Key Center 'mayor' celebrates 100th birthday


Colleen Slater, KP News

Elsie Olson becomes a centenarian on Jan. 9.

Her life and the world around her has changed a lot in 100 years, and she has kept pace with much of it.

Born in Alberta, Canada, she came to live in Vaughn in 1911, so she could attend school. Her Buckell grandparents had arrived from Canada in 1908, and her Bill grandparents moved back to the states with her family. Both sets of grandparents emigrated from England to Kansas in the early 1870s.

Although she was 7 before she started school, she finished high school 10 years later. In 1922, she married Elmer Olson and spent many years being a farmer’s wife and partner at Sunnycrest Farm on the Olson homestead, now owned by daughter Joyce Niemann.

She worked side by side with Elmer in their various endeavors — chicken hatchery, dairy cows, raising loganberries and strawberries, cleaning huckleberries, and selling Christmas trees during their 63 years of marriage.

Daughter Phyllis says mom didn’t milk cows, but cleaned all the equipment. Elsie was always involved in local community organizations and events.

She was a charter member of the Vaughn Bay Garden Club, First Christian Church, Vaughn Community Church, Historic Vaughn Bay Church, Key Peninsula Historical Society, and an almost charter member of Upper Sound Grange, holding membership and offices in it for 75 years. She was also member and officer in the Good Roads Club, Vaughn Library Hall Association, PTA, Vaughn Bay Cemetery and Key Peninsula Civic Center.

In the depression years, Elsie was in charge of a government program where neighbors would come to the Vaughn Hall and make mattresses for their families from surplus cotton batting and materials. During World War II, she was responsible for the Aircraft Watch Tower on Davidson’s hill, off Lackey Road, to be manned with volunteers 24 hours a day.

In 1932, Elsie was elected first mayor of Key Center, and there has not been an election since. When the new Vaughn Elementary School was built on Hall Road, Elsie was one of the main “movers and shakers” to keep the old building as a community civic center. Later, she was one of several women to start the local museum. She gathered and contributed materials, photos and written information, and spent many hours sorting and identifying articles for display.

When a job needed doing, Elsie was usually available and ready to work. A quick learner and a friend to all, she contributed her talents anywhere she could. Although she claims her memory is slipping, she is still the one the family checks with to verify historical facts.

She enjoys having family and friends around to share news, recall old times, or just be cheerful company. Her birthday will be celebrated by family and close friends.

We salute you, Elsie, for being a leader in the community, a model for many, and a well-loved friend to all.