When she was born in 1911, only 8 percent of homes in the United States had a telephone. There were only 8,000 cars on the road and the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school and the average life expectancy for men in the United States was 50.9 years, while women’s life expectancy was averaging 54.4 years.
But no one ever said Aline Trotter Gobble, (better known as “Momma Pete”) was your average person. Born and raised in Cleveland as an only child, Gobble said her earliest memory was around the age of 7 when the streets of Cleveland were filled with people celebrating what was called “Armistice Day.”
“It was Nov. 11, 1918, and all the whistles were blowing and bells were ringing — people were milling around, hollering, singing and dancing,” Gobble recalled. “Ocoee Street wasn’t even paved at the time. I guess I remember that so well because of all the racket that was going on.”
That “racket” marked the historic day the Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany in France at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, bringing World War I to a close. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919. After World War II, however, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both world wars. Then in 1954, the United States designated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.
Although she was petite, Gobble and her parents, Jess and Nora Trotter, survived the world’s deadliest influenza pandemic of 1918-19 that killed some 20 to 50 million people worldwide over the course of two years. She attended the old central grammar school on Spring Street where the old armory used to be.
“We walked to school back then,” Gobble said. “There were no buses and no cars to amount to anything. You had to walk. I went to Bradley High (School). Back then Cleveland was like Mayberry. Everybody knew everybody.”
It was during her academic years that Gobble became better acquainted with her soon-to-be boyfriend, Lewis. She said she remembers Lewis riding a mule to grammar school some five miles away.
“The back of our houses faced each other,” she said. “I knew him in school. He was a nice boy.”
Gobble said when they became teenagers, Lewis had a paper route and every morning as he rode his bicycle past her house he would ring his bell and wake her up.
Gobble said she discontinued high school courses and started attending Mountain City Business College in Chattanooga, taking a business course.
“At the time, Highway 11 wasn’t even there,” Gobble said. They were working on it. They were cutting through White Oak mountain at the time to build Highway 11. Before that we had to go down to Chattanooga Pike on a dirt road to get to Chattanooga. It took two hours. Later I went to Centenary College (in Cleveland) to attend business school.”
In 1930, during the Great Depression, Aline became Mrs. Lewis Gobble. The Cleveland couple had to figure out how to make a living when millions of Americans were out of work. So they decided to move to Hamilton County.
“We weren’t there very long,” she said. “My husband was working in Chattanooga at Southern Dairies. Back then it took two hours to get from Cleveland to Chattanooga. We moved to Chattanooga one day and the very next day after we moved, the man Lewis was working for asked if we had already moved. He told him yes, and the man told him he’s going to have to lay him off. That was during the Depression.”
Determined to make it, the couple dug in and worked their way out of the Depression era, as many families did, and found themselves in a position to make a life-changing move.
“Lewis and I bought our house in 1950 and I’ve been there for 62 years,” Gobble said. “We were living in a rented house for $35 a month and the man went up to $50. That made my husband mad. So he bought our house without ever looking at it. It’s a nice little house with three bedrooms — good neighbors. We paid $11,500 for it. Our payments were $85 a month.”
Gobble said she worked as a proofreader at a defunct “little newspaper that didn’t amount to much” and as a bookkeeper for American Uniform Credit Union, which was her last job in 1964.
Although the Cleveland couple saw some hard times, the Gobbles were hardworking, family-oriented people who enjoyed their two children, Ted and Dolores. Lewis became the owner of Gobble Supply Company in Cleveland. Photos of the family’s fond memories are still on display at Gobble’s Automotive on North Lee Highway in Cleveland.
To this day, Gobble said she is most proud of her children, adding, “They’re both good children — never had any problem with them. They married good people so I also have good in-laws! That’s a blessing. I’m proud of my six grandchildren and my 11 great-grandchildren too.”
The fact that the Gobble family is known for their peaceful relationships, composure, great sense of humor, laughter and love for God — makes their popular phrase: “Why squabble, depend on Gobble,” more than a company slogan, but a way of life that can be traced back to Aline and Lewis Gobble. He created the phrase.
“He was a good man. He was good to me, good to his children and a good worker,” Gobble said. “We had a good life. We didn’t have any problems.”
After Lewis suffered a stroke at the age of 38, followed by another one two years later, Gobble said her husband had a series of mini strokes for years afterward.
“He’d be able to back to work, but he’d have a little stroke and they had to bring him home,” she said.
After spending time in a nursing home, Gobble brought her husband home and cared for him until he died at the age of 65 in 1975. According to the lighthearted centenarian, on particular change in society has proven to be the most surprising and disappointing in her lifetime.
“The biggest change is the morals in this country,” Gobble said. “The things some parents do to their children is just awful. You can hardly let children out to play. Plus, I didn’t run around on my husband and he didn’t run around on me. We loved each other and we loved our children.”
When asked what she attributes her long life and unfading beauty to, Gobble laughed and said, “Genes, I guess. My mother lived to be 100 and six months. Her mother lived to be 95. That’s all I can tell you, other than plain old country eating — corn bread, pinto beans, potatoes and corn.”
A member of the Central Church of Christ in Cleveland, Gobble said she has been blessed with uninterrupted peaceful relationships among family and friends from her childhood until the present.
When she was a child, Gobble had a best friend — LaVerne Slaughter. Little did they know that their future children would grow up, fall in love and get married without their intervention or help. It is that kind of social tapestry concealed in the treasured lives of friends and families that has made the Gobbles a staple in the Cleveland community — thanks, in part, to the pleasing personality and example set by family matriarch Aline (Momma Pete) Gobble.
“I just want people to remember me as a good person who loved her family, loved the Lord and loved to laugh,” she said with a girlish smile that has charmed family and friends for more than 100 years.