Benefits of clean living
If you want to get Lola Hill worked up, start talking about Bermuda’s roads.
She’s often irritated by the “precarious” speed of traffic.
Overhanging trees and bushes in need of a trim are of particular annoyance.
Even with two jobs and seven children, her Devonshire home was spotless.
“I never could abide a messy house,” the 96-year-old said. “There were never any dishes left in my sink the next morning, oh no!”
Shahidah Salaam said her mother was always “strict”.
There would be trouble if she came home and found chores undone. Beds had to be made when they got up; no one left the house with a wrinkle on their clothing.
Perhaps it’s because she spent so much time cleaning for others.
She began working in Fairylands, age 13, pedalling to the Pembroke neighbourhood from her home near Devonshire Dock. She spent 27 years at the Hamilton Princess; at the end of the day she’d head to her second job, a dry cleaner near her home.
Mrs Salaam thinks her mother would still be working if she and her siblings had not stepped in.
“She worked at the Hamilton Princess until she was 70,” she said. “Then one of my brothers, on her birthday, said that was it. She wasn’t going back.”
Mrs Hill insisted she’d been happy doing the work.
“They treated me well there,” she said. “I never had any problems. I’d have my allocation of rooms to clean every day, I don’t remember how many. Some of the guests were very messy, but I never encountered a room I couldn’t cope with.”
Today she’s wheelchair-bound so she doesn’t get to do much “tidying up”. The grumbling starts when her daughter take her out for a ride.
“Why doesn’t government clean up these hedges?” she wonders.
Many senior citizens swear by daily exercise, Mrs Hill was baffled by the idea. She thinks her longevity is likely due to clean living: she has never smoked or drunk.
“Exercise? No, I never did that. I think I’ve lived to be my age because I’ve treated myself right.”
Other than some memory and mobility issues, she is in good health. The only medication she’s on is for high blood pressure.
“I feel good,” she said. “I don’t feel like I am in any pain or anything like that. I am okay.”
It’s likely that genetics has played a part. Her mother, Edith Place, lived into her 90s; a cousin, Leroy Brownlow Place, is 102. One of her sisters just turned 100 and two others are in their 90s.
Mrs Hill isn’t certain whether she wants to live to see a century.
“If I was in good health, sure that would be nice,” she said. “But if I was sick that wouldn’t be so good.”
She was born in 1922, the fifth of ten children.
Her mother was paid to do the laundry for a family, washing everything in a tub by hand.
“I remember she had a glass washboard that she would scrub the clothes on,” Mrs Hill said.
Although her father, Daniel Place, worked at the Bermuda Bakery, her mother made her own bread in a brick oven.
Mrs Hill did the same for Mrs Salaam and her six brothers: Waymond, David, Ibn, Donnie, Keith and Anton. She’d also give to friends and neighbours.
“She doesn’t have a selfish bone in her body,” her daughter said.
Church was an important part of life. Mrs Hill’s parents took the family to services at Grace Methodist Church, St Monica’s Mission Church and The Gospel Church every Sunday.
“My parents just felt that church was what Sundays were about,” she said. “And they felt those churches were all on the same level.”
She married Earl Hill when she was 18. He died from cancer when her three youngest were teenagers, but she soldiered on.
“I just did what had to be done,” she said. “I enjoyed raising my children. It wasn’t hard raising seven. They were good children.”
Today she loves spending time with her 24 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and ten great-great-grandchildren.
“I don’t have favourites,” Mrs Hill said. “I love them all just the same.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them