Celebrating a Century

By Karen Robiscoe   |   May 9, 2019
Infamous belt buckle

Everyone likes a TED talk. You learn something interesting every time you tune in, so it’s little wonder that when the opportunity to hear the Ted talk presents itself, locals listen. Edwin Knowles – better known to Montecito neighbors and friends as “Ted” – is a veritable font of wisdom and charming anecdotes culled over 99 years residing in our beautiful hamlet.

Edwin Knowles is better known as “Ted”

Holding court daily at Pierre Lafond Market & Deli on San Ysidro Road, the soon-to-be centenarian credits his longevity to several factors, the first of which is summed up neatly in his personal motto: “Never hurry, never worry, never overeat.” Add to that his daily quarter mile walk to Lafonds and right away, you have a formula for health and well-being. There’s more to it than that, of course. As Ted himself said: “The exercise is important, but talking to people is, too. I am constantly making new friends. I know everybody up there, really, and they all stop and say hello. Neighbors, business people, and the owners of Pierre’s. They like to come to come up and tell me about their lives.” when asked whether the Montecito Journal is a publication he enjoys while at the coffee spot, Ted’s eyes positively twinkled as he deadpanned: “The seats at the café are metal and cold, so I take about four to five copies of the Journal to sit on to be more comfortable.”  

That’s one way to take a news break! Preferring more personal news, Ted’s proudest accomplishment is his family. “Everyone gets along well in the Knowles family. There’s no jealousy or rivalry.” The father of three girls, Deborah, Nancy, and Barbara – and grandfather several times over – Ted loved sailing to the islands with his wife Mary Virginia back “in the day.” The intrepid sailors even brought along the family pets: Mickey the dog, and Mini Mo the cat (on a boat, not a catamaran, he clarified when I jokingly inquired further). Activities he still enjoys involve the outdoors, as well. “I feed birds. Hummingbirds, songbirds, and wild doves. I put the seed or nectar in the dishes – 2 hanging ones, and one that is suctioned to the window so that when I lie on the davenport, I can watch them come in and eat. I make the nectar myself.”

Edwin Knowles and daughters Deborah, Nancy, and Barbara

A pastime as sweet as his history, Ted remembers his life fondly. Born in 1919 in the barn located at the Knowlwood Tennis Club, with the exception of a few years spent in Oregon, he’s lived in Montecito his entire life. “I spent a good deal of my childhood on East Valley, and my grandfather raised avocados.” A man from whom he learned to grow his own crops, Ted still lives in the house his family helped construct on Pimiento Lane. The family of which he’s so rightfully proud, he wanted me to know a little bit about them, too: “My great grandfather Edwin M. Knowles came to the United States from England in the 1800s. They first lived in Ohio where they discovered a clay in the Ohio river that could be used to make pottery. The Knowles pottery company made a clear porcelain that is now referred to as Lotus Ware. The company was called Knowles China Company, and it grew to be the world’s largest pottery company. The company eventually changed hands, but the pieces are still treasured by the family.”

Curious whether Ted played tennis himself, he was happy to elaborate – and I’m sure – much too modest. “I used to play on the tennis team in college for the University of Idaho, but we weren’t that good. I was studying forestry there until I was drafted. So I returned to Santa Barbara, but the draft rejected me due to an eye condition, and since I had already started working for the post office on Anacapa, I decided to forego the rest of my college years and pursue my postal career. I worked for Special Delivery at the time, and delivered packages with my Model A ford. Gas was just 18 cents a gallon then, and was kept in a glass cylinder rather than a pump.” warming to the topic of his professional life, he went on to say: “I worked for Rod’s Marine after that, for about ten years, varnishing and finishing wood masts, and painting hulls at the boatyard in SB.” 

Edwin Knowles and granddaughter Katherine James

Moving on to more topical matters, I asked Ted to tell me about the best birthday he could remember in a long line of such celebrations, and without hesitation, he responded: “When I got a BB gun for my twelfth birthday. Target practice has been a life-long passion of mine. My dad was a member of a gun club, just as I was when I came of age. I still have medals I won for pistol shooting.” Wondering what his plans for his pending triple digit birthday were, his granddaughter Katherine James chimed in just as immediately, to tell me a family gathering was planned at Manning Park, the same park where a younger Ted learned how to swim. 

Crediting his longevity to genetics, and the daily exercise he loves so much, we wrapped up our discussion with the top item on Ted’s bucket list. “I would like to live as long as my mother in law did – which was 103.” And after spending an enjoyable morning listening to Ted talk – as many of you in the neighborhood have – I could only say: I hope so, too. May we at the Journal be among the first to wish you a happy 100th birthday this May 18, and to echo the age-old song – and many, many, more.


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