"I was born Audrey Morford in the town of Newman Grove, Nebraska, in the last year of a four-year drought that began in 1891. My parents had sunk everything into establishing the farm there and pretty much lost it all. There were four siblings in our family. I was the oldest one, escept the one that died. We never counted him. Then almost four years later, Rexford was born, then 17 months later, Darrell. Then our last brother, Kenneth, was born after Poppa died in 1903.
I wish every child could have as good a birthright as I had. I loved my mother and father. He and I were inseparable. One morning when I was 4, after we had moved to Tabor, Iowa, he had to go into town for some repairs. I wanted to go along. Poppa said 'No.' So I went out and crawled into the box in the back of our buggy and pulled the lid down over me. We hadn't gotten past the clover fields when I crawled out. Poppa stopped the buggy and took me out and hit me a little pop on the bottom and said: 'You go back to the house.'
Next he was sent to Gordon, Nebraska, right at the foot of the Sioux Indian reservation not many years after the Battle of Wounded Knee. Once, before he was leaving on a trip, Poppa was telling mother, 'Take this money, you might need it while I'm gone.' Later that day, mother was making bread. She turned out the bread on the table, and here came a big Indian with his feathers on. He walked up on the porch, opened the screen door, put a dollar on the table for the bread. Mother said, 'I can't change that. I don't have any money.' And I said, 'Oh, Momma, you remember all that money Poppa left before he left this morning?' She hushed me up and we never did have any trouble with the Indians. Some Indians came back looking for food the next day and my mother gave them some milk.
Poppa died when he was 36. The postmaster rushed my father's last paycheck to us. My mother collected $2,000 in insurance. But there was no way after that mother could stay on the farm. We went to share a house with my Aunt Elsi and Uncle Matt, who lived nearby.
They lived in one room, and mother had us children in the other half of the house. Uncle Matt died soon after that from typhoid fever. So, we moved in with my grandparents in Malvern, Iowa.
I'll always wonder how we got by. But we managed, somehow. Mother bought this homestead from Germans who couldn't make their payments. We got some milk cows and a hog in the deal, so at least we had milk and meat.
The biggest scare we got during those years was when my little brother Kenneth wandered off to get some milk. We were frantic. We called and called and hunted for him until it got so dark we couldn't see. The next morning we continued the search -- got neighbors to help. But we still didn't find him on the second day. The next day almost everybody in the county got involved, linked hands and marched clear across the county, looking in every hole, every crevice and every creek. They finally gave up and disbanded. The doctor said, 'If you find him, he'll be dead,' because it had rained one of those nights. Well, about 5 miles from our home that third night, a man got off his horse to open a gate and he saw this little fellow lying down there in the sand with his little behind stickin gup in the air and saw a little movement. So he jumped on his horse and hurried as fast as he could back to the house. We warmed my brother up by pouring warm water over him as we held him in a huge granite dishpan. He really came to when we gave him spoonfuls of brandy and chicken broth. When he regained consciousness, he said, 'Mama, why didn't you come and get em? I called, but you didn't come.'
I got married when I was 15 to a boy five years older than I was. His name was John Stubbart, and he was the handsomest fellow I'd seen when we first met in secondary school. Two years later we had our first child. We set out for the prairie in Wyoming. John worked as a carpenter with his father. They built our log house with the help of neighbors on a 640-acre homestead, but not before we lived for a while in a tent. We moved into the house the day before Thanksgiving -- the most thankful Thanksgiving I ever had. We just put our arms around each other and cried.
One of my worst early moments came when I couldn't convince a passing cowboy to help me kill a chicken. I had to put the chicken on the chopping block, let the body hang down, take the ax and hack away at it. It was a bloody execution.
Our original plan was to stay for seven years and then get back to civilization. But we stayed 28 years. We were pioneers. Finally we sold the place for $1.75 an acre for the 2,100 acres we had gradually acquired and moved to Independence, Missouri, where my mother was. We bought a place with two houses on 2 acres for $6,500. Recently I've been offered up to $160,000 for it. But I won't sell because I don't know where I'd go.
Soon after that, my mother-in-law alerted me to a proofreading job with a religious publisher, Herald House. I did that for 18 years. The starting pay in 1944 was $18 a week. They let me go when I was 65.
During the Second World War, we had to have food stamps. Just so much sugar was allotted. And fats were allotted. We had bills, green and red ones, to help with making change because they didn't have so many dimes and dollars, nickels and pennies. Everyone raised gardens at that time so they could have enough to eat. Everybody did everything they could to help everybody else. It was either help or die.
One of the big factors in my life is my religion. I belong to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Once the Mormons went west and introduced polygamy, we reorganized the group because we don't believe in polygamy. I've taught Sunday school for about 75 years. I still fill in when I'm needed. I don't knwo whether it's the reason I lived so long, but one of the things I learned from my religion is to be temperate in all things.
It's a distrace that we have to build houses to store our old folks. They used to be an accepted part of the family. There's less feeling of responsibility. And it was good for the family; the children needed their grandparents and the grandparents needed the grandchildren. Every year, they celebrate my birthday with a luncheon at the Examiner. I always say: 'Thank you for keeping me alive. If I couldn't come to work, I'm sure I would have died.' I've got too much energy, too much ambition, too much get up and go. I have to have something to do."