Local Educator Voila “Babe” Goldan is 101 Years and Counting
In this special interview with The Tribune News she describes her Depression-era upbringing and thoughts on life, love, and longevity
Published in The Tribune News January 2017
Viola “Babe” Goldan, who goes exclusively by Babe, earned her name as the youngest of eleven Depression-era children growing up on a farm outside of Minot, North Dakota. Just imagine how different it would have been to live twenty five miles out-of-town in the year 1915, the year Babe was born. The family did not own a vehicle, and the economy was worsening. They subsisted solely off of dry farming, which was hit and miss. Babe lost a number of her siblings due to the harsh living conditions that were common of Depression-era life in rural North Dakota.
Junction City resident Babe Goldan celebrated her 101st birthday on September 30th, 2016. The year prior 200 people attended her centennial birthday party held at Shadow Hills Golf Course. Babe currently resides at Junction City Retirement Community, a residence she calls “a nice place to live, clean, and very homey.” Her apartment-style quarters are decorated with countless photos of her family, including her late husband Earl or “Goldie”, as everybody called him; and school photos of her great granddaughter Lauren, and her great-great granddaughter, Kyah, both of whom attend the first grade.
When Babe describes her own childhood, she is quick to remember the struggle of the Great Depression—an economic climate so poor that after many years her parents were unable to pay even the taxes on their land, which was essentially free otherwise.
“Nobody could pay their taxes. Eventually we all moved to the city.” Babe recalled.
Once in Minot, her parents were able to find relatively affordable rent and life became more stable, other than her father’s illness which eventually took his life. It was then that Babe’s mother started taking in people for room and board, working to provide for her family as a single mother.
In the year 1934 Babe achieved her high school diploma and was one of just two of the women in her household to do so. This provided Babe with a sense of esteem and accomplishment that she might not have achieved back on the farm. Buoyed by her academic talent and personal wither all, Babe continued onto college and became the first in her family to graduate with a college degree.
It was at college that Babe met her longtime partner Goldie, an athletic young man who, like her, aspired to become a teacher. They married in the year 1939 and moved to rural North Dakota to teach school. But teachers were paid just $55 dollars per month in rural North Dakota so ultimately the pair relocated to the city of Missoula to earn their teaching certificates at the University of Montana.
Goldie was successful at securing a Superintendent position in Chester, Montana and it was around this time, and after a seriously scary tuberculosis scare for Babe (a story too wrenching and complicated to tell here) that their first child was born, a son. As fate would have it though, Babe later became pregnant with a second child at around the same time her husband Goldie was drafted for war.
Back to Minot Babe went. During the two years before the war ended, Goldie and Babe kept in contact exclusively through letter writing. Finances and circumstances did not allow the pair to see one another, even though Goldie was stationed in Birmingham, Alabama the entire time. A bad knee from his athlete days kept him stateside.
It was when Goldie returned from the service that the family, now with two children in tow, made the move to Oregon to a town called Irrigon, near Hermiston-Umatilla. Goldie got another job as a Superintendent and it was the year the McNary Dam was built right across the Columbia River. Babe gave birth to her third child, a second daughter. Babe remembers Irrigon, Oregon as an “interesting place” and having “wonderful friends” but the family yearned to be closer to a University to experience once again the college town atmosphere, perhaps like they’d had in Missoula.
After a chance run in with a Junction City Superintendent at a teachers meeting in Portland, Goldie learned of a teaching position there and moved the family to Lane County where they would reside for good. For twenty full years Babe substitute taught alongside her husband who was a high school Geography teacher and athletics instructor. After substitute teaching for so long, Babe prided herself on “knowing every kid in town.”
“Of course now they have long beards, bald heads, or are leading a pack of kids,” Babe said with a laugh and a knowing smile.
Goldie passed away 22 years ago now, and as far as advice to those who are looking for Babe’s secret to longevity, well there’s the obvious:
“I never smoked or drank,” Babe pointed out, “But there’s nothing I can think of that I actually did to get here. There were lots of ups and downs, surgeries even, but if you snap back you snap back. I’m just very blessed I guess.”
Babe, who can get around just fine but prefers to use a walker for extra stability, feels that people are just living longer now. “It’s surprising how long people are living now, actually.” She explained.
“I loved to dance. I was always dancing.” Babe continued, “And I have a great family. My kids were good kids and their kids were good kids. But I guess everybody says that.”
Babe Goldan will celebrate her 102nd birthday on September 30th, 2017. She spends her days keeping tabs on her family, including her great grandchildren, attending church (which is very important to her, she added), and playing cards and other games with the residents of Junction City Retirement Community. Babe is an avid Oregon Ducks fan and has dedicated much time to the craft of painting. A couple of her paintings are modestly displayed in her living room. As she walks the halls of her retirement community Babe admires a recent art display, including an image of an old wagon stalled in a desolate field, an image she says takes her right back to farm life in North Dakota over one hundred years ago.