100 years of memories: Park Rapids centenarian reflects on changes
When Ruby Pearl Schott was born to Arthur and Edith Maybary three miles west of Ponsford on Christmas Eve in 1917, Ponsford was a booming town with a bank and business district.
In those days, horses were the primary mode of transportation and communication was in person or by mailing a letter with a three-cent stamp.
Cars, paved roads, telephones, television, computers and the internet are just a few of the changes that have happened in Schott's lifetime.
Schott's family moved to Gemmel, Minn. when she was three. In the winter months, her father drove the children to school in a covered wagon. He heated bricks to warm their feet and covered them with blankets to keep warm.
Schott's parents had a small farm, raising chickens and pigs for food and picking and canning wild raspberries to pack in the children's school lunches.They also sold eggs.
Growing up, Schott never had a birthday party because times were hard and her birthday was on Christmas Eve. As a child, she received fruit and candy at Christmas, and one special Christmas a beloved doll was waiting under the tree.
On Christmas Day, they did have a special dinner, hosting for neighbors who lived on a hill above their home.
"The neighbors would ski down the hill to share a meal with them," said Bev Watson, one of Schott's three daughters. She lives in Park Rapids. "Both Ruby and her mother were excellent cooks. They also had a party at school."
Schott returned to Ponsford when she was a teenager so her parents could help take care of her elderly grandfather who served for many years as a Becker County Deputy Sheriff. Her dad was a Justice of the Peace in Ponsford.
Schott and her mother started a restaurant called Ruby's Cafe that specialized in home cooking and pies.
"Ponsford was an up and coming down back then," Schott recalls.
Ice cream was also on the menu.
"All three of us girls loved the ice cream so I think we ate all of the profits from that," Watson said.
Schott's husband, Bob, built the Texaco Station in 1948. The building and sign are still standing today. Ruby helped Bob at the station on Sundays when many people would stop after church for gas and the Sunday paper.
The cabin Schott and her husband owned on Shell Lake was a favorite spot for fishing, family gatherings and "hobo hikes" with the grandchildren.
"Mom would tell them to go into the woods and each cut a stick," Watson recalls. "She would make a lunch for them to put into a bandana that they tied onto their stick. They would put the stick over their shoulder and follow Grandma to a special spot where they would eat their lunch. This was a special time they all remember to this day."
Watson and her sisters made it their mission to make sure their mom had a birthday party every year to make up for the ones she missed as a child.
This year, Schott will have three parties. Watson and her sisters — Barb Harris, who also lives in Park Rapids, and Carolyn Sue Harris of Bemidji — are planning a big celebration open house at Faithbridge Church on Dec. 23, the day before Schott's 100th birthday.
Schott has 23 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and 29 great-great-grandchildren. Many of them will be coming to the party.
"She loves them all," Watson said. "She has been the perfect grandmother, making beautiful Christmas stockings for each member of her family until she could no longer see well enough to continue. Everyone treasures them."
Schott lived at Heritage Manor in Park Rapids until she fell and broke her hip last year. Since then she has been living at Heritage Living Center. She will have a smaller birthday gathering with friends at Heritage on Dec. 24 and another small family party following the Christmas Eve service.
"It is hard to believe that I am almost 100 years old," she said. "I never thought I would live that long."