The year was 1920. Women were given the right to vote, Belgium hosted the summer Olympics, the League of Nations was established, and Virginia Long Kirkpatrick was born just north of Sandyville.
Times were different then. Sandyville was a thriving town, having three churches, two banks, a grocery store, restaurant, barber shop, school and blacksmith.
A century later, Sandyville looks very different. With a population of around 50 people, all that is left of the local businesses are memories, something which Virginia Kirkpatrick has in plenty.
Kirkpatrick is celebrating her 100th birthday on Jan. 26. She has lived locally almost her entire lifelong no farther than Des Moines. She eventually returned, though, moving to Pleasantville in 1945.
Virginia lived in Sandyville until she married Paul Kirkpatrick at the age of 18. The fifth of six children, Virginia was closest with her younger sister, LaVaughn. She has fond memories of the adventures, and occasional trouble, the pair got into during their childhoods.
“We made our own fun,” Kirkpatrick says. “We just did silly things, but we had fun.”
Silly things like dressing up the family’s 23 outdoor kittens in clothes or decorating cucumbers with “hair” made of corn silks. Virginia also remembers the trouble she caused, such as the time her mother caught her attempting to cook a skinned bull snake on the stove.
“My mother came in, and I went out the door fast,” Kirkpatrick remembered with a laugh.
Of course, Virginia was not always the one causing the trouble. She remembers a time when her brother decided to giver her and LaVaughn haircuts.
“He shaved our heads to the crown,” Kirkpatrick said. “We didn’t have bangs, either. It just hung like dog ears.”
Virginia and her siblings attended school in Sandyville, which was about a half-mile walk from the family’s home. The school consisted of two buildings, one which housed students through fourth grade, and the other a two-room building that taught grades 5-12.
“It was a big school at one time,” Kirkpatrick remembers. “There were a lot of kids there.”
When she was 18, Virginia married Paul Kirkpatrick and the couple moved to Carlisle, then Des Moines. During this time, the Kirkpatrick’s son, Jerry, was born, but not without struggle. Virginia had lead poisoning and nearly died giving birth.
“They said if I lived to that night, I had a chance of surviving,” Virginia said. “But I fooled them. Here I am still.”
The Kirkpatrick’s returned to the area in 1945, moving into a home in Pleasantville. They lived in the same house for over 51 years. They bought a milk route from the Vroegh Brothers, before selling it to Claire Prange in 1946.
The Kirkpatrick’s also owned a dual gas station/bar for ten years. Virginia was in charge of the gas station, while Paul managed the bar.
“We sure had fun, but we worked hard,” Virginia says. “We had the best bunch of people who went there.”
Working hard has been a constant theme throughout Virginia’s life. Besides owning the milk route and gas station/bar, she also worked at a dime store in Des Moines, where she walked to work each day. She was also an assistant supervisor at the downtown Des Moines Younker’s for over 14 years, commuting back and forth from Pleasantville.
Despite leaving Sandyville after marriage, Virginia never forgot where she came from. She would always return to her childhood home during holidays, when she and all her siblings would pack into the house.
“If one bunch of siblings went home, we all went home,” Virginia says. “It was a full house. Sometimes I wonder how my mother didn’t get mad at us, but she she never did.”
Now residing at Homestead Assisted Living in Knoxville, Virginia is a great-great-grandmother. She is an avid bingo player, never missing games on Tuesday and Friday. Her advice to the younger generation?
“You’ve got to work hard. You have to work at it.”
In just a a few short days, Virginia Kirkpatrick turns 100. She has seen incredible changes throughout her lifetime, yet still looks back upon all she experienced with great fondness. Would she change redo anything throughout the past century?
“I wouldn’t change it for the world.”