COLLINSVILLE — Evorie Graham of Collinsville is so busy she’d make a bee tired. A full social calendar with family, church and friends, sewing, shopping, baking and just enjoying life in general keeps the lively lady on the go, and she has no plans of slowing down as she celebrates her 100th birthday.

COLLINSVILLE — Evorie Graham of Collinsville is so busy she’d make a bee tired. A full social calendar with family, church and friends, sewing, shopping, baking and just enjoying life in general keeps the lively lady on the go, and she has no plans of slowing down as she celebrates her 100th birthday.


"I have to run around with 50- and 60-year-old girls, because there’s no one left my age," said a grinning Graham as she serves up a piece of her freshly baked, made-from-scratch carmel pie. "I just got back from a brunch, and you wouldn’t believe all the wonderful food, but I just felt like something sweet after I woke up from my nap, so decided to bake a pie. I can have one done in 30 minutes!"


Baking from scratch is just one of Graham’s many talents. She grew up during a time when everything was done by hand, without aid of electricity or indoor plumbing. From birth, women learned to cook on wood stoves, wash clothes outside using tubs and a washboard and sew not just clothing but sheets, pillow cases and everything in between. They canned, gardened, milked cows, helped in the fields and performed tasks daily that many modern women would fall well short of accomplishing.


Graham was born on March 28, 1914 in the rural area between Whitesboro and Collinsville. She was the youngest child of James "Jim" Barton King and Bonnie (Phillips) King.


"That’s the reason I’m so rotten now," laughs Graham when talking about being the baby of the family.


Naming their tiny daughter took the Kings four weeks, said Graham.


"They couldn’t figure out a name for me until someone suggested they call me Evorie after Evorie Dillingham," Graham said. "She was a teacher in Sherman for a long time, and even has a Sherman school named after her."


The daughter of pioneers, Miss Dillingham made a respected name for herself in Texas’ education history. She served as a teacher, principal and coach for more than 50 years. Dillingham Intermediate School in Sherman was named in honor of her years of dedicated work and service in educating children.


Graham had one brother and two sisters, but one sister didn’t live far past infancy.


"One of my sisters died in mama’s arms of diphtheria," said Graham.


Education for Graham consisted of first through ninth grades at the school in the Center community.


"The school only went to the ninth grade, and we were too poor for me to go to high school in Whitesboro, so I didn’t go after that," said Graham. "But that’s just what people did back then."


Though working on the family farm was hard, Graham, like most young people in those days, still found time for fun. She also got her first taste of one of the things she still enjoys every day — driving.


"I saw the first two Model Ts in our community! My uncle had one of them," said Graham. "I drove for the first time when I was 8 years old. My uncle was letting all of us kids take turns driving his car!"


Her parents, neither of whom could drive, used a buggy and horse for their transportation. All the roadways in the area were sand. However, when her mother received an inheritance when Graham was about 14, she purchased a vehicle. Graham became their driver and continues driving to this day.


"I don’t think I even got my first driver’s license until the kids (her and her late husband’s children) were about 9 and 12 years old," said Graham. "I remember I got it at Gainesville, but I don’t think they even made me do a driving test. … I’ve driven all my life, and I like to drive!"


When asked what she tells her two children and others who, at times, suggest that she give up driving, Graham didn’t hesitate in her answer, "I tell them to kiss my foot! I’m going to drive as long as I can!"


Besides vehicles, Graham said her favorite invention is the washing machine.


"I’ve seen my mama wash (clothes) until her knuckles would bleed. The washing machine is definitely the best invention," said Graham.


Church was a welcomed and cherished part of life for Graham’s family and most in their community. Graham has been a member of the First Baptist Church for much of her life. Her memories of church services, gospel music, weekly Sunday night singings and other like events began from an early age.


"Our family didn’t have any money, so I didn’t have things like chewing gum," Graham said. "When we’d get to church, I’d go up and down the aisles to look for gum people might had stuck under the seats. When I’d find some, I’d chew it. One night, I hit the jackpot. I found pink gum! I chewed it, and it obviously didn’t kill me!"


Graham also gained her love of singing and playing the piano and organ through her church activities.


"I sing by note, but I play the piano by ear," said Graham.


She was part of the gospel music group, The Harmonettes, for several years. The group formed shortly after Graham was married to her husband Bill. The all-female group was booked to perform every week locally and in surrounding towns and even performed in a hour-long gospel music show each week on the radio.


