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100-year-old woman shares a century of tales

Christine Campbell Carroll Ferguson may have lived most of her 100 years in California and Clearwater but her best friend, neighbor Ann Davis, says she will "always be a Georgia peach."

Davis, who has worn a path through the plants that separate their homes in the old Glenwood area of Clearwater, hosted a party Tuesday to celebrate Mrs. Ferguson's centennial birthday. It was attended by friends the gentle Southern woman has made since she moved to Clearwater 50 years ago.

When she came here, Mrs. Ferguson planted a crape myrtle from her grandmother's Georgia garden. The crape myrtle has become part of the charm of the Glenwood area.

"Now, Honey, please don't call me Mrs. Christine _ I am Mrs. William Parker Ferguson," she says as she shows photos of Clearwater from when she and her retired engineer husband first built their home here in 1949.

"Bill retired young at 48. It was 1945 when we put our furniture in storage and took four years looking for the perfect spot to live the rest of our lives. After 20 years of the crowded streets and busy life in San Francisco, we wanted to be in a small town. Back then, Clearwater's population was only 15,000. We wanted a warm place but also wanted to be closer than 3,000 miles from our families in Georgia."

She pulls out a snapshot of a man holding a large kingfish.

"This is the real reason we moved here. He caught this one in 1945. He was hanging out with the other fishermen who lined the walkway of the bridge to the beach. What a commotion there was when he was moving the line around the pilings of the old wooden bridge. Don't think we have ever heard of another kingfish being caught in the bay."

She was born Christine Campbell Carroll on Aug. 10, 1899, in Tennille, Ga.

"Now, there's no "V' in it. It's not "TEN-ville' or "TEN-eel'. It's pronounced "TEN-ill," the former school teacher admonishes.

Her mother was Lona Norris. Her father, Henry Campbell, worked as an agent for Georgia-Florida railroad. Her parents had seven children, but only two boys and two girls grew to adulthood. One girl and one boy died in infancy and a brother died at 19 of complications from appendicitis, she recalls. "He thought it was just a tummyache and took a laxative without telling anyone."

She lived with her parents until she married at 25. After she graduated from high school and Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College), she taught fifth grade. She met her husband while she was an intern teaching in Gibson, a small town about 40 miles from Tennille. He was home for a few days from Georgia Tech, where he was a senior.

"I was just walking down the street of his hometown," she recalls. "He spotted me and told his sister, "Run, bring her up so I can meet her.' "

They saw each other on weekends, but their courting was mostly through letters, particularly after he graduated and went overseas in the Navy. His entire Georgia Tech class of 1918 volunteered en masse.

After World War I, Ferguson agreed to give banking a try for a year to see if he could be happy following in his father's footsteps.

"But that didn't work," she recalls. "Bill couldn't stand to be inside. He went out to California looking for an engineering opportunity and found a niche as soon as he got to San Francisco. He met two fellows who advertised for a young engineer to go in with them in a paint business they had bought. He stayed there 20 years, and they were the best of friends."

They married but never had children.

"We had too much to do. We stayed on the go. You can travel for years in California and not see everything. But we tried to," she says. "We didn't care to have children because it wouldn't be so easy to lug them around."

Her husband was crazy about fishing and hunting and was renowned as a marksman, but Mrs. Ferguson had never shot a gun until the day she joined him in a trip to Chico, Calif.

"We waited until the late afternoon to go out to shoot," she recalls. "Believe me, California can be ever as hot as Florida. The guys left me sitting under a tree on a wooden shell box with this 410 shotgun while they walked off with their big guns."

She says her husband told her "If anything comes by, shoot it. Lead. Don't shoot at the bird, shoot ahead of it.

"First thing I knew a dove came by. I said to myself, "Well I got it loaded, I might as well shoot ahead of it.' What do you know, I hit it. After a while, another lone bird came by, so I shot ahead of him. Again I hit it.

"When they came back, the guys couldn't believe I had only shot two times and I had two birds. Sure, they got their limits, but they walked all over creation to get them. I got mine just sitting under a tree," she says with a laugh.

. After the Fergusons retired here in 1949, the traveling, hunting and fishing continued until her husband died in 1978.

Mrs. Ferguson attributes her long life to genes: Her mother lived to 98, a brother to 101.

And her good health: She never missed a day of school, never wore glasses or hearing aids, never had stitches or broken bones and was never in the hospital _ at least not until she broke her hip in 1994. Up until then she was agile enough to sit cross legged and could touch her foot to her nose.

Today her neighbors stop in to visit her as they take their daily walks. She enjoys corresponding and reading and has worn out two Bibles.

_ To submit an item to Good for You, write to Betsy Bolger-Paulet, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756, or call (727) 445-4176 Monday or Tuesday.