101-year-old alum passes driver’s test

LANGLEY, Wash.- Alden Couch, who celebrated his 101st birthday Monday, just passed his Washington state driver’s test and says he did so with flying colors. “I haven’t parallel parked for 10 years and I sailed through it like nothing,” he said recently.

A resident of the Whidbey Island town of Langley, Couch took a birthday drive down to the local senior center, where his friends threw a party for him. After two cakes and a round of dancing, he drove home, where the phone was ringing with birthday wishes.

Were there 101 candles on his cakes?

“No, no, not 101,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’d have had a bonfire if they had that many.”

The “old-fashioned band” that usually plays at the senior center on Fridays switched to Monday in honor of Couch’s birthday.

“I always have a good time,” he said. “I can’t have anything but that” but he allowed that with all the dancing “after a couple of hours you get pooped out.”

The state’s decision to give his father a driver’s test took a lot of pressure off his 64-year-old son, Bill Couch, of Clinton. The son said he sometimes follows his father in his car to make sure his dad is driving safely.

“I feel a lot better about that,” Bill Couch said.

Alden Couch’s new license that he received in the mail a little more than a week ago expires in 2012.

During his recent driver’s test, he admitted he wasn’t bothering to turn on his turn-signal blinker because Whidbey Island is such a rural place. But then noticed the omission was costing him points with the state examiner.

“Every time I didn’t do it, she would write it down,” Couch said. “So I got smart and started signaling.”

During his lifetime, Couch has owned 10 to 15 cars.

He’s a former employee of Puget Power, now Puget Sound Energy, who is 95 years older than the Impala he now owns, which happens to be his all-time favorite car.

“It isn’t the cheapest one in the whole deal, but it’s a good one,” he said.

Couch used to be partial to Oldsmobiles. The first car he drove was an oldie but goodie, Ford’s Model T. It was his parents’ car.

Couch conceded he makes some allowances for his age now by limiting his driving to south Whidbey Island, going only as far as Oak Harbor. He doesn’t like driving in too much traffic.

But he drives around Langley all the time, filling up at the gas station on the highway, heading to the grocery store or dropping by the senior center for lunch and a game of Dominos or bridge. He figures he drives about 7,500 miles per year.

Couch was born in Bismarck, N.D. He moved to Zillah in the Yakima Valley when he was 6. He went to Washington State University before having a career at Puget Power in the Seattle and Bellingham areas.

At 90, he moved to Langley to be near his son, who owns Donna’s truck stop in Arlington. He has grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Snohomish County.