Betty Bullock celebrated her centennial birthday a couple weeks back, and she’s as sharp as ever.
She celebrated with cards and flowers. The proof is in her apartment. Bullock smiled as she sat in her chair and pointed out the gifts she received from friends and family members. The cards lay on a table in one of the corners of her apartment.
“How was it?” Bullock said about her 100th birthday as she pointed at her numerous cards. “100, 100, 100, great.”
Bullock said she was “very surprised,” when it came to her 100th birthday.
“I think it was the biggest birthday party I ever had,” Bullock said.
Bullock, a sweet lady, beamed throughout her time speaking with The Daily World. Her daughter Juanita Doyon sat by and helped Bullock as she has some difficulty hearing.
Bullock was glad to share details about her life. Her birthday was just another remarkable experience she’s enjoyed through the past 100 years and counting.
Part of Bullock’s advice for living as long as she has, is be patient.
“How did I get to be 100?” Bullock asked. “Living it day-by-day. Keeping my life together, and enjoying every bit of it.”
And so far, what a life it has been.
Bullock has traversed through all 48 contiguous states with her husband Carl and their seven children. She’s lived in France and West Germany for a few years each, as Carl worked for the U.S. Army in Civil Service. They both worked with youth groups. Their homes in Washington state, and in Western Europe, were the base for the teenagers who participated in their youth groups.
“We enjoyed them and they enjoyed us,” Bullock said about the children she helped teach in those youth groups.
While she’s touched the lives of many children, she talked more about her own children.
“I raised seven kids. (I had) two girls and a boy, two girls and a boy, and a girl. (Doyon’s) my youngest. That’s them,” Bullock said as she pointed to the wood-framed high school graduation portraits of each of her seven children.
Bullock rattled off the names of all of her children from oldest to youngest — Darlene, Carrol, Dennis, Marion, Elizabeth, Mark and Juanita — without difficulty. Doyon sounded impressed.
“That’s pretty good, not looking at us,” Doyon said.
Bullock looked lovingly at Doyon.
“She’s my youngest,” Bullock said. “She’s my baby.”
Doyon is glad she was born when she was.
“I tell her it’s a good thing she had me when she was 38, so I can take care of her now,” Doyon said.
Bullock was born in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, but lived in a house on Park Street in Aberdeen — near PAWS of Grays Harbor — from age 7 to 12. She often traveled with her father, who was a refrigerator repairman. He repaired various machines in stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and so forth along the Washington coast. During those work assignments, Bullock would play nearby with her sister.
One day that is etched into Bullock’s memory is when she received a ride in a recreational plane in 1932. A pilot asked the family if Bullock and her sister, Della, would want to take a ride. Fortunately he was a kind man and they were returned safe and sound.
“It was a single-engine (plane), with two seats,” Bullock recalled.
Bullock and Doyon marveled at that rare occurrence and how you wouldn’t do such a thing nowadays. Bullock said she would never have allowed her own children to have that experience.
And then at 12, Bullock and Della moved to their grandparents’ home in Rochester when their parents divorced.
While Bullock’s life with her husband took her through the U.S., including a drive to Alaska for their 50th anniversary, it also included an ingenious plan so they could stay connected during World War II.
Bullock and Carl had matching atlases while Carl was on deployment for three years in the South Pacific.
According to Bullock and Doyon, the Army censored certain details in letters the troops wrote to their loved ones. Before the letters were mailed home, details about when and where the troops would be were eliminated from the letters.
As the saying goes, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”
“They worked out a plan. You couldn’t know where your loved ones were during World War II,” Doyon said. “You weren’t allowed to know where they were. If they tried to write to you and tell you, (the Army) would censor the letters.”
Bullock and Carl had a way around it. Carl called Bullock “Dearheart,” in the letters he wrote home.
Along with having an atlas that matched Carl’s atlas, Carl would write “Dearheart,” a certain number of words into his letter to Bullock. Bullock would count the words that preceded “Dearheart,” and then flip to the corresponding page. That system let her know exactly where her husband was, which provided great relief to Bullock and the two daughters she was raising at the time stateside.
Doyon said soldiers, sailors and Marines would try all types of ways to let their loved ones know where they were, but her parents’ system was the one that worked.
“I never told anybody that,” Bullock said about the matching atlases.
Bullock said in the 1970s, her favorite country she lived in with Carl was France. She discussed some of the things she thoroughly enjoyed.
“Meeting the people,” Bullock said. “Seeing what their private lives were like. They were very nice to invite us into their homes. It was very nice to go into their homes and to pay our rent, which we did every month.”
Bullock said the people were so nice over there.
“It’s amazing how friendly they can be even though we don’t speak the language,” Bullock said.
Looking back at some of the historic times she’s experienced, Bullock gave a little look into her life during the Great Depression and how her family got by during that era.
“I had one pair of shoes at a time, instead of 10,” Bullock said. “We just bought what we needed at the time. We didn’t stack up stuff like we do now. But we didn’t think we were poor.”
During that time, Bullock and her sister were living in Rochester with their grandparents.
“We had no inside plumbing, and one bedroom for my mother and sister and I. And one bed,” Bullock said.
Bullock said it was quite a shock to have such a life change, but they made the most of it.
“We made new friends at school, and survived,” Bullock said.
Bullock is also a self-identified, “collector,” and behind her chair, on her bed, sit a variety of stuffed animals. Bullock spoke lovingly about one in particular even though “all of them” are her favorite.
But, then Doyon picked up a light-colored stuffed cat. The cat’s name is Ozzie. The stuffed cat, with blue eyes, is named after another cat Bullock owned.
“She had a cat, and she moved in here with the cat,” Doyon said, holding the stuffed cat. “The cat was about 19 years old and so he died. He had to be put down. My daughter (Carmen) sent her that (stuffed) cat to replace him, so that’s her cat now.”
Bullock, hugging the stuffed cat, spoke about her bond with him.
“He lets me live here with him,” she said with a smile. “It’s his bed, but he lets me sleep with him.”
To Bullock, the cat is Ozzie, from “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” To Carmen, the name is spelled Ozzy, for Ozzy Osbourne. Carmen bonded with Bullock after Carl died.
“After my dad died, my daughter kind of lived with her,” Doyon said. “We were next door, but she would sleep there every night until she graduated high school, just to keep (mom) company.”
In addition to loving her seven children, 16 grandchildren, 32 great-grand children and countless great-great-grandchildren, Bullock loves her hobbies. She plays bingo and other games at Green Lake Senior Living, in Ocean Shores, where she’s lived since August 2018. She also crafts and crochets, listens to easy-going music such as Andy Williams.
And she still remembers the lyrics to “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” which she sung to her children as she rocked them to sleep.
Doyon called her mother her best friend. It seems like that dynamic goes both ways.
Bullock provided some additional advice to living a long, happy life, which includes:
Take it a day at a time
Be thankful, every day
Face the music
Don’t be a crab
Bullock, a music lover, loves a lyric from Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters’ song “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and uses it in her life:
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”
As far as the ups and downs of life, Bullock had one more thing to say.
“Be patient, be patient, and don’t hurry,” Bullock said.