Don’t be fooled when Cordova Bay’s Bill Noble talks about making radios with peanut tubes. The former radio and phonograph salesman may have celebrated his 100th birthday on Aug. 23, but also has a computer and still keeps up with the latest news in technology.
“As a kid, I was always interested in radio,” he says, about what was high tech at the time. “It was the coming thing.”
Remarkably, for a man who was born while Sir. Wilfrid Laurier was still Prime Minister of Canada, Noble lives independently with minimal home care support. Should he pass his renewal exam, Noble will also retain his driver’s licence and continue to drive to take his wife Kay out for dinner.
To celebrate the big day, Noble’s longtime neighbour Gwen MacPherson organized a surprise party.
“He couldn’t believe it,” MacPherson said of the party attended by friends and his two stepsons. “He loves the neighbours and he loves to party.”
Sitting in his easy chair in his living room, Noble smiles at all of the recognition.
He has a binder of congratulatory certificates, including ones from the Queen and the Prime Minister.
Nearby, there are an assortment of flowers and cards. However, the bouquet from the local pharmacy is a little odd, Noble says, given that he takes no medications.
“I’ve been really very lucky and I realize it,” Noble says. “I never felt that I was getting old until I reached 100, then everybody started telling me.”
Noble explains that his love of music and radio led him to move from Vancouver to Prince Rupert to sell RCA/Victor radios in 1940. He later opened Noble’s record, radio and phonograph stores in Prince Rupert and Terrace before relocating to Cordova Bay to be closer to his parents. His father, George Holmes Noble, is the son of pioneering Oak Bay dairy farmers.
In his home, a walker parked beside his chair and a hearing aid are some of the few signs of his age.
But get him talking, and the tales testify to a time gone by. He recalls driving a Studebaker from Vancouver to Florida in 1928 – Texas was the worst, Noble says, with only 10 miles of blacktop on either side of Houston.
There is also his pocket camera, still in pristine condition, which he’s carried with him since the 1930s when he bought it for 25 cents.
As a boy, he would play on the beach in Cordova Bay during family visits to what, in the 1920s, was primarily a summer vacation area. When he returned to Cordova Bay in the spring of 1967, he was with his first wife Evelyn and son Stewart, both of whom have passed.
Noble, an only child, is the last surviving member of his father’s bloodline. The family name will end with him, despite a history of long lives.
Each of his father’s nine siblings all lived into their 90s, with George making it until just two weeks short of his 104th birthday. Even Noble’s dog Rex lived until he was 23, Noble says with a grin.
“It’s in the genes. I don’t even know what the genes are,” he says. “I keep being told I have the right genes, so I’ll accept that.”
Noble shies away from dispensing any advice or words of wisdom on his long life.
“My mind is an enquiring mind,” he says. “I just know how darn lucky I am.”