Lola Rockhold of Spencerville Celebrating her 100th Birthday
Article prepared and presented by Beth Seibert, friend of Lola Rockhold
It was a day of recorded fair weather on May 13, 1918, as a momentous occasion took place on a Salem Township farm in Auglaize County southwest of Spencerville, Ohio. Spring planting was undoubtedly interrupted, but not by the frost that was forecast for that night. Ralph and Iva (Fryer) Wagner celebrated the birth of their first child, born right there on the farmstead – a daughter they lovingly named Lola.
Fast-forward one hundred years later and Lola Rockhold is truly excited to celebrate her 100th birthday and in doing so has much cause to reflect on a wonderful, blessed life and be amazed at how she has been witness and participant in so much change and advancement in the world over her lifetime. According to the 2010 US census, only one person in every 6,000 reaches their 100th birthday.
The day she was born The Lima Daily News carried the headline announcing “Germans Falling Back” and after more than a four-year campaign, World War I would end on November 11th of that year. Electricity and phone service would not reach the rural Spencerville area until 1938. And although the Wagner family had a Rumely Oil Pull tractor with a kerosene burning engine, horses still held a prominent role for working the farm and for the family’s transportation. Actually, 1918 marked the all-time-high in the US for the equine population (horses, donkeys, and mules) with 26.4 million animals recorded across the nation. Lola’s family would not own an automobile until 1920 – a Pierce-Arrow.
Life in 1918
In 1918 the average US family income made $1,518. With expenditures per family at $1,434, only $84 remained to invest annually. You could purchase a modern home for $4,821. And on the day Lola was born Meyers grocery in Lima was advertising one bushel of fancy upland potatoes for $1, a package of macaroni for 10¢, six rolls of toilet paper for 25¢, and one pound of loin bacon 35¢. A New Defender sewing machine cost $25 and for $87.50 you could purchase a three-piece upholstered living room suite. Local farm markets on May 13, 1918, paid 9 to 10½¢ per pound for heavy steers, 16 to 17½¢ per pound for heavy hogs and $2.18 for a bushel of wheat. One hundred pounds of corn was selling for $1.80 to $2.00. You could sell one ton of timothy hay for $20.
Lola was three when her brother Ray was born and her parents would have four more children over the next 13 years – Tom, Harry, Ruthela, and Dow. The siblings would become very close. The rural Township operated a primary school house a quarter mile south of their home, Smith School. Most days they walked, but Lola recalls their father taking them to school in bad weather.
The era of the Great Depression began in 1929. Lola remembers one year in elementary school the Township did not have any money for a teacher. As a result, the school delayed students one year in advancing to the next grade. Lola attended high school in Spencerville, but school bus service would not be available until at least her sophomore year. So for her freshman year, the family arranged for her to board in the Village during the school week with a woman they knew through church. Her father took her to school on Mondays and returned on Fridays to bring her home. Lola says her high school studies were focused primarily on business and clerical with a secondary emphasis on sewing. She graduated from Spencerville High School in 1937 and immediately went to work.
The Early Years
Lola first worked for Clara Miller in Spencerville over approximately six weeks as she recovered from a broken leg. From there Lola was employed for about three years by Delphine Cochran in her dry goods store. World War II started in September 1939. Because the United States called so many men into service to their country, women took their places in factories. Three of her brothers – Ray, Tom and Harry would serve in the Army overseas in WWII. From 1940 to 1946 Lola worked at Westinghouse in Lima as a winder – making coils of fine wire.
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Life After the War
In 1946 she married Rollin Briggs and they made their way out to Tillamook, Oregon where he worked in a logging camp for about a year. Lola ran a little restaurant nearby and she clearly remembers it had three tables and a counter with five stools. She would cook and serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week with loggers as her primary customers. This was certainly a job that let her emphasize her life-long love for cooking and develop it as a creative release. She proudly notes that even back then she was able to collect $1 for a piece of her homemade apple pie.
In 1947 the young couple returned to Auglaize County and Kossuth, OH to make their home with Rollin servicing automobiles in a garage he built on the property. Lola’s role with the business was the bookkeeper and it was a job she truly enjoyed. In 1950 and 1952, sons Arden and Bruce were born. Some years later the family would move to Spencerville after Rollin purchased a garage and relocated his business to Third Street. In 1970 Lola would go to work for Duff Truck Line in Lima as a secretary and bookkeeper, retiring from there in May 1983.
The Golden Years
In 1983 Lola married Stanley Rockhold. In the three years they had together before he passed after a battle with cancer in 1986, they enjoyed traveling and spending time with family and friends. Then Lola would play one of the most cherished roles of her life – grandmother to three precious children – Korey, Derek, and Rachel Briggs. Love, commitment and genuine appreciation for family and friends have been a central theme in Lola’s life – and is still true today.
Two of her siblings are still living, Ruthela Hager and Dow Wagner. Both commented how she has always been a second mother and patriarch to the six Wagner kids. Dow reflects on how Lola dutifully wrote letters nearly once a week to her brothers and another family friend during WWII. He also recalls when he served as an Auglaize County Commissioner she was often his “plus 1” guest: she could naturally work a room better socially than he ever could as a politician.
Ruthela vividly remembers Lola taking her to her first moving picture show on a snowy night during WWII when they joined some of Lola’s coworkers at a Lima theater to see Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance on the big screen in the 1942 release of Holiday Inn. Lola is an extremely talented seamstress and Ruthella notes one Christmas when her sister made her a beautiful pleated skirt and matching jacket that she treasured for many years.
In her retirement years, Lola spent some time sewing for Shenk’s in Delphos, especially in the season of gown construction for the Ohio Order of the Eastern Stars. She enjoyed contributing her skills to benefit her fraternal sisters in this beloved organization. Lola has been a member of the Spencerville Order of the Eastern Stars for 64 years.
Life at 100
So what goes through the active and sharp mind of this woman that is only a few weeks away from turning 100? Lola says that first, you reflect that you are here on this earth only by the grace of God. And that statement tells others how exceptionally important her Christian faith has been. Her brother Dow and many others say it’s her great and always positive attitude all these years that has carried her through troubled times and sustained her to 100.
She finds much contentment actually in these twilight years of her life and quite honestly has never been afraid of life’s end as she believes it is only natural. When people in her presence are told she is soon to be 100, most cannot believe it and many suggest that her birth certificate is in error. To this, she always smiles and replies that it is true and adds Dr. Welsh notarized the document.
Just a few short weeks ago she was absolutely thrilled to be able to travel to Sarasota, Florida for five days, enjoying the warm temperatures and attending her granddaughter Rachel’s wedding. And in doing so she spent some rare and very special time in person with her great-grandchildren Lexi and Gage.
Her family honored Lola with a 100th Birthday Party on Sunday, May 20th from 2 – 4 pm at Trinity United Methodist Church.