by Tanika Burlingame
Just a few quick questions with Rosalie Willett, an Oregon native who followed the sugar to Louisiana. Born in Oregon in 1923, this trained school teacher and her husband lived in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and eventually Louisiana where he helped develop the machinery to grow and harvest sugar cane.
What are your hobbies?
My favorites are genealogy, and I’ve really enjoyed doing that over the last couple years. When I was younger I used to raise orchids, I collected stamps, motherhood, I played a lot of bridge and cards. I use to play cribbage when I lived in Oregon but nobody here knows how to play. I also love to cook, although I don’t do it as much anymore. My favorite hobby was travel — I am most grateful for all the opportunities I had to travel when I was younger.
What did you do for a living?
I was a school teacher, I attended college at University of Oregon. I really loved teaching but I only did it for one year because I moved to Hawaii and shortly after I met my husband.
What was your first car?
I didn’t learn to drive until I was in my forties. I lived in Portland, Oregon, most of my life and public transportation was big there so I never felt the need to learn. I finally got my first license in Napoleonville.
Do you remember the first movie you saw?
The first movie I ever saw had Lon Chaney. It was horror movie. I remember seeing it as a kid during the Depression and it only cost a nickel.
What is your favorite type of music?
I love 40s music, that was my favorite era of music, but I lived in Hawaii for several years and I think island music is probably my second favorite.
What was in your pantry growing up?
I remember we had a lot of nutritional stuff in our house growing up. Not like the junk that the kids have today. I grew up on a farm so we always had a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. My mother would take canned fruit and make homemade jelly. I loved fresh preserves and my mother’s homemade jelly. We also always had fresh eggs and milk because we lived on a farm. We didn’t go out and buy much of anything. We would just get it from the animals our the farm.
Did you remember segregation growing up?
I spent the 1950s and 1960s in Puerto Rico, so I didn’t really experience it like most people did. But I remember hearing about it in the states. I knew it was going on.
Do you remember the day that JFK was shot?
I was still living in Puerto Rico and I remember it coming on the TV at our house. It came on the news and that’s how I found out about it. Even there it was still big news.
How did you get around when you were younger?
My father drove our only car. Most families back then, if they had a car, only had one. It wasn’t like today where families have two cars, one for the mother and one for the father. My father had a car and if were going somewhere really far he would give us a ride, other than that we would walk everywhere we needed to go. I remember taking the bus a lot and it was only a nickel. When I was a young adult I used public transportation. For the most part when I was growing up the mother and children stayed at home. There really wasn’t a whole lot of reasons for us to leave the house, especially living on a farm.