Anyone who watched entertainment reels in the 1930s and '40s might know Viola Smith.
A musical pioneer, she was one of the first female professional drummers, gaining popularity during World War II.
On Friday, her past performances played in black and white on the TV screen at the Piecemakers Country Store in Costa Mesa, where her cousin Marie Kolasinski threw Smith a 99th birthday party.
Smith said she'd only met her cousin a handful of times but that Kolasinski, 90, insisted that she make a stop at the store while in Southern California. With a hand-painted banner at the door, a three-tiered candlelit cake and a live band, Smith had no idea what was waiting for her when she arrived.
"My goodness, what a celebration!" she said as she prepared to blow out the candles. "I cannot believe this."
Growing up in a large family in Mount Calvary, Wis., Smith said all her siblings were encouraged to be musical. Each played the piano and sometimes more than one instrument. The eight sisters also started an orchestra. While most dropped out, Smith and her sister Mildred kept going, starting the 12-piece all-female orchestra, the Coquettes, in the '30s.