Editor’s Note: For this week’s column, we sat down with Norma (Kimball) Bacon in her Stillings Road home and asked her about the active life she leads as she looked ahead to turning 100 today (Friday, May 5). Norma was born in Swampscott on May 5, 1923, and later moved to Marblehead and was a 1941 graduate of Marblehead High School. She married Roy S. Bacon and they remained together for 68 years before he died in early 2012 at age 90. In 1945, Roy Bacon began Roy S. Bacon Construction, which was instrumental in building much of the infrastructure of Saugus and many of the homes. The company installed much of the water and sewer for homes in town. Norma recalled that her husband was an avid yachtsman and built two 52-foot boats. They had two children: Roy S. Bacon III, who died when he was 14, and her daughter, Constance Rockwood of Groveland, who checks in on her mom regularly.
But she notes Norma is very independent: “She gets her own groceries, manages her finances and medications, shops for her food and cooks for herself and does her own laundry. She keeps busy. She loves puzzles, goes to lunch, plays a lot of Bridge and she goes to the Saugus Senior Center occasionally. She’s also an avid Red Sox fan and went to Fenway Park and got a box seat right on the field for her 80th birthday.”
Q: What are your hopes as you look toward your 100th birthday on Friday?
A: Well, I hope my health will hold up and I can still be independent.
Q: And do you have a special day planned for Friday?
A: Yes. I’m going to lunch with my daughter and friends. We’re going to The Continental.
Q: What are you going to have that day?
A: I can’t eat anything I want to.
Q: What’s your favorite dish? What do you plan to have at The Continental?
A: I love the scrod there.
Q: So you are going to have baked scrod and what else?
A: Squash, vegetables and a salad.
Q: What will you have to drink?
A: I don’t drink.
Q: No cocktails for your 100th?
A: No, but I’ll probably have a glass of wine.
Q: What kind?
A: Some red wine.
Q: I understand that you still drive. Right?
A: I do.
Q: And you have been driving since 18?
Q: That’s a long time.
A: Yep, and I haven’t had any accidents.
Q: That’s great. How many cars have you been through? Do you remember your first car?
A: Oh no. My husband used to keep swapping cars for me.
Q: So, you would get a new car every three or four years?
Q: That’s what my grandmother would do.
A: Roy would always have a car for me.
Q: What has been the most exciting thing you have done in your hundred years?
A: Gee, I don’t know.
Q: Did you go down into the Grand Canyon on a pack mule or something adventuresome?
A: No. Nothing like that. I have traveled a lot and have been to Europe several times. And we traveled a lot on the boat.
Q: And your husband Roy used to make the boats? He used to build boats?
A: Yep. He built the boats. We traveled around a lot, in my car. We just enjoyed life.
Q: That’s good. Now, you’re a registered voter. I don’t want to get controversial because this town is tough politically. It can be very tough. But in all of your years, going back… when did you first vote? Do you remember? Who was the first president you voted for?
A: Hoover was the first president that I remember. But the first one I voted for … who was the one who was in there for three terms?
Q: FDR. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
A: Yes, I guess it was Roosevelt.
Q: So, you never miss voting?
A: I used to work at the polls but I always vote.
Q: How many years as a poll worker?
A: Two or three years – I would just go to work on Election Day.
Q: Do you have a favorite public official or president?
A: No. But I vote in every election. I see it as my duty to go and vote – like this “mail it in” – I don’t approve of that “mail it in” stuff.
Q: Tell me about the water and sewer and your late husband’s company. He brought a lot of water and sewer to town?
A: Yes, he did, in fact. I remember a cop in town said, “Roy was the one who dug up the town.” He did so many water mains.
Q: What’s been the biggest change you have seen as a longtime citizen of Saugus?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Do you want to see it stay a town or become a city?
A: I think it’s nice as a town. With a city, everything would change completely. I want to keep it a nice little town.
Q: So, you’ve been driving a long time. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
A: Some of these cars like her [daughter’s] car – you have to go to college to learn how to drive them or to read the dashboard, with everything there!
Q: All of the monitors and symbols can get you confused, I guess – and with the modern appliances, too – some of those TV sets can be tough to figure out. Right?
