As the saying goes, “You’re only as old as you feel,” and Olivia Gibson is living proof. Ms. Gibson’s granddaughter, Sabrina Thompson, posted the 91-year old’s images on a Facebook page called “Vintage Black Photography.” Within 24 hours, Ms. Gibson’s captivating photographs had garnered 7,500 likes and were shared over 700 times. This true O.G. continues to defy the status quo for a woman her age. She spends time with her friends at the Loyal Leisure Club, drives occasionally  and attends weekly exercise classes (in a matching athletics outfit of course). Olivia Gibson’s flawless image stands out as she continues to face life’s challenges with a smile.

We were grateful to have an opportunity to connect with this gem who has lived through defining historic times such as the Great Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. Here’s a mere tidbit of the wisdom and sage advice buried inside her change purse.

On a Monday afternoon in July, this Southern Belle made time to speak with us about her favorite style moments, her experiences growing up in the south, her thoughts on today’s social matters and everything else in between.

OG 2Photo Credit: Sabrina Thompson

Growing Up In Lucama, NC

I had a normal childhood. I lived on a farm with many animals. We had cows, chickens, pigs, horses and a few goats. I picked cotton, harvested tobacco and I attended Lucama Elementary School and later, Williamson High School. Back then, there were very few buses for African Americans, so my siblings and I walked to school with our lunch pails in hand and placed them by the pop-belly wood heater, when we arrived to school in the winter time. There were fifteen of us – seven girls and five girls lived. One twin girl didn’t make it and the other two died soon after birth. I am the only survivor now.

When we came back home from school, we gathered around to warm our hands and feet after walking in the bitter cold, before starting our school work. Back then, I was a tom-boy. After all, I had many brothers. Also, we didn’t have many toys; maybe a toy wood gun and the girls would have a rag doll Mama made from leftover quilting material. But we were happy.

As a young adult, I enjoyed playing dominoes, checkers, hop-scotch, quilting blankets and clothing with Mama and piecing together jigsaw puzzles. There was no TV, so I liked listening to the radio.

Style Through The Years

When I was younger,  I wore wool ankle length skirts, Brown Buster brown shoes and a wool hat during the winter. I had one dress and skirt of my own, but since there were seven girls, we wore each other’s clothing and I didn’t have to wear the same dress but once a week. I also wore floral and colorful linen skirts (made from grain sacks and sheets), bobby socks and tennis shoes. Sometimes I wore a large ribbon in my hair during the spring and summer. My signature look was a skirt, small jacket and a matching hat with black and white shoes with socks. I was sharp as a tack.
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Photo Credit: Sabrina Thompson

Thoughts on Today’s Political Sphere

I’m very happy and proud of President Barack Obama. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a Black man would take office. Also, in my younger days, I didn’t think that a woman would ever become President of the United States, either. Now that I’m older, I am convinced it will happen. [Please] vote and pray that the best person wins and is a [great] help to us all.

Beauty Talk And Fashion Must Haves

I love Afros and braids because they are so natural. I don’t like Blonde hair on African Americans as much as the natural dark brown, black and gray colors.

The old pieces of jewelry that I wore during the fifties, I still wear today, such as my pearls, black dresses, and my hats, which always coordinates with my dress and shoes. I wore short leather coats and still do. I also wore stoles sparingly because I couldn’t afford them, but I loved them. My mother-in-law who passed away, left me hers.

Leather, cotton or wool gloves are welcomed during the winter. I love to wear tennis shoes of all colors, but they have to match my exercise attire, because I look sporty. I also love wearing my White Linen perfume and Youth Dew [by Estée Lauder]. I get a lot of compliments when I wear that perfume.

Timeless Tips For Ladies

Be nice, trust in God and never cross your legs in public. My mother said it doesn’t look nice. Miniskirts and shorty shorts – everyone cannot wear them. Consider your body size. Pants, on the other hand, are nice and comfortable.

#TechTalk and Entertainment

I used to love listening to old timey music on the radio, dancing to the High Waltz at school and at a few dance clubs during my youth. I remember watching I Love Lucy on a black and white television that only had three channels and watching movies at the drive-in with my friends and family. Nowadays. I love my color HD widescreen TV, which has 200 channels and more. I watch Dancing With The Stars, The Price is Right, Let’s Make A Deal and Lifetime Movie Network. Oh yeah, my cell phone and hearing aid are the greatest inventions to me.

Tips On Living A Fulfilled Life

Love everybody and have a good set of girlfriends. When I had my hip surgery, I was away from the home for three months and when I came back, my friends were yelling and hollering. That made me feel good.

It’s A Hard Knock Life

My most difficult life experience was during World War II because everything was very expensive. Sugar was hard to come by. [It] cost five dollars for a pound or less. Also, sharecroppers were paid once a year in the fall, after the crops were harvested and tobacco was sold. Some clothing and tobacco were purchased or placed on time payment, until the spring or [until] next harvest time. That’s when the account was paid from your earnings from the tobacco and corn. Once the owed account was paid off, then the account was re-opened for the next year. Very little pocket money was available. However, we did not [struggle] to find food. We lived from the livestock (cows, chicken and pigs). [We also ate] dry beans, peas, canned/jarred vegetables and fruit (preserves, jellies and dried fruits). Also, we didn’t have to purchase [much] except for staples like flour, molasses and some medicine for colds.

That period of my life taught me the importance of spending money wisely, to make do with what you had, never waste food and to be thankful for what you had.

A Message To Gibson’s Twenty Year Old Self

After graduating from high school after my third year (11th grade was the highest grade at the time), I decided to travel north to the District of Columbia/Virginia area to find a good job to support myself and I did. I worked at the Pentagon and roomed with my oldest sister until I got homesick. I returned home, fell in love and got married.

Favorite Scripture

Psalms 23

Gibson’s Hope For Her Grandchildren

My hope for my 23 grandchildren and great grandchildren is that [they] all graduate from high school, attend a school of higher learning and work hard to support themselves and their families one day.

Happiest Moments

Attending the Senior Citizens Club, meeting (better known as the Loyal Leisure Club) and talking with my fellow club members and exercising with the group.

Thoughts On Social Media Social Media

Be careful of what you say.

Favorite Saying

Whenever there is a disagreement, I prefer not to get involved. But, I will say, “My name is Bess and I ain’t in this mess!”

Being a great mother, grandmother and friend, gathering everyone together for family reunions and loving everyone.