"We had a manager, sponsors and everything," said Graham enthusiastically. "Sid Bruton from Denison helped us and even wrote a song especially for us."


Though the Harmonettes later broke up, Graham continued her music. She played piano for the Care Home for 27 years, as well as for various churches. She also continues her love of her church, attending weekly services, Sunday School classes and going on outings and trips with church friends in Collinsville and in Whitesboro.


Graham met her husband, Bill, the way many young people in that neck of the woods did — on a Saturday on Main Street in Whitesboro. The girls would stroll up and down the walkway, talking and giggling like teenage girls do, while the boys who had cars would drive up and down the street.


"We girls would walk on Main Street and try to get somebody to ask us out," Graham said with a smile. "There was a theater there, but nobody had the money to go, so we just walked up and down. … Bill came to Whitesboro one night in a roadster with one of his friends. I remember he had on a white linen bill cap. I thought that was really something."


Graham and her friend were noticed by Bill and his friend. However, Graham ended up seated with Bill’s friend and Bill with her friend. The two couples took a drive to the cemetery located at the very end of Main Street and then back into town. The next night, the white-hatted boy, several years older than Graham, showed up again, but it wasn’t to visit with Graham’s friend, but with Graham.


"My friend swelled up like an old bullfrog," Graham sid. "She was mad because he came to see me instead of her."


After more than three years of on-again and off-again dating, the couple married and remained so for almost 63 years.


"We’d go together for a while, and when we wouldn’t see each other for a while, Bill would hear about me seeing somebody else, and here he’d come back again," said Graham. "We’d talked about getting married, but hadn’t. He found out I was seeing another boy, and he came to me and said we should just go ahead and get married. I think he just wanted me out of circulation. … We got married the next day."


As a wedding gift, Graham’s parents presented the newlyweds with one of the traditional, rural gifts — a bovine.


"My parents were as poor as Job’s turkey, and they still gave us the prettiest Jersey cow," said Graham.


Bill Graham farmed and ranched through the years while Evorie handled the household chores, raised their two children, helped in the fields, even had her own tractor, and did whatever else was needed. Like all married couples, there were good times and really tough times, disagreements with family members and other situations that come in any marriage, yet they endured. They lived in the family farm near Collinsville and, due to undrinkable water, had to haul water in a wooden, 55-gallon barrel for almost 40 years until Graham put her tiny foot down.


"There were several oil wells out there and I guess they accidentally hit a gas main when they dug the water well. You could cook something using the well water and you’d see that shiny, oily film on it. They never would dig a well deep enough to get past it. I finally told him I was moving to town, and he could come or just stay out there with that awful water," said Graham. "That’s when we built a house in Collinsville."


The two were different. Evorie Graham was and still is social, making friends wherever she goes. She loved to sing, go fishing and get involved in the community. Bill Graham was quieter and didn’t like to sing nor fish. Often, he’d stay home and help with household chores while Evorie sang with her group, worked in the Whitesboro fabric store or fished for supper. He was also good at giving presents.


"Bill always brought us gifts whenever he had to go somewhere. He always brought me candy, too," said Graham. "Even when we first started dating, he’d bring me gifts. I still have the kid gloves he gave me on our third date."


Graham’s enjoyment of life and her constant activity continued after Bill Graham’s death in the 1990s. She stays busy with church and friends, still does alterations and repairs for the public on occasion, continues to travel to Branson, Mo. each year, along with making local trips and tours, loves to bake and still enjoys reasonably good health. With the exception of one heart stint 15 years ago, she hasn’t had any major medical problems. She doesn’t credit any certain thing to her longevity.


"I just live one day at a time. I love to do for people. I love to sew. I don’t have to do it, but I love it," said Graham as she looks around her immaculate, inviting home. "I’m going to live as long as I can as long as I have my marbles, my eyesight and can wait on myself. If I get to where I can’t help myself, I don’t want to live."


A celebration of Graham’s 100 years is set for this Saturday, 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., at the First Baptist Church in Collinsville. In addition to the usual birthday festivities, Graham said she’s pretty sure she’s going to get to go in a motorcycle ride — not her first. In typical Evorie fashion, she’s got a surprise in store for the party planners. With a mischievous grin, she pulled out a box containing a pair of unique, rocker-girl-styled fur boots.


"I know they’ve got all the stuff for me to wear — black jeans, black leather jacket, helmet," said Graham with a sneaky grin, "what they don’t know is that I’ve got these boots!"