Centenarian visits Rosedell students to mark 100th day of class

Wilbur Vidito, 100 speaks to a classroom full of kindergarteners and first graders at Rosedell Elementary School in Saugus Monday afternoon. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

To celebrate their 100th day of school, students of Rosedell Elementary School gathered Monday for a discussion with a local 100-year-old resident.

As somebody who grew up in a rural area of Indiana during The Great Depression, Wilbur Vidito said Monday that he had a perspective on life that most children today wouldn’t understand, but that didn’t stop him from sharing childhood stories about movie tickets costing as little as 10 cents or how he had to go to a spring to fetch drinking water.

“We didn’t have lights, but we did have lamps,” Vidito said to a roomful of kindergartners and first-graders, adding that meant there was also no television in his household, “and we didn’t even have a radio. Times were hard. We had a big depression that you don’t know much about,” he said.

People got around in horse-drawn buggies for most of his childhood, but when Vidito’s family finally bought their first car, his dad wasn’t able to drive so his brothers provided the transportation.

“We had to cut wood to keep warm,” Vidito added, before moving on to discuss his education and passion for singing.

“When we’d stay home from school, mom would tie a rag around my neck, and she’d put some turpentine around it,” Vidito said as the adults in the room recalled the stench of the home remedy.

Playing games

He explained how he preferred baseball over football, and that he and his friends played marbles at every opportunity.

Most of the children in attendance shared the sentiment and began shouting — because Vidito is hard of hearing — the games they currently enjoy with their friends at recess.

Vidito said his family didn’t have a lot of toys or board games during his childhood, a statement the children were shocked to hear.

During winter, Vidito said, he and his friends would pour water on the sidewalk and wait for it to freeze before taking turns sliding down the sidewalk. The Navy veteran also remembered crafting a scooter from an old pair of skates and a plank of wood.

His favorite childhood food “was anything you could eat,” Vidito said, jokingly referring to realities of The Great Depression.

Before his time with the children ended, Vidito shared that he had always enjoyed singing but said he was too old to carry a note anymore.

However, at the behest of the students, Vidito recalled some lyrical tunes from his past and burst into song.

“It’s been fun,” he said at the conclusion of the visit before receiving a round of high-fives from children who are nearly 20 times younger than him.

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