Hazel Beatrice Updike came into her parents’ home on February 10, 1912—like more than 95 percent of all births in America at that time. Her father worked on her grandfather’s farm, who also owned an adjoining farm. Mrs. Updike took care of the home and children in the close-knit farm community two miles outside of Princeton. Hazel’s maternal grandmother lived nearby and visited often.
The farm animals included chickens, cows, pigs, horses, and several cats. Part of the family income came from selling chickens and eggs. They had many hired farmhands to manage their land. Beside the barn mousers, the family adored their orange, yellow and white striped house cat.
Hazel remembers the men using horses to work the fields but they also utilized a special driving horse named Kate, which transported them in the family buggy and the sleigh. In winter, her mother placed hot wrapped bricks under their feet for warmth while traveling in the sleigh to her grandmother’s house.
The family’s large farmhouse near the Trenton-Princeton Road had no electricity and no indoor plumbing. It housed Hazel, her parents, younger brother, and a widowed aunt and her three children. She and her cousin Mabel were like sisters. The five children skimmed stones on local brooks, bathed in ponds, rode bicycles and climbed trees—once, Hazel had to be rescued via ladder from a cherry tree.
From about age eight she attended movies (with sound) in Kingston. The family sometimes attended the Stony Brook Quaker Meeting House. Hazel attended Sunday school and services with her cousins, aunt, mother, paternal grandparents, and brother. During the 1918 flu pandemic, her father contracted the illness and died in a hospital. After his death, the family moved to Kingston.
At around age 16, she started to play tennis and at age 19, Hazel learned to drive a car. Her grandfather owned a Dodge, which she and her mother borrowed for errands, appointments and trips further away from home. She has never owned or used a personal computer. After graduating from the Stony Brook Elementary School in Kingston, she attended Princeton High School. Following graduation, she attended Pierce Business School for a one-year course learning shorthand, English and typing.
She lived in Philadelphia at a Lutheran home for working single women. At age 27 she moved to New York, worked in the Chemistry Department at Columbia University and lived on the campus for about two years. Although she did not earn a college degree, Hazel took classes there. At age 34, Hazel moved to Los Angeles, and worked for General Electric for about three years; she moved back east because she missed her family. Hazel belonged to the National Secretarial Association and supported herself for most of her life. Over the years, she also worked at a real estate and insurance office, a law office, United Engineers and Constructors (Philadelphia), and Raytheon.
Longevity seems to run in her mother’s side of the family; her aunts lived to ages 103 and 105. A resident of Pitman Manor since 1993, Hazel likes to read, watch television, and enjoys classical music, opera, and theater. Her pearl of wisdom: