HAVING spent more than half her life in Portland, Ruby Smith reached her 100th year on Monday, which she celebrated with friends and family.
Despite her long involvement with Portland through regular holidays and visits to relatives, Mrs Smith started her life in Melbourne.
Born and raised in the suburb of Preston, to Edward and Margaret Sharman, Ruby was the sixth of nine children and had five brothers and three sisters.
Educated at South Preston State School, she left school at the age of 14.
“The day I turned 14 was the day I left school,” Mrs Smith said.
“All the other girls I went to school with were 12 months older than me and they left me behind, so I signed my mum’s name on a letter for permission and got out.”
She had plenty of practice signing her mother’s name, because her mother wasn’t good at writing and often had Ruby help her write letters and sign them for her.
However, her mother wasn’t disappointed by her early exit. “She said ‘Good, you can help me’.”
Young Ruby spent much of her early life helping people, starting from the first meal she cooked at the age of seven — lamb chops and mashed potatoes — to washing and ironing for her brothers.
“I worked damn hard,” Mrs Smith said. “I wasn’t allowed to get a job, I had to stay home and look after my brothers.
“My sister and I spent two-and-a-half hours ironing every week. When she left I had to do it all myself.”
While she has a younger sister, circumstances had changed enough that, by the time she left home, her sister didn’t have to take over.
“All I know is how to look after people, and I still do,” Mrs Smith said.
Read more in Friday’s edition of the Portland Observer.