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Farm life kept century's events far away

December 27, 1999

Lewis PowellBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




HALFWAY - Lewis Powell has one thing to say about the new millennium: "It's been a long time coming."

Through one century of change, the Halfway resident has seen the Year 2000 on the horizon.

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Powell turns 100 on Jan. 29, 2000.

What does he think about his centenarian status?

"I'm old enough to vote," he said.

The world's population has skyrocketed from 1.6 billion to 6.2 billion in the nearly 100 years since Powell was born.

The World War I veteran has lived through the electricity revolution, the sinking of the Titanic, women's suffrage and Prohibition.

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"I never did drink. I don't think I ever will," Powell said.

He's witnessed the advent of brassieres, boxed cereals, birth control pills, "talking pictures," radio and television.

But Powell said such milestones were far removed from his 117-acre world - the Ohio County, W.Va., farm on which he and his seven siblings were raised.

"On the farm, you talked about earring the corn and digging the potatoes, picking the apples and the peaches," he said. "You didn't have time to have fun. You just had to have something to eat and enough time to sleep."

It was hard work, but life was less violent and complicated then, Powell said.

His family bought sugar and coffee at the general store but raised all its other food on the farm. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, walked everywhere within two miles and rode one of the farm's many horses to farther destinations, he said.

Powell was in high school when he joined the Army infantry without telling his parents.

"It seemed like the thing to do," said Powell, who guarded the railroad yards, terminals and bridges around Washington, D.C.

He said one of his happiest memories was "crossing the ocean a couple of times" while he was in the Army.

"But I didn't see anything I'd want to go back for," Powell said. "I think this country is ahead of any country I've ever been in as far as living conditions for ordinary people."

He continued to work on the farm after his military stint, and met his wife, Olive - who died several years ago- at church.

"Back then, if you had one (woman) it was enough. You didn't bother anyone else," Powell said.

The Great Depression didn't have much of an impact on his farming family, who continued to get up early and work late despite the shattered economy, he said.

He and Olive moved to their Halfway home in 1940, while Powell was working as a railway postal clerk on the Harrisburg, Pa., to Winchester, Va., route.

The couple raised two children- a son who now lives in the Tri-State area and a daughter who resides in Washington, D.C., Powell said.

Powell now lives alone with the help of a housekeeper who visits daily.

He spends his days watching television and his pet parakeet, "Parakeet," though "I never understand what he's saying," Powell said.

He still cuts his own grass and attributes his good health to plenty of cookies, pies, water and whole milk. Powell has also eaten oatmeal for breakfast since he was a boy, he said.

He once tried smoking cigarettes but said it wasn't for him.

"I feel that I'm in great shape," Powell said. "I guess there's not very many people that get to live in three centuries. Course, I haven't made it yet either."

Related stories:

- Oldest Washington County residents

- Century brings a world of change

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