Long-time Gridley resident, Alma Parker Glaze, will celebrate her 100th birthday with family and friends in the historic Oroville Inn's ballroom on Sunday afternoon, November 26. Her church, Gridley Christian Church held a special celebration on November 19.
Alma Parker was born on November 24, 2017, in Heavener, southeast rural Oklahoma.
Alma was the baby of the family, being her mother's 11th child. But at the time of her birth there were only five siblings living; three brothers and two sisters. With the closest doctor and hospital 100 miles away from the little community of Heavener, babies (as well as mothers) died more frequently during the birth process than now in America. By the time she was nine, her sisters had married and moved away, and her oldest living brother died at the age of 14 from complications of an injury to his eye. The Parker family, along with most in their area, were sharecroppers. They never owned the land they farmed, but were allowed to use the land by its owner in return for a share of the crops they produced. In addition to planting large gardens each year for their own family's use, they also raised cotton, tilling the soil with a mule and harvesting the crops by hand.
Subsisting was a full-time job for the entire family, and Sunday was the one day of the week not spent working toward that end. By today's standards, the homes they lived in on the several farms they worked, would best be described as cabins. They were simple wooden structures consisting of a kitchen, living room, and two or three bedrooms. There was a fireplace or a pot-bellied stove for heat in the winter, but it was inefficient because the house had no insulation.
All the children in Alma's community went to a one-room school. Every day she walked with her brothers and sisters about two miles to get there. When they weren't in school, all the family's children were involved in farm activities: cooking, sewing, gardening, milking, livestock feeding, and assisting their father planting and harvesting cotton.
Although her family's life was hard and meager, her primary recollection in that she was genuinely loved by both parents and had a wonderful and nurtured childhood. By the time Alma was ten years old, her father had saved $200 to buy an old used Model T Ford. But he never learned to drive it. Whenever the family needed to travel in the car, Alma or her brother Ellis would do the driving. Ten-year old Alma would drive her father to work when he got a job making railroad ties to supplement the farm's income. A mile from where the Parker's lived near Antlers, Oklahoma, was the farm of Willie and Lucie Glaze. The two families had been good friends ever since their days in Heavener. The Glaze family consisted of ten children, one of whom was Clifford. Alma's mother was a midwife and had assisted in baby Clifford's delivery four years before Alma was born. Cliff attended her school when he wasn't working on his family's farm. The Parkers and the Glazes even went to the same church. As teenagers, he and Alma's brother Ellis played music together at local dances and community events. But when he was 19 and she was 15, Cliff began to notice her as more than just Ellis' little sister. Unfortunately, a few short months after he had taken a fancy to Alma and began scheming up excuses to spend time with her, he learned that her family was going to move to a farm in a distant community. This forced him to make a decision: let her leave with her family and possibly lose her, or marry her. There was no doubt in his mind the option he would choose. So, after proposing to Alma and hearing her say "yes," he rode his family's horse to Antlers, the nearby seat of Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, and secured a marriage license. He then proceeded to find a Baptist preacher who agreed to marry them. On Tuesday, October 17, 1933, with the preacher primed and waiting, Cliff rode to the Parker farm on that same horse, found Alma's father, and proceeded to ask for her hand in marriage. Mr. Parker apparently consented, because Cliff immediately put Alma in the saddle on his horse, mounted the horse himself (sitting behind the saddle, of course), and then rode the four miles to the preacher's home in nearby Dela, where they, in short order, were pronounced man and wife. Immediately after saying "I do" and getting their marriage license signed by the preacher, they rode back to the Parker farm to spend their first married night together in the house of Cliff's new in-laws. But on the journey back, instead of riding behind the saddle, Cliff moved up into the saddle and carried Alma on his lap.
Between 1933 and 1944 they lived in Lubbock, Texas; Bernalillo, New Mexico; Yuba City, California; Yuma, Arizona; and returned to California, settling down in Gridley. Although jobs were scarce because of the depression, Cliff was rarely unemployed. During that time, he worked as a carpenter, truck driver, mechanic and farm laborer. During World War II he helped build both Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, California, and the Yuma Army Air Field in Arizona. Alma worked as a waitress, homemaker and mother to their first child, Shirley. From 1944 until his retirement in 1989 at the age of 75, Cliff had a very successful career as a rice farmer and farm manager. Alma continued to manage their home, worked 20 seasons at the peach cannery in Gridley, sold Avon for 15 years, and also acquired her high school diploma (you see, when you get married at 15 in rural Oklahoma during the Great Depression, graduating from high school is not a high priority). She also studied nursing at Yuba Community College. Along the way, Shirley gained two brothers, Mike and Dan, whom Alma adored, nurtured and devoted herself to. Shirley, Mike and Dan all grew up to be successful and contributing members of society, and had families of their own, giving Alma six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren (as of her 100th birthday). Great-great-grandchildren should be showing up before too long. When Cliff passed away in 2010 at the age of 96, he and Alma had been married for 76 years. Since then, Alma has lived independently in their home in Gridley, driving herself to church, shopping and the senior center each week. She's hoping that she can again pass the written exam with a 100 percent score like she did the last time and renew her drivers license when she turns 103.