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Bernice Gambill Witnesses Many Changes Over The Years


December 10, 2020

Bernice Gambill of Tecumseh has seen the world change before her eyes in the last 100 years. She became a centenarian on Dec. 9, but she still remembers her childhood growing up in Tuttle and Chickasha.

Her parents, Teman and Bertha Tatum, actually had a homestead in Helena, Montana, when she was born in 1920. She said they lived there for eight years, and her parents had three children during that time, for a total of four. After that, they moved back to Tuttle, where they started a general store, just like "The Murphy Store" her maternal grandfather had owned in Naples, OK. Gambill graduated from Tuttle, and moved to Chickasha with her parents, where they opened a second general store.

"You know, old-timey stores, you sold everything," she said. "My grampa had a store, and he sold all kinds of candy and cookies and shoes and dry goods to make dresses. He even had the mail come to his store. ... He even sold gasoline.

"My mother knew how to manage a store. That's how come they had a store, then. ... Ours was just a tiny one, that mom and daddy owned," she added. "I remember, at that time, they had all kinds of pops. That was a long time ago, and they'd have orange pop, all kinds of flavors."

Gambill remembers when local farmers would bring in cream to be tested and sold.

"Some people don't even remember that you tested cream," she said. "It must've been for the butter fat in it. My mom and daddy bought cream. I guess somebody bought it from them."

Gambill also recalled the beginnings of her love for books.

"I wasn't very old, but I would walk to the library and get books," she said.

Gambill now considers reading religious non-fiction books her "best hobby."

Vehicles and television are the two changes Gambill considers the most significant.

"They didn't have very good cars when I was real young," she said. "Now, they've got what they've got now.

"I remember when we first got a TV," Gambill said. "I don't remember what year, but that was a long time ago. We had a friend that he had TVs right at first when they came out, so we bought one from him. So, we had one pretty early, and if anything happened, he could work on it. It was black and white."

Televisions led to another major change in the world, according to Gambill.

"Everything was different then. They had the Model T cars," she said. "Lots has changed, highways and lights. Back then, people had (oil) lamps, you know. Now, we've got electricity. Of course, we've had that a long time. But, everything's different, and people are different."

"I want to say that people are smart," she continued. "They hear so much on TV, and they know what's going on in the world. Used to, when my grampa had a store, he took a paper, but of course, it was a week old when he got it through the mail. He kind of kept up on what was going on in the world. It's not like it is now. You watch TV at night, and when it happens, they tell it. It's so different."

When asked about the Spanish Flu pandemic, Gambill said she was too young to remember if her family was affected. But, she believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are living now.

"You don't realize, things change kind of slow, just like it is now," she said. "Things are changing now, with all this virus and everything. People are living different and trying to take care of themselves, and a lot of them are worrying. I don't worry, I don't think. ... It don't do any good."

With the assistance of her in-home aide, her son, Gary Gambill, and daughter, Sharen Pokinghorne, Gambill explained that she hasn't been out of her home since December of last year, when she last celebrated her birthday and Christmas.

Gambill attributes her long life to exercise, eating well, and God's will.

"My mother and daddy didn't live to be real old and neither did my sisters," she said. "I don't know how come I'm living this long. I used to exercise, and I tried to eat the right things all my life. I guess that's why I'm living this long, or the Lord has something to do with it."

She also shares her faith in advice to the next generation.

"Put God first in your life, and you'd have a better life," Gambill said. "That is my advice."


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