What's 100 Multiplied by Six? Lots and Lots of Birthday Candles

TIMES STAFF WRITER

And in other news . . .

The folks at the White Sands retirement home in La Jolla threw a birthday party Friday for Virginia Ross, who has turned 100.

And for Helen Scherer, who has turned 100.

And Miriam Freeman, and Satia Osborne, and Eleanor Crane.

This year, they all celebrate being 100.

Myrtle Owens joined the party, too. On Oct. 13, she turns 101.

Yep, there were 601 candles. Votive candles, so many they would have collapsed the sumptuous lemon birthday cake. Instead, they were placed on a huge round tray, creating enough flame to attract a gaggle of Campfire girls.

Make a wish! Blow 'em out! And they tried. It took a fellow with a small aerosol can of compressed air to finish the job.

And so it went Friday afternoon, with most of the 250 residents of the place filling the grand lobby with its ocean view, politely applauding the speakers and nodding in agreement with all the kind words of congratulations.

There were the cards from President and Mrs. George Bush, and Gov. Pete Wilson and even a proclamation from the San Diego City Council. Doug Waldo, host of KPBS-TV's "Seniors Speak Out," was the keynote speaker, and he told them: It takes intelligence to get this old, not luck but intelligence.

Of the six, only Miriam Freeman was too ailing to make it downstairs for the party. And of the six, it was Myrtle Owens, the 101-year-old, who had the spunk to approach the podium, assisted only by a cane.

She kept it short and sweet. "I hope all of you will be here as long as I am," she said. "This is a wonderful place to be. The end."

Don Scott, the vice president of Southern California Presbyterian Homes, which owns the facility, said he wished he had enough time to hear each woman's life story.

"I have an empty room upstairs," Myrtle wisecracked.

Afterward, Virginia Ross, who turned 100 on Feb. 18, was complimented for looking pretty swell. "You need glasses," she answered.

Satia Osborne, who doesn't hit the century mark until Oct. 8, was asked what her favorite birthday was. "The first one," she said. "At least I didn't have to do anything then. But they said I yelled a little."

Hey Myrtle, you going dancing tonight?

"Only if someone asks me," she said.

So Myrtle, what's the secret to living this long?

"Smithfield Hams," she said. "And spoon bread. And two naps a day. But especially Smithfield Hams."

She paused, reflected and added: "Oh, these are just silly answers, aren't they?"

Silly lady, Myrtle.

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