A noteworthy birthday

by Bethany M. Dunbar,  January 8, 2010

At the start of the new year I am reminded of a story I did in the middle of the year, an interview with Lillian Hoyt who was celebrating her 100th birthday.

Mrs. Hoyt was a joy to talk to and sharp as a tack.

She told stories of Orleans from her childhood, of growing up, and her life with her husband and young family.  She even gave me a recipe for doughnuts.

I haven’t made doughnuts from scratch for a long time, but this recipe reminds me that it can be done.  I’m a little reluctant about cooking with lard, but you know, in those days people’s lives were so physical they burned off all the calories.  In fact cooking with lard gave them some much-needed extra energy I bet.

It’s just kind of amazing, how much has changed in 100 years.  Here I am sitting typing away on a laptop computer with wireless Internet connections, making a blog so anyone on the planet can read it in about five minutes from now, if they happen to know it’s there.  My cell phone just made a tone to let me know I have a text message.  Later I’ll check facebook to see what everybody’s talking about today.

But the basic values of hard work, home, family, and community are the same as they ever were — just as important if not more so.  Congratulations to Lillian Hoyt on her birthday.  And many more.

Lillian Hoyt celebrates 100 years in Orleans

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, August 26, 2009

ORLEANS — Lillian Hoyt had a big birthday party on July 9.  She celebrated turning 100 years old.

“I never supposed I’d live to 100,” she said.  Asked the secret of her longevity, she shook her head.  “I have no idea.  Just good living.”

Mrs. Hoyt is most thankful for her wonderful family.  Many of them made it to the party, including a large entourage from Hartford, Connecticut.  Some live in California.  Others came from an apartment upstairs.  In other words, her family is huge.  They are all around her or come to see her frequently.

Mrs. Hoyt lives in the same home she’s lived in for 70 years, and in the same village where she has lived for a century.  Her husband was Darrell Hoyt, who delivered mail in Orleans for 42 years.  He wrote a book about the history of Orleans in 1985 called Sketches of Orleans, Vermont.  He was a few years older than his bride, and died in 2002.

She remembers her childhood in Orleans as being vastly different from life for children today.  There was a slower pace in general.

“You were safe.  Wherever you were, you were safe.  You played anywhere you wanted to.  You had the run of the place, really.”

One of her favorite games was Can Up.  The kids would put a tin can on a stump and all go hide, each holding a long stick.

“We’d all go hide, then we’d hit the can,” she said.  “That was a neighborhood game.  Everybody played.

“Kids nowadays don’t play, do they?  It is kind of too bad.”

She said she thinks it’s much harder for parents today than it was for her when she was raising children.  She remembers the experience as a lot of fun.

“People were so different.  Now you don’t know your next door neighbor.”

When Mrs. Hoyt was little, people used horses to get around.

“There were no automobiles, not when I was real young,” she said.  “I remember so well them rolling the roads.”

In those days, a team of horses would pull a giant wooden roller to flatten the roads and make them passable in winter for sleds.

She doesn’t remember when electricity first came to Orleans, but her husband did.  He was a young boy and went along with the man who first turned the lights on — the switch was turned on in Brownington.  Mr. Hoyt recalled seeing those lights the first night and what an amazing sight that was.

Mrs. Hoyt went to school in the current Orleans Elementary School, but she started out in a different building.  She remembers the day the school moved from its past location, where the Orleans Federated Church is now.

“I remember the day we marched up.  The principal was ahead of us.  We were pretty proud to be going to a new school,” she said.

Mrs. Hoyt graduated in 1928 and was married in 1932.  She met her future husband one day when walking home from school.

“He had an old puddle jumper.  It was an old car he made.  It had four tires and a bucket seat.”  He stopped and asked her if she wanted a ride, and she said yes.  She smiled remembering that day, and said she was glad she made that decision to get into the puddle jumper.  He was a great guy, she said.

“We had a lot of music in our family because he was a piano player,” she said.  Her favorite song was “Whispering.”

“It was a waltz.  It was so pretty.”

Mrs. Hoyt used to play the piano in her youth.

“I played quite well.  But after I married Darrell I couldn’t play as well as he did, so I wouldn’t play any more.”

They had five children:  Shirley, Mary, Robert, Rick and Ross.

Mrs. Hoyt worked for the photographer Mack Derick.  His studio was above Austin’s Drug Store.  She had that job for a few years and used to work six days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I printed the snapshots, and developed all the films,” she said.  She said Mr. Derick was an easygoing boss, but his wife was not the same way.

All those years of working and raising a family, Mrs. Hoyt never learned to drive an automobile.

“My husband never trusted me.  I don’t think he thought women were very good drivers,” she said.  She said she thinks everyone should learn to drive.  She wishes she did, but it never happened.  She still went anywhere she wanted to go, because her husband would drive her.  He seemed to enjoy taking her places as well as she liked the ride.

Mrs. Hoyt still has many hobbies.

“I love to do crossword puzzles.  I love to do them.  I love to read.  I love to watch television.”

Mrs. Hoyt’s favorite book is The Life of John Adams.

“It fascinated me the most of anything I’ve read,” she said, even though she didn’t like history in school.  “I don’t care too much for romance fiction.  It’s too boring.”

She added that she always loved to cook but can no longer do so.

Her favorite recipe was for sour cream doughnuts:

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup sour cream


1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

about two and a half cups flour

Beat the eggs and sugar.  Add sour cream and beat well.  Combine dry ingredients, mix to form a soft dough. Don’t use too much flour – too much and the dough will be tough and hard.  Refrigerate for an hour or so.  Roll out and cut with a doughnut cutter.  Fry in 375-degree lard.


2 responses to “A noteworthy birthday

  1. The Hoyt’s are wonderful, and I’m so glad that Lillian managed to live until 100 and has been happy and mostly healthy that entire time. Great article Bethany!

  2. I love your blogs, Bethany. Congrats to Lillian, it was great of her to share. I love hearing about people’s lives and ” the way it used to be”. There was a group of us that played Kick the Can in the summer, it was a lot of fun! That was over on Long Point, on Lake Champlain in North Ferrisburg. Thanks, Bethany for keeping our wonderful area “alive” for all to see.

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