1918 grad recalls Sonora

February 11, 2003 12:00 am
At 102 years old, Eleanor Golly is the oldest living graduate of Sonora High School. She is part of the class of 1918.  (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
At 102 years old, Eleanor Golly is the oldest living graduate of Sonora High School. She is part of the class of 1918. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

As far as anyone can tell, Eleanor McAllister Golly is the oldest living Sonora High School graduate.

Golly, who graduated in 1918 and will celebrate her 102nd birthday tomorrow, moved to Oakland to attend the University of California, Berkeley, right after graduation and hasn't lived in Sonora since.

But the streets and landmarks of Sonora are nonetheless fixed in her memory. She still recalls buying cider from the Shaws Flat Road Macomber Orchard Co. cider works — which moved operations to Berkeley in 1931 — and cutting through the McCormick garden on Columbia Way to get to high school every morning.

Golly now lives unassisted in the Oakland Hills house she and her husband, the late Chester Golly, bought in the 1920s. She is a tiny woman with a crown of thick, white hair, who admits her difficulty is being "a little hard of hearing." She spends her days reading, tending to the orchids given to her on her 100th birthday and entertaining friends, her two children and all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren with her quick wit.

Golly was pleased to hear Sonora High is keeping up with her and will turn 100 on Sept. 21.

"God bless it," she said. "I hope it's going along the way it did in the beginning of time."

Golly hopes to attend at least a few of the celebrations that will lead up to the school's anniversary.

Paging through a photocopy of Sonora High's 1918 yearbook — Golly's own copy was donated long ago to the Tuolumne County Historical Society — she exclaimed over pictures of her classmates, recalling where each lived and what their families did.

"Oh, it's good to look you guys in the face again," Golly said. She identified classmates by sight, including Roy Woods "who was a lot of fun" and a girl with the last name Fitch whose family ran a candy store.

"Gee whiz, I'm stretching my brain out," Golly said with a laugh.