Memories fade in, out for 100-year-old woman

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Annie Laurie Boren holds her 3-month-old great-great-great-nephew, Corbin French, during a party for her 100th birthday. At right is Lilian Mangum, 81, one of her three surviving sisters.(The Vicksburg Paper/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[01/02/02]Annie Laurie Boren doesn’t remember when her family first bought a car in 1924. She can vaguely recall the flood of 1927. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 is a faint blur from a decade long ago.

But for a woman who just celebrated her 100th birthday, selective memory is excusable. Born Dec. 27, 1901, in McBride, Annie Boren can’t remember everything about the 10 decades she has survived. But ask her about when she met her husband 64 years ago, when she was a 37-year-old school teacher in Clinton, and she can remember it like it was yesterday.

“It was on a Sunday afternoon. It was raining. I went to the store for something,” she recalled, dusting away the cobwebs of time. “Clara and Hunter were at the store,” she said, remembering two of her friends. “I got in the car with them and we talked. They had been swimming at Rocky Falls. Everybody there had a girl except W.B.,’ Clara said. She said I should have been there for him. So she brought W.B. over to Carlisle to meet me.”

Was it love at first sight? “Oh no. Not two, either,” she said with a laugh. William B. Boren had to court her for a year and a half before she finally said yes to marriage.

She admits humor is part of her survival. That, and staying active. “I always wanted to play and do something I didn’t want to sit around,” she said. Her favorite sport: Basketball. “No one could keep me from it. I really liked to play,” she said.

But after graduating from a one-teacher schoolhouse in Hermanville, near her family’s home in Carlisle, she had to go to work. She soon found out that her first job, as a bookkeeper in Jackson, wasn’t for her. “Being indoors all the time wasn’t healthy for me. I needed to get out and exercise more, so I decided to be a teacher,” she said.

She earned her teaching degree from State Teachers College, now the University of Southern Mississippi, and taught in Mississippi for 15 years.

From Pine Grove to Lebanon, Brownsville and Clinton, she taught elementary education before that fateful Sunday in 1939, when she met W.B.

With him, she moved to Bishop, Texas, and later, Grove City, Calif. For 29 years, she was away from her home state, before retiring and moving to Vicksburg.

What does she think of the changes in the world since the time she was born? “Being 100 years old is a little different,” she said, laughing, from her room at Heritage House.

About the many decades she has seen, did she enjoy one more than another? “I have no preference,” she said, matter-of-factly.

At 100, Boren definitely speaks her mind.

While she vividly remembers taking the train to the Chicago World’s Fair with two of her sisters in 1933, other recollections require prompting. Her 89-year-old sister, Virginia Seawright, helps.

“Remember, when Papa bought a Model A in 1924?” Seawright said, yelling into her ear. Boren readily admits she’s deaf without her hearing aid, and almost deaf with it. “Paid 400 dollars for it,” her sister said. Boren responded with a simple, “No.”

“Remember where you were when you heard John F. Kennedy was shot?” Seawright shouted.

Boren paused, then shook her head: “I can’t recall.”

Boren still has her wits about her.

“When I was born, my mother said that the doctor’s hand was sore,” she started, slowly. “Because of a firecracker that went off it in at Christmas,” she said. “I always wondered what was the matter with me.” And with that, she cracks a smile.