Editor’s note: with the passing of 106-year-old Forks resident Pearl Lucken I would like to share this interview I did with her when she turned 103, I am going to miss her.
By Christi Baron
Forks Forum Editor
When I grow up I want to be Pearl Lucken. That means since I am now 59-years old I have another 40-some years to meet that lofty goal, and with Pearl fast approaching her 103rd birthday I may never catch her! The hardest part of interviewing this aged dynamo was getting her to sit still long enough to answer some questions.
Pearl was born on March 4, 1913, in Aberdeen, Washington. Her parents were Italian immigrants, Edward Eramo and Mary Taglieri Eramo, who were both born in Ortona on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Although they lived in the same town they lived on opposite sides and didn’t meet until both had arrived in the United States.
Edward came to the U.S. Around 1900, he was 17 years old. He had some family already living in Aberdeen. In the meantime, Pearl’s mother was sent for, to help her family living in America.
Before she left Ortona she happened to cross paths with a woman she had never met before the woman said to her, “If you see my son when you get to America give him these three cigars.”
Mary took the cigars and left for America.
Edward had left Aberdeen and traveled around a bit and one day he was in Portland and ran into someone he knew and they said, “Hey there are some new people from your town living in Aberdeen.”
Edward headed for Aberdeen there he met Mary, she gave him the three cigars, it was him that the cigars had been for, and soon they were married.
By the time Pearl joined the Eramo family she had two older sisters, Ida and Elizabeth. Edward found work in a cigar shop and a saloon and eventually the family moved to Satsop where the family farmed 10 acres.
Most of the produce they grew was sold to wholesalers and Pearl remembers weeding along with her sisters and about 10 people her father hired. She recalls each year in January a wooden plank was placed in the field and Pearl would sit on the plank and stick onions in the ground.
Pearl said, “When I was in seventh grade I would place a gunny sack on my knees and peel onions, then I would take the onions along with some radishes and place them in a big basket and go around the neighborhood selling them for 5 cents a bunch.”
She said she usually came home with about $1.50.
While Pearl’s parents had a very limited amount of formal schooling the Eramo girls excelled in school. Pearl’s sister Ida was Valedictorian of her class and was offered a scholarship to Pullman. But, Mr. Eramo did not want his daughter to go, she did later attend business school.
Pearl was involved in music, winning awards in a singing trio in high school on Montesano. Her teacher thought she was so good she arranged for her to go to audition for the opera and then receive lessons. But Mrs. Eramo said her daughter was not going to the City!
About that Pearl said, “I’m glad I didn’t go I would have never met Maynard.”
Pearl’s sister had married and moved to the logging camps near Forks at Beaver and Sappho. Pearl followed.
Maynard Lucken was driving a milk delivery truck for his families dairy business. One evening while Pearl was babysitting the Goody children, Ma Goody had a tavern, so while babysitting Pearl was tending the tavern duties too. Two young men came in for a beer, Pearl said, “I told them I had to go do the dishes, one of them left the other one stayed to help me.”
The one that stayed to help was Maynard Lucken the date was October 10, 1935, on October 26, 1935, they were married.
Maynard eventually went to work for the logging railroad repairing the tracks.
Pearl recalls a trip the Luckens and a friend took around 1938. They drove across the county and at one particular stop in Georgia they went to a diner to eat. After looking at the menu they all decided to order the liver and onions. They waited and waited and finally, the waitress came out and asked them if they wouldn’t mind paying for their dinner first so that the cook could go and buy the liver. “People were so poor back then.”
Eventually, the Luckens started their family, adopting two children Andrea and Jim. Pearl also worked outside the home as a bartender at the Loop Tavern at Tyee and later at Sackett’s Department store in Forks for 11 years.
Pearl was also a long time member of the Tyee Tillicums a home-ec club that met once a month at different member’s homes from the 1930s until around 1955.
Even though Pearl has enjoyed a long life when she was 72 years old she was diagnosed with cancer, “I have had three big operations and getting my tonsils out was the worst.” Pearls cancer never returned and last summer at the Forks Relay for Life she was crowned Queen of the event.
In 2001 Maynard fell at their home near Forks and broke his hip. He was sent to Port Angeles for surgery and seemed to be doing well, so Pearl went back home to Forks. “The next morning I knew something was wrong,” she remembers, and by the time she got to the hospital Maynard was not doing well and passed away, they were married 65 years and Pearl laughs and says, of living alone, “I don’t need a lover, but sometimes I do need a man.”
Pearl is proud to say, she does bring her own firewood in the house.
In 2007 Pearl had a stroke, but shows no signs of it today, and as she describes it “took herself off the road” and quit driving. She did renew her drivers’ license though and keeps it framed on a table in her living room.
To celebrate her 100th birthday Pearl went clam digging, she is a little put out though that at her age she still has to buy her clam digging license.
Also, on her 100th birthday friends and family organized a big surprise party at the Hungry Bear Cafe. Pearl said, “When we arrived there I said wow look at all the cars something must be going on here!” The something was her party!
You know if you interview someone that has made it to 102 you have to ask “what is your secret?” Pearl says her secret is “I love everybody, I forgive, forgiving is the easiest thing to do, it doesn’t cost you anything.”
“When I get up in the morning, (she sets an alarm for 6 a.m. And says to herself when she gets out of bed), Pearl says it is always going to be a good day.”
She tries to avoid sugar and says she eats well, growing a lot of her vegetables in her own garden which she is starting to plan for this spring. Pearl says “she does everything she wants.” She knits and crochets, goes to meetings and quilting club, if a car is leaving Pearl is in it.
She is also a lifetime member of the Eastern Star.
As I got ready to leave, Pearl said, “You know I bought a clothes dryer in 1955 and I am still using it, I have to use a little something to get it to close but it still works great,” and so do you Pearl, thanks for sitting still long enough to do this interview.