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Fit as a fiddle approaching 100

 
Fit as a fiddle approaching 100
Louise Maria Frieda Hulda (Duelm) Jones Farris

Born on Oct. 18, 1917, Louise Maria Frieda Hulda (Duelm) Jones Farris is still fit as a fiddle and pretty.

“My family always said I had Joan Crawford eyebrows,” she says. At almost 100, Louise still drives, works in her yard, and plays bunco three times a month. The house she calls home used to belong to Lothar Puhlman. It sits in the middle of a cattle pasture, but the interior looks like it is straight out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

There is no clutter; no magazines are stacked up. Shades of beiges, browns, and whites are accented with turquoise throw pillows, art, and accessories. Even as a child, she loved decorating, and turquoise is her favorite color. She has that decorator’s touch.

Born at home in the family’s farmhouse outside La Vernia, Louise was the second of six children born to Emil and Erna (Mattke) Duelm.

As an infant, Louise developed diphtheria. When the doctor came to the house to check on her, she said, he told her parents “No use doing anything; she’s gone.” She said her uncle picked her up and shook her really hard till she started crying. Louise recalls a story she must have heard many times. “He brought me back to life!” she said, so from then on, she had a special place in her uncle’s heart. He would call her “Meine hübsche kleine Louise,” which means “My pretty little Louise.” “He pronounced my name Lee-eazy.”

Louise went to school through the fifth grade in a one-room schoolhouse on F.M. 775, about a mile and a half from their farmhouse. She said they would take their shoes off to walk to school because they would hurt their feet. (That was when most kids went barefoot anyway, so new shoes would not be comfortable.)

“We had nothing to eat but bread and jelly for lunch,” she said. After the fifth grade, she stayed home and worked on the family farm full time. She picked 295 pounds of cotton a day. She said her mother could pick 500 pounds. “She was a hard-working woman,” Louise recalls. “Our family would pick a bale a day.”

That cotton was loaded onto the train in La Vernia at La Vernia Mills. When they finished picking their own cotton, they would go all the way to Karnes City to pick some more for her uncle. The kids all rode in the back of the flatbed truck.

The Duelm family also grew corn and peanuts, and people would bring their sugar cane for them to make blackstrap molasses. “My brother and I used to walk the mule around and around to turn the wheel of the grinder, while my other brother would feed the sugar cane down into the grinder.” Her mother would cook the sugar cane in a big boiler to make the molasses. “Families used to come to our farm and camp out overnight in their tents, waiting for their molasses.”

Louise milked five or six cows every day. “That’s why my thumbs are so crooked.” She showed me her thumbs as proof.

“We used to have homemade ice cream every Saturday night. My father would buy a hundred pounds of ice for five cents. ... and each weekend we would get a penny for candy.” She remembers going to Sutherland Springs for the Fourth of July celebration. “It was just like a big fair.”

They would listen to music on a handmade cigar box radio and hear “The Light Crust Doughboys.” Louise loved to dance and won first place dancing the Charleston. “We kids were fearless. We’d climb to the top of the tallest tree, ... and we’d jump off the barn roof with a tractor umbrella.” They climbed grapevines and jumped from vine to vine, and rolled tires down the tallest hill or would get in and ride them all the way to the bottom.

At the Christmas service in the Lutheran church in La Vernia was the only time they got fruit. “We got a big bag of fruit, nuts, and candy,” she said.

When Louise was 18, she left the family farm and moved to San Antonio. She worked for the Jones Laundry where she met Jessie Jones, the owner’s son. Sparks flew. “The moment I saw him I wanted him,” she said with a giggle. The rest, as they say, is history.

Her father wanted her to come back to the farm, but that was not to be. Six short weeks later, Louise and Jessie married in a small ceremony at the Jones residence. Her family was not present.

“We would walk down the streets of downtown San Antonio. You never went downtown in San Antonio unless you were dressed up.” Their first daughter was born in 1938, so Jessie was exempted from the draft.

They closed Jones Laundry when the war started and moved to California, where Jessie worked in a shipyard and Louise took a job as a bookkeeper. After a year, they moved back to San Antonio. She worked at Woolworth for a while, but preferred Joske’s, where she worked in the lingerie department.

Louise and Jessie later reopened the laundry at 1311 S. Cherry Street in Denver Heights. She remembers their first car was a Terraplane. The couple also had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Their daughter used to ride between them on the long seat.

Louise remembers their home in San Antonio had a blue floor. She hated that blue floor. One day she accidentally spilled some lemon juice on the floor and it changed the color to chartreuse. She paid her daughter and her friend 25 cents to put lemon juice on the whole floor to change the whole thing to chartreuse!

After a few years, she discovered that Comet changed the color back to blue, so she changed the whole floor back to blue. She was always decorating!

After 62 years of marriage, Louise’s husband passed away. Five years later, she found love again with Bobby Farris. She was 86 and he was 72 at the time. They were married 9 ½ years when he died.

Today, she still exercises daily, works in her yard, loves roses, and paints her house. She’s had knee replacements and broken bones, but doesn’t let that stop her.

Louise reads the La Vernia News, the Wilson County News, and the San Antonio Express-News. “My favorite thing to read is Kolodziej’s column.”

Louise’s views

•What was the most amazing thing you have seen in your life?

“TV”

•What is the worst thing you think has happened during your lifetime?

“Technology”

•What would she like to see in La Vernia?

“A department store; while I’m still alive. That way I can go shopping.”

•Favorite movies:

“The Thornbirds” and “Dr. Zhivago”

•Favorite actor:

“Robert Redford”

•Favorite actress:

“Elizabeth Taylor”

•Favorite song:

“One Day at a Time by Cristy Lane”

 
 
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