"I'll believe anything," says 100-year-old Dixon resident Earl Headings. "I've seen so many unbelievable things, I wouldn't doubt a thing."
Headings was recognized last week as one of 22 individuals over 100 years old living in Solano County at the 6th Annual Centenarian Commemoration. The event, sponsored by the Solano County Board of Supervisors and the Senior Coalition of Solano County, honored those born 1912 and before, who have exceeded their life expectancy by 50 years (A UC Berkeley study states those born in 1912 would have a life expectancy of 51-55 years).
An hour with the sharp and witty Mr. Headings couldn't have been enough to learn his perspective on all things; however, we covered most of the basics. He touched on politics, technology, the evolution of cars, foreign wars, economics and Wall Street, and although he had detailed opinions on each topic, he was sure to add, "Now, that's just my thoughts, I may be way off, but I don't think I am."
Mr. Headings says he doesn't think there's a secret to life, explaining good genes are really the most important factor in living beyond a century, but that healthy habits are greatly important as well.
"I began collecting and reading a lot of books on healthy eating when my second wife was ill [in the late 1980s]," says Headings, "I read that when you are born your body produces two times the enzymes it needs to digest your nutrients properly. When you are around 70, your body doesn't produce them anymore, and when you cook your food past 114 degrees, it loses its enzymes; so to stay healthy you need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables."
Born February 7, 1912, in Belfountain, Ohio, Headings traveled by train to California with his family in 1921, in hopes of better farming opportunites.
His mother's uncle lived in Porterville. He says "he made California sound like Heaven, but when we got here it was nothing of the sort. People think its hard now, and for some it is with no jobs or food, but this is not a depression like those times."
Times were tough then, and work was tougher. Headings' father was a dairyman, and Earl followed suit in the farming industry for 30 years. In 1939 he began managing a 200-acre fruit orchard in Merced, where he worked until he joined the Operating Engineers Union in 1962, at the age of 50.
He was proud to have been part of the dredger crew that dug the Sacramento Deep Water Channel, the San Mateo Dam, and work at Syar Industries as a mechanic until he retired in 1979.
Mr. Headings has been a Dixon resident since 1959, and has lived independently until about a year ago when he moved into assisted living. He has three children and has survived three long marriages, two of more than 25 years.
Although his children and grandchildren are in Oregon, Modesto and Los Osos, he is happy that he speaks to each of them weekly. He says he is most blessed by his best friend, Cindy Hilton, a long time Dixon resident who was once his neighbor.
"Cindy is the greatest, the best there is; my lucky day was when she crossed my path. Even though she has her own son and daughter and grand-kids in town, she comes to visit me every week and takes me where I need to go," he goes on, "She always makes sure I always have enough fruit too."
Mr. Headings says he loves to get out of his home any chance he gets, adding, "Cindy took me to the celebration; she has a pretty neat car."
Hilton drives a stealthy Camaro with racing stripes, and Mr. Headings looks forward to his weekly visits so he can take a ride in it. She says, "He's pretty cute riding in the passenger seat with his sunglasses on."
One could really learn a lot from someone who has lived as long as Mr. Earl Headings. In 100 years he remembers the first time he saw a car, or "buggie without a horse" as he called it, and an airplane that had a manual propeller to start.
He has lived through 18 different presidents, the Great Depression, Prohibition, two World Wars and multiple civil rights movements. When he was born there were only 46 states. He's seen the development of phones, televisions, everyday appliances, stop lights, indoor plumbing, supermarkets, fast food, and so much more.
In 1912, the average annual income was $1,000 per year. It would cost 5 cents for a loaf of bread, 9 cents for a gallon of milk, and the median house price was $2,700.
Mr. Headings says it was nice to have been acknowledged for being 100 years old, and can't wait until next year when he'll be celebrating 101 years.