In 1916, a loaf of bread cost 8 cents, a U.S. postage stamp was 2 cents, and a movie ticket 7 cents.

Woodrow Wilson was president, Frederic Boothby was mayor of Waterville, the Waterville Country Club opened, and on July 12 of that year, Lottie Mae Flagg was born.

She was third-oldest of what would be a family of five children — two boys and three girls. They had a farm on Oakland Road, now Kennedy Memorial Drive.

“My father used to drive the school bus. He had horses and a wagon. He drove about 10 kids to South Grammar School in the covered wagon. He used to go down on Water Street, to the drugstore, to get a couple of drinks and the horses got tired of waiting. They drove themselves home to Oakland Road.”

Lottie, whose last name now is Boutin, smiles mischievously as she tells this story, sitting in the parlor at Woodlands Senior Living, an assisted living center on West River Road in Waterville, surrounded by family and friends who have come to celebrate her 100th birthday.

She is spiffed up for the occasion, her white hair curled, silver necklace dangling over a pretty blue-and-white floral print blouse, white slacks and new white sneakers. Her skin is pearly white and smooth; her eyes, now nearly blind from macular degeneration, are hazel.

“I helped my mother. I used to clean the house for her. She had so much cooking to do. I moved to Winslow when I was 8 years old, to live with Aunt Edith and Uncle Charlie. They had no kids and my mother was so busy. I graduated Winslow High School in 1934.”

In 1935, Lottie married Perley Butler, who worked as a janitor at South Grammar School. They had three boys — Bernie, now 79, of Sidney; Bob, 78, of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa; and Jon, 72, of Smithfield.

At her party, the men, their cousin, Donna Lee, of Fairfield, and cousin Bill Flagg, of Granville, Massachusetts, all gather around Lottie and tell stories, as she waits to go outside for her birthday party.

They produce a large gold-framed photograph of Lottie when she was 3, smiling, in her page-boy haircut, button-down shoes and long white dress.

“I remember those shoes, black-and-white patent leather,” she says. “I was so proud of those shoes.”

Bob notes that while his mother cannot see or hear well, she maintains a quick wit.

“The last time I was here, last fall, she said she had her golf shoes on,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Those aren’t golf shoes.’ and she said, ‘I got a hole in one.'”

They all laugh, but Lottie says that she, indeed, had a tiny hole in one of her shoes at the time.

She talks about working at Diamond Match Co. in Oakland when she was a young woman.

“I sawed toothpicks. I did different jobs. It was a hard place to work. You could never do enough. No matter how much you did, they always wanted more. I was there 15 years.”

After that, she stayed home to raise the boys. Her sons say she was a good mother, worked hard and was always on an even keel, even when they would kick each other under the supper table and start quarrels.

“Coming home from school, she always had pastry, cookies, for us,” Jon says. “We always sat down as a family and had a meal. We always ate good.”

Their father died in 1963, and Lottie later married Mike Boutin, who also died, 25 years ago. Until five years ago, when she moved to Woodlands, she lived alone in her house, where she did all her cooking, cleaning and shopping and walked 2 miles a day. She now uses a walker.

“I feel pretty good,” she says. “I’ve fallen down three times. My bones just gave out, I guess. I broke a hip and cracked my pelvis. Otherwise than that, I’m pretty good.”

We move outside, to a cool spot under a grove of trees at Woodlands, where several antique cars have arrived for the birthday party. They include Bernie’s black two-door 1936 Ford sedan; a 1924 Model T Ford woody station wagon driven by Peter Reny, of Vassalboro; a red 1916 Series 17 Studebaker, owned by Rick and Anne Fischer, of South China, and brought specifically because it is from the same year Lottie was born; a two-toned, tan 1977 limited edition AMC Matador owned by Red Giroux, of Fairfield; and a 1929 Model A Ford Woody owned by Dan Parks, of Clinton.

About 40 people are sitting under the trees, where a large marble birthday cake and ice cream await. Lottie, like Queen for a Day, sits among the group, wearing dark glasses and smiling. She then gets a special visit from the mayor of Waterville, Nick Isgro, who presents her with a certificate and a gold painted cane crafted by her son, Bernie, and bearing her name and the seal of the city.

She beams and people snap photographs.

“I get my picture taken with a celebrity today,” Isgro quips.

As the group eats cake and ice cream, Isgro, 35, tells me that as a high school student he spent time at Woodlands with a man who had had a stroke and no longer could write. Isgro would read aloud letters to the man that friends had written him, and then the man would dictate letters and Isgro would write back to them.

People like that man, and Lottie, who have experienced so much in their long lives, are to be held in high esteem, according to Isgro.

“In our society, we spend a lot of time focusing on the youth, and that’s good and worthy,” he said. “But we need to pay a lot more attention to our elderly population than we do. There’s so much value there and it’s a resource you can’t put a value on. These are the people who built the communities we live in today. We should have tremendous respect, and honor that.”

Indeed. I couldn’t have said it better myself, mayor.

And to you, Lottie Mae, a very happy 100th.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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