Q: Turning 100 is a big milestone. What do you credit to reaching 100 and to your longevity?
A: I guess because I don’t sit and dwell on anything. I keep moving. I’ve been blessed with good health. So, just until old age crept in on me.
Q: You’ve done a lot of walking?
A: Yep. I used to walk a lot. I led a pretty good life.
Q: Do you have any advice to somebody who wants to make it to 100? That’s a big deal, hitting 100. Look at you, being in good shape and living in your own house and still driving. Do you know anybody who is older than you who is still driving?
Q: How do you manage that? Since COVID, it seems like there’s worse driving out there.
A: I don’t get out into the heavy traffic. I just take my time and stay in line and I don’t try to pass anybody.
Q: Do you drive at night?
A: No, I don’t now but I used to.
Q: How long do you want to drive?
A: Well, I told the kids, “I’m going to drive until I know I should not be driving, and then I’m just [going] to give you my keys. I’ll know when it’s time for me to stop.
Q: What’s the best car you had as a driver?
A: Well, my husband always bought me Cadillacs.
Q: What color?
A: We had a blue one and a pink one and a beige-colored one. He liked the big cars, but he would always ride in his Suburban.
Q: Do you have an idol, besides your children and your husband? Do you have somebody you look up to and admire?
A: Well, my next door neighbor is a pretty good friend to me. And he was very good to my son.
Q: Do you want to mention his name?
A: John Burns. He’s a mechanic.
Q: So, what makes John Burns special?
A: I know he watches out for me. If I need something, he does it for me right away.
Q: What’s your favorite pastime that you still do?
A: Puzzles – puzzles.
Q: Do you like reading, too?
A: Yep. I am reading a book now.
Q: And what’s the game you play at the Senior Center?
Q: And you played bridge, too?
A: I used to belong to four bridge clubs. It was a passion of mine.
Q: Any advice to people who have a goal of reaching 100?
A: Eat well or try to eat well.
Q: Please tell me about your meals and what you eat.
A: I always have a good breakfast. I love my oatmeal. I’m full from that meal, so I don’t have that big a lunch, but I do have a full meal at night.
Q: What do you have for lunch?
A: I have a sandwich or some leftovers from the night before.
Q: What are your favorite dishes?
A: Chicken breast – and I love fish. I love fish and chicken, but don’t eat too much beef. I do a lot of chicken dishes.
Q: And what do you drink?
A: I love tea. I drink coffee and love all kinds of juice and I drink a lot of water.
Q: Do you like Boston sports teams?
A: I love the Red Sox and they’re doing pretty good now. I like to watch the ballgames. I like Alex Verdugo. He speaks very highly of everybody on the team. I think he’s very good. But I don’t have a favorite player. I like them all.
Q: How long have you been following baseball?
A: I went when the Braves were in Boston. I felt bad when they moved them out. [In 1953 the Braves moved to Milwaukee.] Everybody went to the Braves games and were sad to see them go.
Q: Do you watch television?
A: I enjoy television very much and I think they have some wonderful programs?
Q: What’s your favorite program?
A: I like to watch the news – the national news. I don’t have any favorites; I just poke around and see which one I like.
Q: So you enjoy puzzles, and now you are working on a 1,000 piece puzzle.
A: Yep. I’m not a slave to it. It’s a fun thing. That was a Christmas present. Every Christmas my daughter gives me one.
Q: What’s your greatest accomplishment?
A: My children, for one thing. That’s about it; I haven’t made any big dent in the world. I didn’t do anything special. I just went along with the norm of everything.
Q: Do you remember the days of the old telephone when people had to share a party line?
A: It wasn’t a problem, because people didn’t telephone like they do now. If they called, they called for a reason. I can’t remember anybody in the family having long conversations with those phones.
Q: Do you have a cell phone?
A: Not anymore. I had one and it drove me crazy. It drove me crazy.
Q: What about your car?
A: I have a 2009 Chevy Cobalt. It’s black and it’s got 25,264 miles on it. Every year I take it in and get it winterized. I’ve kept every one of the slips so whoever gets it knows its full value.