Hattie Belle Smith has seen a lot of changes in her lifetime. The biggest change she has witnessed, according to Smith, is electricity.
“There wasn’t electricity for miles around,” said Smith, who was born on Oct. 23, 1905 in Almeria, Neb. and raised on a farm with her six siblings. “Everything was dark.”
Smith grew up on the family farm, helping out as needed until her father’s death when she was a teenager. Smith then was trained as a practical nurse and worked at a private hospital.
In the 1920s, she moved to Southern California with her sister. It was the first time she saw the ocean and it amazed her. It was also the first time she experienced an earthquake and she still talks about sleeping in the yard because of the aftershocks.
She worked in Southern California as a private nurse during this time and liked to take the street car to Long Beach and listen to band music on beach. She also attended a few dances, and that’s where she met her husband, Orin.
Orin was a farmer and fiddle player. They were soon married, on July 4, 1946, in Riverside. They moved to Santa Ana and raised chickens.
In 1949, Hattie and Orin moved to Denair and grew peaches on Swanson Road. They lived in a shed that Orin converted to a one-room cabin and Hattie told family members they had to get along because there wasn’t enough room for them to fight. They later moved to a larger home on Gratton Road and planted walnuts and peaches.
Orin retired in 1970 and they moved to Turlock. He passed away in 1973, and Hattie lived in their home until 1999, when she moved to Turlock Residential. She stayed there until July of this year, when she moved to Bel Air Lodge.
The staff and residents of Bel Air Lodge held a party on Wednesday to celebrate Hattie’s upcoming 106th birthday.
When asked for her secret to longevity, Hattie replied: “Ask God. He knows more about it than I do.”
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