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After almost a century the memories are many Richard Pena | Sat, May 28 2011 12:00 PM

A couple of weeks back I had an invitation to attend a birthday party for Don Hinkle who was going to be 95. I mused about this for a half a day or so because it seemed like it was just a few weeks ago that we had attended Hinkle's 94th.

It made me wonder if time seems to pass faster when we are getting old and mature or when we are young and sprite.

When we are little kids we can hardly wait for the next birthday to come along; or when we become teenagers; or when we had to shave; or when we can finally drive a car.

One of the bright spots in writing a weekly column is that we are exposed to people.

This exposure takes many facets, the principal one being in speaking and interviewing people.

I recall sitting with Hinkle a year or so ago and talking about many things. After all, he was 94 years of age, he had been around the block as they say, and he had a sharp memory.

In the past I have written about folks who had reached ripe ages. I had a few that were more than 100 years old and I have come away from men and women like that wishing that you, and the subject, had nothing to do but talk about their life and recording it for posterity.

Hinkle's party was last Sunday at the home of Pat and Mike Gailband.

As I sat there, among the 40 or so folks attending, I thought about the piece that I had written last year and was thinking of just dusting it off and reprising it.

But I really don't like to do those things.

In my spare time, and whenever the spirit moves me, I make entries in my personal memoirs.

What I write about are those things that I remember. In that regards I wondered how far back Hinkle could go in his 95-year-old memory and perhaps we could record some of those items.

The day after the party Hinkle and I sat in his family room and we talked about the old days.

He was born on a farm in South Dakota, not too far from the community of Brookins, a university town. He, like many of us, has seen photographs of himself when he was about five and, like the bulk of us, can't remember if he actually recalls those occasions. His first recollection of school was first grade. This was at a one room school house that had burned down. Instead of rebuilding the school first the officials opted for a barn. He was a student in a structure without a floor. To top it off his teacher was his sister, Myrtle, who was merely eleven years older than he. Strict protocol must have been observed because he had to call her Miss Hinkle, instead of the familiar "Myrt" that was used at home.

One advantage to having one's sister for a teacher is that he had a ride to school.

They had a buggy and they would hitch whatever the Hinkle's called Dan Patch and away they would gallop to school. He recalls that his dad did have a car, a 1924 Chevrolet that was used for special occasions.

The family moved quite frequently from small town to small town. He avers that his father was not too good a business man and would often make unwise moves. Hinkle continued his schooling through those trying times and on more than one occasion he was aided by programs coming from President Roosevelt's New Deal. One was a government built barracks building that not only taught the students but housed and fed them. He says that he was only in this program for a year. To bring in a few dollars he became a 4H member and raised hogs. He said he could get as much as $35 for a full grown boar, a tidy sum in those times.

One other New Deal program that helped Hinkle was the Civilian Conservation Corps.

He joined that and worked on a dam that was near Farm Island that sat in the middle of the Missouri River. The island was a resort place and he said that he attended many a picnic at the place.

Prior to going into the CCC Hinkle had purchased a car, a Ford V8. His father used it and one time nearly totaled the car in an accident. Hinkle's CCC time was cut short because he had to come home and take care of his car.

We have much more but no more space.

Perhaps we can continue this when Hinkle hits 96.

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