Audrey Dickerson was recognized during the Willsboro Central School commencement ceremony, having been a graduate of the Class of 1933. Dickerson turns 100 on July 1.
Audrey “Audey” Dickerson went to the 2013 commencement ceremonies at Willsboro Central School thinking that it was members of her family who would be the center of attention.
Instead, Superintendent Stephen Broadwell opened the ceremony recognizing her for being able to come to the Willsboro commencement 80 years after she had made the same walk to receive her diploma.
Dickerson, the Class of 1933 grad, turned 100 on July 1 and remembered back to her days riding from Reber to Willsboro to get to school.
“We didn’t have a school bus the first year that I went to high school,” Dickerson said. “I would catch a ride to school on Mason’s milk truck.”
Dickerson went to elementary and middle school in Reber, where there were the two schools when she was growing up.
“It is a lot different now,” Dickerson said. “I think that Willsboro has a really good school, but I do not think the kids appreciate sometimes just how much better it is now for them.”
One of the areas that makes school better for youth is the extracurricular activities.
“Today the kids have the opportunity to play almost every sport they want to,” she said. “There were no sports when I went to school. It was all town teams.”
Dickerson was the second of nine children in her home, one of three girls who shared the house with six brothers. The kicker: only one rest room.
“When you live in a house with six brothers and only one bathroom, you did not have much privacy,” she said.
Dickerson said she remembered coupons that her grandmother would give to the family during the Great Depression.
“My brother went down south to work for G.E., and he would also send me coupons to buy stockings,” she said.
Dickerson also said that while Reber was a quiet town back then, there were times when the roar of car engines would frighten her.
“The dirt roads in Reber were connected to the mountains,” she said. “Every now and again, you would have the rum runners come through town during prohibition. You could hear those big engines — they were roaring. I would climb up the highest bank I could find and hide from them until they went away.”
Audrey the Riveter
After high school, Dickerson got a job working for G.E. in Buffalo for one year on the assembly lines for military equipment during World War II.
“I worked on the gun mounts that they would put into the airplanes,” she said. “I would have to soak the mounts in hot oil and stand there for minutes to make sure that everything was coated. I also had to work on a drill press and I can still see that thing go around and around.”
After that, she continued to work for G.E., but moved to Schenectady, where she spent 35 years in the accounting department before retiring and living in Scotia until 1997, when she decided to return to her hometown area.
“When I left, there was no money or anything that you could really build on here at the time, and a lot of siblings worked at G.E.,” she said. “Most of my family was up here in 1997 and that is when I wanted to come back.”
Making a century
Dickerson said her main key to living through her first century of life was one that many kids may know from the movie, “Finding Nemo.”
“Just keep moving,” she said (the movie line is, “just keep swimming”). “Don’t just sit and wait for someone else to tell you what to do. I have always been walking and will continue to do so. You do not have to do a lot, but just do something.”
Another thing she has continued to do is drive, although her trip distances have become somewhat limited.
“I still drive, and I have never had a ticket,” she said, “not because I didn’t deserve one …”
Dickerson also said that she stayed away from smoking, drank in moderation, and eats a proper diet. And she has never really bought into the expression, “time flies.”
“You don’t even really think about the time,” she said. “I never saw it as going by fast. I just kept moving.”