Ruth Reeves celebrates 100th birthday, remembers Christmas past

Ruth Reeves. almost 100-years-old, poses in front of her collection of family photographs at her home in Weiser. Each year, her family visits at her property to see her and celebrate the Fourth of July. Photo by Philip A. Janquart

Picture above is the family of Ruth Reeves who gathered last Fourth of July at Ruth’s home in Weiser. The group includes most of her family minus those who were unable to attend. The gathering is an annual event. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
Ruth Reeves isn’t your typical centenarian.
 She still cleans her own house and drives her 1990 Mercury Grand Marquis to places like the dentist or to get her hair done. 
 If you didn’t know better, you might guess her to be around 80-years-old or so. But, amazingly, Reeves turns 100 this week, on Nov. 24, 2023, the day after Thanksgiving.
 “Well, I don’t seem a hundred to me, either,” she chuckled when told she doesn’t look her age. “I just can’t believe it; I didn’t expect to be here this long. I didn’t expect to make it to the new millennium.”
 Ruth was born in a farmhouse out on the Weiser Flat, near what is today Olds Ferry and Jonathan roads. In those days, what were gravel farm routes where not yet named.
 “The doctor came out there, I guess,” she said of her birth. “I don’t know much about it. My mom didn’t talk much; they just didn’t talk about the past, I guess, because they were busy raising kids, and then the Depression came along and that was a big worry – it was hard.”
 There are many stories about poor families that didn’t have enough to eat during the era, but the Miller family didn’t go hungry. 
 There was no indoor plumbing or electricity, and material possessions were far and few between, but they ate well, living on a 40-acre farm where they grew vegetables and slaughtered animals.
 “We never went without food because we did everything on the farm,” said Ruth who grew up with two brothers and three sisters. “We butchered our own pigs and cows. We had our own milk; we had a separator that separated the cream from the milk and we sold the cream. People have those separators now just to show off because they’re ancient. We didn’t churn butter; we bought the butter when we sold the cream.”
 Ruth said they had an outhouse and that it was the kids’ job to bring buckets of water into the house from the well.  
 There was no phone and if someone needed to make a call, they used the neighbor’s phone, about a quarter of a mile down the road.
 Clothes were handmade.
 “My mom made it all,” said Ruth who was number five in the pecking order. “If you didn’t wear it out, the next kid down got it. I can remember one (a dress) she made for me that hadn’t been worn by anyone else, so it was new for me, and I thought it was the prettiest thing.”
 They washed their clothes by filling up a big tub, which they heated up, though her parents later procured an early model electric washing machine.
 “When we got electricity, it was wonderful,” Ruth recalls. “The first electricity we got was just something like a wire that came down from the middle of the ceiling with a bare bulb, and then there was a string on it that you could pull and turn it on and turn it off … Oh, my goodness, that was such a long time ago.”
 The home was partially heated by the wood-burning kitchen stove and by a coal-burning stove located in the living room.
 Some Christmases, Ruth said, were almost just another day.
 “There were years where we didn’t get anything,” she explained. “There was a school board for Central School and another for Hale. We were pretty individualistic as far as schools were concerned, although we were part of the county. But every Christmas we would have a play the kids would put on. The teachers were responsible for that. Then they would give us a sack of candy and that was all we got for Christmas.”
 But it was a big deal for farm kids who did not often get to enjoy the taste of sweets. In addition to the candy, there was something even more cherished inside the sack.
 “There was always an orange; that was the real treat,” Ruth said. “That was the only orange we had all year.”
 Ruth attended Central School, which no longer exists, before transferring to Weiser High School which was located on the property where Weiser Middle School now stands.  
 Following graduation, she attended a college in McPherson, Kan. associated with her church in Weiser, The Church of the Brethren.
 There she met her husband Harry, a minister, and the two would marry, ultimately moving to Chicago where she attended Bethany Theological Seminary where she majored in philosophy and religion, and earned her teaching certificate.
Harry had a ministerial exemption during World War II.
 “When we were back in McPherson, boy there just weren’t any men,” Ruth said. “We had mostly ladies and just a few men left. I would read the paper to find out what was happening over there.”
 The couple eventually moved back to Idaho, first landing in Emmett and then Weiser.
 Ruth gave birth to four boys and once they were all in school, she began teaching, retiring in 1986, having taught everything from P.E. and English to social studies and government over a 30-year career.  
 She also gave piano lessons.
 Harry passed away of a heart attack in 1990 at 68. Ruth never remarried.
 “I figured I didn’t have enough time left to train another fella,” she said smiling.
 With her kids now grown and living by herself, Ruth began volunteering while continuing to offer piano lessons.
 “I’m not one who can’t stand being alone,” she said. “I do Ok; these years haven’t been too bad. You just keep yourself busy.”
 When asked what was the best time of her life, she intimated that it was when her family was still young, a time most people tend to take for granted.
 “When you are young, you’re so busy raising kids, you don’t have time to think,” she said. “And then when they get into school, you are still involved in everything they do.”
 Her kids visit regularly and the entire family, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, gathers annually at her house on County Road 70 to celebrate the Fourth of July.
 “Sometimes I think, ‘Well you sure blew it there,’ or ‘I wish I could have been a better mother,’” she said when asked if she has any regrets. “Sometimes I think I wish I hadn’t said that or had made a different decision here or there, but my kids turned out fine in spite of me,” she said, laughing. “They all have good jobs and they’ve all been a credit to there communities and their kids are doing fine, too.”


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

Connect with Us