cora openly shares about her habits that date back to her childhood, “I have never been a morning person and am not about to start now.” While she acknowledges both her parents were very strict, her dad loved a good joke and had a great sense of humor. “Both my parents had spunk,” remarked Cora. “And that stayed with me too.”

     Cora’s father John was a state legislator, school board member and later School Superintendent. Cora’s mother unfortunately passed away when she was very young, but Cora and her older sister Helen were close their whole lives. “One advancement that has come in the last century that I admire is the advances in medicine,” shared Cora. “Both my mother and my sister passed away of conditions that are now curable. For those of you who take medicine for granted, imagine a time when there was not plentiful and you simply did not survive many conditions that today are managed with medicine.”

     Cora’s early pleasant memories center around the family Model T and drives when the family would come to Vergennes for parades, fairs and every Thursday night for band concerts in the park.  While the car changed the climate of life in Vergennes, it was still too expensive for use in transporting people to school. Cora had to come to Vergennes and board with a family in order to go to school at Vergennes High School which was located on Green Street. The only way to get through the roads and the snow was by horse and buggy and her house was too far out of town for the family to come in. Therefore, beginning at thirteen Cora wintered in town and traded help and work for room and board.

    Cora enjoyed hearing her father’s stories about his trips to Oregon and they became the turning point in her life. Her mother would sew pockets into her dad’s clothing to keep their money in so they could travel safely. The west coast beckoned her and Cora decided to make the trip herself. At that time in America young women did not travel cross country and certainly not without a chaperone. Cora was not deterred, drove herself to Oregon and proceeded to live on her own and make her own way taking care of all of her own business.  She worked for several large companies and actually set up accounting and business practices for major companies. “I worked for Grand Union as their regional bookkeeper in Pittsfield, Mass.  From there I then worked for the Paradise Restaurant in Bennington, Vermont.  Work became scarce so when my cousins in Portland, Oregon told me to come out that there was work there.” This all occurred during World War II and Cora remembers attending dances and fundraisers for money for our troops.

    After spending several years on the west coast, Cora moved back to the New England area and worked traveling around New England setting up stores and accounting systems for Grand Union. She often trained the entire staff, including male managers, accountants and cashiers. When questioned about the reception a woman in her level of management received Cora smiled and shared, “While it may have not have been the norm of the time, I was never discriminated against. I was accepted as an equal. When I retired my boss said they were taking me out to dinner. They pretended they needed to stop for a minute at another restaurant and I was surprised by over 100 people in the corporation, most of them men, who thanked me and celebrated my years with the company.”

    With over 99 years of memories of Vergennes, Cora remarked the most about the changes in the roads, streets and sidewalks. She also misses the huge gardens and flowers that her mother always used to have. In addition to growing their own vegetables, her family had cattle and sheep, raising their own meat and wool for clothing.

    With her one hundredth birthday coming this fall, Cora looks at the milestone with the same spunk and matter of fact approach that has been the hallmark of her life. Cora says she regrets the day she had to, “…give up her car and her drivers’ license as a sad chapter in her life.” Cora, her mother and sister Helen used to drive the family car to Montpelier once a week to see their father when he was a representative in the state capital.

    Cora has lived through WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cora has seen over twenty presidents, and only four are still with us today.  She has seen America rise to an industrial giant and become a world power. She witnessed the automobile, phone, television, microwaves, motion pictures, central air, airplanes, man on the moon and women’s rights. While Cora will not call herself a pioneer in the field of women’s rights, she was on her own and in management decades before many women ever had the opportunity. How did she get there? “Quite simple,” shared Cora. “You work hard, you take pride in your work and you get the job done.” With a sharp mind and a quick wit, Cora waits for spring to once again bring Vermont to life and looks forward to her birthday with increasing amazement. “Well now,” she remarked. “I guess I really am nigh to a hundred!” The Valley Voice salutes Cora and all of her remarkable generation that left their indelible mark on a nation, our state, our county and our hearts!

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