The world looked a little different when Bertha Cosby came into it in 1919.
After four long years of destruction, World War I had finally come to a close. The U.S. Congress ratified the infamous 18th amendment, women activist groups pressured government officials to grant them the right to vote, and the golden age of jazz was still in its preliminary stages, practically bursting at the seams to take the nation by storm. It was into this whirlwind of forward thinking and change that Cosby was born.
The Aubrey resident and recent centenarian celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 2 with friends and family from across the South. Fox 4 News even broadcast a picture of Cosby and wished her well.
“I just couldn’t believe all the attention,” Cosby said, laughing. “Then my granddaughter told me it was because I turned 100, and that made me feel old.”
Cosby, nee Wright, was born a century ago on Antioch Mountain in Arkansas.
“My parents came from Texas,” Cosby said. “When they traveled through Lincoln, everyone was out shouting and celebrating in the streets and the church bells were ringing. They said, ‘What’s going on?’ and everybody said, ‘The war is over!’ That was in 1918. I was born two months later.”
Cosby was her parents’ second child and only daughter. She grew in the heart of Antioch with three brothers and a love of adventure. She was a bit of a tomboy during her formative years, she recalled.
“I didn’t play girl stuff,” Cosby said. “I rode horses, roped calves, climbed trees. I did all sorts of good stuff with my brothers.”
She attended school in a one-room schoolhouse where students of varying ages from eight different grades learned curriculum from a single teacher. Cosby was born during a period of time when technology was booming and new inventions seemed to be springing up every other day, and a few oddities never ceased to monopolize her interest.
“Our neighbor got a washing machine and boy, we thought that was the strangest thing,” she said. “They were such good neighbors that my mother would bring over my brothers’ overalls and pants and wash them, because denim was so hard to wash and hurt your hands. It was a neat thing.”
Cosby’s sun-drenched days spent adventuring around Antioch came to an end when the Wrights decided to move to Lincoln, a decision made in part to better the children’s education.
“When I started school at Lincoln, I realized I didn’t know anything,” Cosby said, laughing. “They almost held me back a year. In Lincoln the schooling was better than in Antioch; they had one teacher per grade. I would memorize lines out of the class reader to trick them into thinking I could read good.”
Despite the toll the one-room schoolhouse took on her early education, Cosby managed to do well at Lincoln. She graduated from high school in 1936 and got married soon after in 1938.
Cosby fell in love with Glynn Cosby, the owner of a local grocery store. He operated the business out of a building owned by Cosby’s grandmother.
“I guess you could say one thing led to another,” Cosby said. “We married on September 3rd, 1938.”
They ran the grocery store together, welcoming their first son – Alfred Glynn – in 1939. The Cosbys would go on to have two more boys, Gerald David, in 1942, and Ronald Lacy, in 1954.
The family owned and operated the grocery store for 20 years. At that point, Cosby said, it became outdated. Although they lived inside the city limits, Glynn owned some land on the outskirts of town.
They decided to build chicken coops on their property. Soon, they dropped the grocery store business altogether and started making their living by raising broilers full-time. It was a booming industry.
“There used to be orchards in that whole country,” Cosby said. “After the chicken business got started, everybody got rid of the orchards. They grew grass, and everybody started raising cattle. There’s no orchards out there now.”
For the next 20 years, Glynn and Cosby raised tens of thousands of chickens. After that, she said, they finally decided to sit down and rest.
“We were old by then,” Cosby said. “And ready to relax.”
Glynn and Cosby relaxed together for another 20 years, enjoying each other’s company right until the turn of the century. Glynn passed away in 1997 at 83 years old, one year after the couple’s first son, Alfred Glynn, died of cancer.
Cosby came to Texas in 2003 to be closer to her family.
“They said I’d be better satisfied in a smaller place,” Cosby said. “And I’ve enjoyed it here.”
She spends her days crocheting and quilting, two hobbies she’s enjoyed her entire life. She also plays dominos at the Aubrey Community Center with her friends.
Longevity is common in Cosby’s family. All of her grandparents lived to be in their 80s or 90s, as did her parents. She said there’s no great secret to her good health.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot,” she said. “Really, it doesn’t sound reasonable, but when my last son was born in 1954, I didn’t have to go to the doctor again until 1999. I went 45 years without having to see a doctor. Believe it or not, but that’s the truth.”
Cosby has three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren she enjoys visiting with, as well as numerous friends and family members in the area. Many of her friends and relatives she hadn’t seen in a long time came into town for her birthday parties, of which there were two.
One party was held at the community center in Aubrey, where Cosby’s close friends surprised her with her favorite meal: pizza and Corona beer.
The second party was at Prairie House in Cross Roads and included friends and family members from out of state. To make sure the party was a surprise, Cosby’s great-grandson told her they would have to go out for dinner because the food they were originally planning to eat had been burned. He suggested Prairie House, to which Crosby replied she would rather have tacos.
It took a lot of finagling to get Cosby to finally agree to Prairie House, but the birthday celebration turned out to be a huge success. Cosby said she was happily surprised.
“I just can’t believe how nice everyone’s been,” she said.
Throughout her lifetime, Cosby has witnessed the world go through a staggering amount of change. It’s been an amazing thing, she said.
“When the radio came out, we would go over to our neighbor’s and lay in the floor and listen,” Cosby said. “Of course, then TV came out and that was great. But what I think of most often – and it’s so simple – is how used to, you bought bread and it wasn’t sliced. They started slicing bread! I can still think how I hated to slice up bread, I always smashed it. That’s what’s always stuck with me, is that bread coming out already sliced.”
For her 100th birthday, Cosby swapped out the sliced bread for sliced pizza and cake, overwhelmed that so many people turned out to surprise her.
“I sure did enjoy it,” she said.