LEWISTON, Idaho A celebration at Webster Elementary School was extra special this year, thanks to a visit from a 100-year-old woman.
Mary Ruddy, an energetic centenarian who's wintering in Clarkston, shared tales of the early 1900s and read a story to the Lewiston children. They were fascinated to hear she grew up without cell phones, computers or video games and sometimes rode to school in a buggy.
"It was awesome," said Patience Rose, 6. "I really liked her. I wish we got to ride horses to school."
Ruddy is spending several months in Clarkston with her daughter and son-in-law, Georgia and Craig Lenzmeier, before she heads home to Wahpeton, N.D., where she still lives on the family farm. Georgia is a counselor at Clarkston High School, and Craig is an administrator at the Lewiston School District and a former Webster principal.
Wearing necklaces made of 100 Fruit Loops and special 100th-day-of-school hats, the 20 kids in Melinda Genoway's class paid close attention as Ruddy talked about her school days in North Dakota farm country.
"Two people sat in a seat, and we couldn't even whisper. That was a no-no," Ruddy said. "Sometimes when they didn't need the horses in the field, we'd take the horse and buggy to school. We brought a grain sack with hay for the horse to eat during the day. That was his lunch."
The kids wanted to know the color of the horse and his name. Turns out he was reddish in hue and went by "Tootsie," a giggle-inducing moniker. He spent the day in a barn attached to the one-room country school.
"Did you have a saddle or hang onto his neck?" asked a boy.
"We didn't use a saddle. I sure hung onto his neck when he jumped across streams. That was fun."
Ruddy said when Tootsie wasn't available, she didn't mind the three-mile hike to school. She and her siblings would walk, then run, then walk and run again. In the spring, they enjoyed the wildflowers along the route -- daffodils, crocus, buttercups and violets.
"We didn't fight. We just really had fun. We played a lot of running games. In the eighth grade, the high school didn't have enough boys for the baseball team, so my sister, who was in seventh-grade, and I played on the boys team. I'm talking about hardball, not softball."
At Christmas, Ruddy recalls getting up at 5 a.m. to find her gift, a blue plate with white swirls. "All we got was a plate with nuts and candy. We were happy. We didn't have candy every day."
Times have sure changed, Ruddy said, explaining how people used to start their cars with a hand crank. "You had to put a lever down so the spark plugs would make contact. I didn't do that once, and the car kicked backwards and broke my arm."
Ruddy is the mother of six, giving birth to five boys before Georgia came along. The former hairdresser lives on the "Montreal Farm," which was homesteaded by her late husband's family 1882.
"She has always been a happy, positive person," Georgia said. "I think that's why she's lived to be 100, because she's so happy."
In excellent health, Ruddy loves to play cards and keep up on current events. She turns 101 on March 27 and plans to return to Webster to party with the kids.
"I will come back so you can sing to me," she told the kindergartners.
Sandaine may be contacted at kerrislmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264.
To see more of The Lewiston Morning Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.lmtribune.com.
(c) 2011, The Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.