Westsider celebrates 100 years

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 Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle

Westsider Bridie Houston (center), celebrated her 100th birthday with those closest to her, including her neice, Yvonne Johnson (left), and her grandaughter, Carolyn Brown, right.

Since 1907, the world has become a different place. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the spirit found within one Westsider. That spirit was on display on Sept. 14 at the Hilltop Senior Village.

There, you could find Bridie Huston swaying and singing along to the Hilltop Chorus during their renditions of William Hubbard’s "I Love You, Lord" and her favorite, Civilla Martin’s "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."

Huston, along with her family and friends from the Village, was celebrating her one-hundredth birthday in style. On the mantle of the dining room was a huge portrait of Huston, along with numerous cards and presents from birthday well-wishers, a proclamation from Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and 100 multi-colored roses.

"It was supposed to be a surprise party, but someone let the cat out of the bag," Huston said laughing.

During the festivities, many people got up and sang the praises of Huston. Her minister, Dr. William Augman, told her that she was so much more than the seat warmer she clamed to be.

"We always look forward to seeing her at church," he said. "She has served her church well."

Augman and his congregation at the Centenary United Methodist Church also held a celebration in Huston’s honor the next day.

"We are so proud that Bridie has made it to 100 years. It gives me hope. If she can do it, I can try."

With a century of life experience in her hands, Huston has been through trying times. She came to Columbus at the age of 11 from Norwood, .

"My father and his three friends slipped out of and he sent for us one year later," she said. "He left because he didn’t like the way they treated black people in the South. It was getting better than the past, but it was still bad."

In that year, he worked at Buckeye Steel Casting, now known as Columbus Steel Castings, and saved up enough money to bring his family by train to Ohio.

The oldest of eight siblings, she experienced the death of her mother during childbirth, and the death of her father from cancer, all in the span of two years.

"After they were gone, we were placed into child services. We were all split up, and I didn’t see the two youngest until 17 years later."

While growing up in the house where she was placed, Houston secretly dated the ward’s son, Charles Butler.

"I think his mother wanted me to be his somebody," Huston said.

She became his somebody, indeed. She was 18 years old when they married, and they had two children, one son and one daughter.

"I would say the early 20s was the best time for me. I was happily married and had my family."

Tragedy struck in 1925 when her husband was killed in an accident. "He was a good man. A car killed him in front of the house."

She remarried three years later, but that did not last long.

"I left him because he was abusive," Huston said. "I stayed single after that. It’s hard to find a good father for kids, and he would have been very bad for them."

She had to support her children, so she took up work for a family until 1955. Huston said they taught her how to cook and she learned how to read by reading the cookbooks.

"My favorite thing to make was rib roast. The lady of the house liked the best of foods. There I learned the quality of food."

She also learned that despite only completing the eighth grade, she did the right thing by working for the family while her husband’s grandmother took care of her children.

"God gave me brains enough to know I had a good thing going."

As the years passed, her children had children. Their children had children. And their children had children. In all, Huston has four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and 23 great-great-grandchildren.

"She says I’m the reason she reached 100," joked Carolyn Brown, Huston’s only granddaughter. "I mother her. I told her she can play in traffic if she wants to, but just let me get you to 100."

While playing with the traffic on West Broad would certainly spell trouble, injuries also happen while doing the mundane. Coming home recently from an excursion, Huston tripped over a rug and dislocated her shoulder. She had to rest while doing rehab, and missed her weekly church visit.

"Sometimes the Devil tells me to stay home and rest," she said.

Huston admits that she does not get around much anymore, and likes to take it easy.

"It’s time to relax," she said. "That doesn’t mean I want to go anytime soon, but God had mercy on me and let me live this long."

Despite seeing her beloved husband struck by a car and surviving her siblings and children, Huston maintains her devotion to religion and how blessed a life she has had.

"I can’t complain about life. God blessed me through thick and thin. He clothed me, fed me. I’ve never been put outdoors. You learn by living," Huston said. "We all make mistakes, and we’re all going to run into rough roads and mountains, but I’ve had a great life."

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