Centuries of progress

A Facebook friend of mine reported today that her mother has just passed away after living for 100 years. The post reminded me that one of my aunts lived over a century and shared memories of the old days (crossing the country in a covered wagon) that to her were just as vivid as yesterday. She was physically frail for years and lived in a nursing home of sorts where my brothers and parents and I used to visit her.

Nursing Homes

When I was young, it bothered me a great deal that during all the years of my going to grade school and high school and college, she was living in that room. She knew everybody and had her fair share of visitors, so she didn’t lack for company. While I was bothered a lot about her being in that home, I didn’t know quite how to ask why because the question would have implied that somebody in the family in her part of the country should have taken her in.

Kirk Douglas

When Kirk Douglas died at 103 in February, the press and those who knew him talked about his accomplishments and the pride he must have had in the success of his extended family.  Of course, Douglas’ life was a public life, so his accomplishments are usually discussed in terms of movie roles. That’s not the case with our own family members

A Century of Progress

The 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago was called “A Century of Progress.” While it celebrated industry and invention, I always liked the larger meanings of its theme because I think they can apply to all of us whether we live 100 years or not. I have no idea what most people believe is the over-arching purpose of their lives. I think our purpose is to make progress, spiritual progress, more than wealth, power, or acclaim.

When we talk to people who’ve lived long lives, we tend to talk about what they remember and how they felt when monumental events and discoveries were made. Perhaps it’s too private to ask them how they’ve changed, and I suppose most would think it vain to even answer such a question. The standard joke about old-timers is that they reached an advanced age by smoking a pack of cigarettes a day along with a quart of whiskey.” Too bad that’s not true for most people.

My belief system doesn’t presume those who live a century do so from luck, fate, or the Lord’s intervention. I think they learn and continue learning and have plenty of advice to pass along to others if and when they found anyone willing to stop thinking about the latest fads and listen to their philosophies.

It would be presumptuous to suppose one became perfect during their one-hundred-year stay on this planet.  But one hundred years of improving day by day is worthy of mention. I can’t help but see that improvement as a Century of Progress.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.



4 thoughts on “Centuries of progress

  1. Mary Lowry

    Hi Malcolm!
    Was doing some info gathering on Mr T for a friend in Tucson when I came across your great article… AND– amazed to see your name! You may not recall, but I was at MGH ’63, ’64, ’65, and we actually went hiking together! In fact– have a few photos of you in hiking gear AND those bell man lederhosen. It’s wonderful to find you’ve had a successful writing career! All the very best to you and yours– if you have time, please respond …Mr T had quite an impact on life as well. It was a special experience and the highlight of my life (so far).
    Take care– so glad to have seen your article. Mary

  2. Dear Mary,

    Your comment makes my day. There are so few of us still around from the early 1960s seasons. I last talked to Mr. T several years ago when my family took another trip back to Glacier. He was still working in the mailroom at East. We had a fun conversation about the old days, followed up by a chance to see some of his mementos. He spoke in those days about compiling his experiences into a book, something I presume his failing help didn’t allow.

    Of course I remember you. We walked a lot of miles of trails together including the time we got caught in a downpour near the Belly River and we had to take refuge at a ranger station. I still have a copy of one of your pictures on me in my lederhosen. On the back you wrote” Cute knees.”

    I’ve kept up with some of the people I knew at Glacier via the Glacier Park Foundation; it’s an employee and former employee organization. If you’re interested, you can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/200580913305969/. You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.r.campbell.

    One of my primary memories of my time in Glacier in addition to the wonderful people I met there and the great hikes, was the June 1964 flood. If I remember correctly, you were among those who had to wait down at East until the Many Glacier road was re-opened. My brief essay about the flood appeared in the Park Service centennial book 100 Years, 100 Stories. When I was back in Glacier last time, the driver on our red tour bus said she’d been around the park for a long time; my response was that I was celebrating 50 years since my first visit to the park. She said, Oh My God, you were in the flood. Tell me what happened. You were evacuated, right. My response was “Nope, we spent all the isolated from the world time cleaning the mud out of the lake level rooms. Al Curry and I hauled water to all the Many Glacier Valley areas in that red Thames van.” The red cross did send a chopper in to check on us and give us all typhoid shots just in case.

    Glacier, Mr. T, and the rest of you whom I met there had more impact on my life than anything else. Thank you so much for your note.

    1. Mary Lowry

      Dear Malcolm! So nice of you to respond so quickly- You may recall Karen Riker as well–I sent her your comments about Mr T along with Hungry Horse News obituary. In fact, when she called to acknowledge my email, she noted you’d already answered me! It took me awhile to locate exactly where to find your reply–. By coincidence, I also attended the MGH 50-yr reunion, and was planning to back for the 55th this August (but not to be). Next year perhaps… Also returned to Many G in 2012, just after retiring…so many wonderful times there to be sure! Oh yes, partner Nick and I went there in 2019 to meet some other MGH-ites for a few days of hiking/sightseeing. Have been a lifetime member of the GP Foundation for awhile now, and have the book you described. Quite agree that the GP experience was never to be forgotten! Perhaps I’ll see you in 2021 at the next reunion! Do take care and please keep in touch– all the best–It was a thrill to hear from you!

      1. It’s nice to hear that you’ve neem able to go back to the park, especially for a reunion. And, as a member of the Foundation, the “Inside Trail” newsletter helps us keep up with that’s going on. My two granddaughters live in Maryland and we were planning to see them during their spring break before the virus came along. Now, getting up there to see them is on hold. If we have to wait until next year, I’ll be in Maryland rather than Montana.


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