Illene Emma Kuehll Rogers turns 100 on July 28.
She loves to tell her family members the stories of her life — and those who came before, the people who settled Shandon, California, along the San Juan River east of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.
She remembers the call of the doves and quail on hot summer nights. The fields. The cattle. Her grandparents and parents were pioneers from late 1700 to 1800.
Family members still live there. They raise cattle. Some are police officers.
Her folks lost their ranch in the Depression.
“High taxes,” said her daughter Lani Rogers.
She and some friends put an outhouse on the roof of the high school in 1934. And got away with it.
In the summers she slept outside. They didn’t have electricity, and, of course, no air conditioning.
She remembers seeing the old automobiles loaded with children from Oklahoma coming through town. No money, hoping someone would help.
And her grandmother did as best she could.
“During the Depression, no one down home had any money, but a person can’t just sit by and watch them suffer,” Lani Rogers said. “They came through in droves.”
She said it was just like the movie, “The Grapes of Wrath.”
After high school, she moved to San Francisco, where she met Vincent Rogers. They married in 1939. Her husband joined the Navy during World War II and helped build the landing strip on Tinian Island from which the Enola Gay took off to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
After the war, he continued in construction, working on bridges, buildings and overpasses in the Bay Area.
Illene and Vincent had two daughters who were raised in Morgan Hill.
Once Vincent retired, they moved to the Mother Lode. That was 40 years ago. He ran cattle and she painted and had a garden.
“There was nothing my mother couldn’t grow,” Lani Rogers said. She was also the sort of cook who drew about every family member from miles around on holidays.
“We’d have 25 people,” Lani Rogers said.
She would always cook a baked spaghetti dish invented by her aunt that was called More, so named because everyone always wanted more.
Vincent died in 1995.
She lives on her own now, in a house in Columbia. She gets up and makes her coffee each morning and takes her blood pressure medicine. Lani, who lives in Sonora, visits every day.
On her birthday, they’ll have a family party. And talk some more about the past 100 years.