Opal Winnett

Opal Winnett, right, and her step-daughter, Jean Moss, take a stroll around Ridgeview Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing. From 1-4 p.m. Friday, the public is encouraged to come to the center to help celebrate Winnett’s 100th birthday.

 

 

A Cleburne woman is celebrating a major milestone this week: turning 100 years old.

Opal Winnett, a resident of Ridgeview Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing, reaches triple digits on Friday.

“That’s what they tell me,” she said. “I was born July 12, 1919, so that must be right.”

In life, Winnett said people experience ups and downs, good times and bad. But with a smile on her face, Winnett said she has mostly happy memories from the past 100 years.

After she was born, Winnett grew up in the small town of Gholson, Texas.

“It was a little farming community about 15 miles north of Waco,” she said. “In McLennan County.”

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Gholson remained a small farming community; its population was reported in the U.S. Census as 34 from the early 1930s to the early 1970s. 

“It was wonderful. I lived in the country on a farm,” she said. “You had grass burs in your feet and rattlesnakes crawling around. But, it was a wonderful life.”

When she wasn’t in school, Winnett did her part to help out at the family farm.

“Oh, I picked cotton and I chopped cotton,” she said. “I drove the truck for my daddy to haul corn. It was country living.”

When she had time to get together with her friends, Winnett said she loved to play basketball.

“I love basketball,” she said. “I played in school and we had an outsiders team. I played until I was 30 years old.”

After she graduated from West High School, Winnett said she took the first paid job she could find.

“Do you remember the Great Depression?” she said. “Well, you’ve read about it but I remember it. It started in 1929, when the stock market crashed, and went through the ‘30s. I graduated in 1936 and the first job I got was at a dime store — McCorys.”

McCrory’s was a chain of five and dime stores that typically sold shoes, clothing, housewares, fabrics, penny candy, toys and cosmetics, and often included a lunch counter or snack bar. 

They also exclusively sold Oriole Records, one of the most popular ‘dime store labels’ from 1921 to 1938.

“I think I got paid $1 a week. It was unbelievable,” she said. “I think that might be about what $50 covers now.”

Winnett married Horace, a rancher who had three daughters. He operated the dehorning and branding chutes at the Fort Worth Stock Yards.

While her husband was busy at work, Winnett said she stayed busy as a housewife.

“Oh gardening, sewing, cooking, cleaning and just general house work,” she said. “Of course, I worked out, too.”

The family lived in Gholson until 1960 when they moved to Blum.

“We were in the country again,” she said. “I’ve been in the country all my life, until I had to move to Cleburne.”

And that, Winnett said, has been just fine.

“There was freedom and good atmosphere,” she said. “We had good neighbors and we cared about each other.”

She said that’s really been the biggest difference between from when she was growing up and now.

“I think people cared more about each other than they do now,” she said. “If your neighbor was sick you’d go over and help. It was just a friendly community.”

One of her step-daughter’s, Jean Moss of Cleburne, visited her on Tuesday.

“She’s very sharp,” she said. “She remembers exact dates of things. She remembers more than I do most of the time.”

Winnett said most everything makes her happy, and the secret to living a happy life is treating others as you would want to be treated.

“Do good for your loved ones,” she said. “And just be loved and cherished.”

Ridgeview will host a birthday party for Winnett from 1-4 p.m. Friday at 206 Walls Drive. The public is encouraged to come and help her celebrate her birthday.

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