December 19, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Thousands of birthdays were celebrated across Washington County this year, but at least one for someone who could place 110 candles on a cake and have a fire extinguisher on standby.
“I’m one in a million,” West Bend resident Clara Moll said.
Born in Missouri on Dec. 19, 1910, when William H. Taft was president of the United States, Clara Moll came to Barton after her mother died when she was 46.
“My dad was a cowboy out of South Dakota. What was he going to do with five kids? So I came to live with my godmother in this house when I was about 5 years old,” she said.
Dressed in dark blue sweatpants, a long-sleeve collared shirt and white sweater vest, Moll spoke with confidence about her life and happenings over the last 100 years.
“The biggest thing that’s changed on this block is the makeup of the family,” Clara Moll said. “My husband died when he was 74 and he said, ‘Clara you watch, when women all go to work there will be nobody home to cook and there will be nobody home for the kids; you’re going to have hard times.’”
Animated, she points out the window from house to house to house saying “divorce, divorce, divorce.” Clara has dubbed the block “Divorce Street.”
A strong Catholic, Clara Moll attended St. Mary’s School and then Badger High School. When she was in her teens she worked at Enger-Kress and later Amity Leather.
She recalled the day when she sat in a plush chair in front of Mr. Rolfs at Amity.
“‘I’m deserving of a raise,’ I said and he said, ‘what about the others’ and I said, ‘Well, sure, but I deserve a raise,’” she said. “Do you know I got a $10 raise and they all got $5.”
The spry and sharp Clara Moll credits her good health to exercise.
“When I was a little girl I’d wear out roller skates,” she said.
Skipping rope was another popular pastime along with what she called “tomboy activities.”
“I could climb trees that nobody could climb,” she said proudly. “I could swim across Wallace Lake like it was nothing. I never played with dolls, never.”
Dancing was another passion.
“I’d rather dance than eat,” she said, getting up from the table and bending over at the waist, resting her palms on the floor displaying her flexibility. “We’d all dance and Lefty Ustruck, who lived down the street, we could both kick our legs back and hit ourselves in the head.”
She has lived through history-making events, remembering local happenings better than national events. When a tornado came through West Bend in 1981, she was safe at the hospital on the hill, recovering from a hysterectomy.
There were recollections about taking milk in a pail to Young America where they made cheese, baking stollen and angel food cakes and, “if you would have ever told me there would be people living in the West Bend Co. building, I’d have said you were crazy.”
Clara Moll said her godmother Sophie was a woman of faith and she was strict.
“She’d send the boys home,” recalling she was first allowed to date at 18. “When I went to school I knew the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and in this house the rosary was said every day of the year, even when we had company.”
Clara Moll said she is “the last one left” and is looking forward to being reunited with her friends.
“I’m going to have the smallest funeral, a Mass and that’s it, then everybody goes home. I’m going to be cremated,” she said. “Do you think I’m going to spend $8,000 on a funeral and then go in the ground; no way! We’ll give the money to the school or wherever it’s needed.”
A step back in history – What was happening in 1910.
- In 1910 Thomas Edison was the first to “showcase the first motion picture in 1910.”
- Neon lamps were invented in 1910 along with coffee filters, the paper cup, and the first-ever headset.
- Top songs in 1910
- The top list of American films released in 1910 included The Sanitarium with Fatty Arbuckle and the first film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
- Famous athletes in 1910 included Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner.