Arta Booth and Marie Hobbs are both celebrating their 106th birthday this month at Pueblo Villa, a senior living community on Pueblo's northside.
Booth grew up on a farm near Rocky Ford. She recalls helping her sister and brother with family chores, like milking cows and gathering eggs. Her childhood friend was a cow named Spotty. "When it was time for them to come home out of the pasture, I'd just say 'Spotty, let's go home.' She'd go right over to the fence and I'd step on her back and ride her home. She'd go, 'Moo' and all of the rest of them would follow her," says Booth.
Booth's father died of pneumonia when she was 6. His dying wish was for her mother to sell the farm and move them into town. They arrived in Pueblo when Booth was in seventh grade.
She also remembers seeing her first automobile, and says she didn't trust them. "I'd rather ride a cow or a horse," says Booth.
After graduating from Centennial High School, Booth immediately started looking for a job. The first one she tried was at a shoe store. But that wasn't for her, and so she found another just down the street at a jewelry store.
Booth recalls the first time she was sent to Denver to purchase merchandise to sell in the Pueblo store. "I said, 'Oh I can't go up there.' And they said, 'Oh yes you can!' I said, 'I've never been to Denver.' It scared me just to think about it," says Booth.
But her fears vanished when she arrived. Struck by the beauty and vast size of the city and the store where the merchandise was, she quickly started selecting pieces she thought would sell in Pueblo.
On another trip to La Junta, the manager asked for her watch. She gave it to him without a second thought. Later that day he gave it back to her with a few new additions. Two small diamonds were set into its face. She's worn it ever since.
Booth married a banker and had two children, both of which are still alive today. Her daughter is 79 years old, in good health, and was at her mother's birthday party.
Still, all is not roses at 106. Unable to walk on her own, for fear she will fall and break a hip, she’s bound to a wheel chair. She misses walking everywhere, and the independence she once had. "When you get old you can't do all the things you used to do," says Booth.
As for the inevitable yearly ritual of celebrating her birth, well, she's decided to simply forego them. "I quit having them," says Booth, even if she knows that's not possible. "It happens to you, you know, whether you want to or not."
Booth's friend, Marie Hobbs, is not in as good of shape as Arta. Many days, she's unable to answer questions intelligibly, while other days a sly grin tells you she knows exactly what's going on.
Marie was feisty on Thursday, as she waited for the party to begin. Smiling and spreading joy as she has for so many years.
Hobbs came to Pueblo after finishing a teaching school and Business College in West Virginia. She worked at the Pueblo Race Track for 45 years. She was also instrumental in the opening of a gift shop at Parkview Hospital in 1961, where she also volunteered as treasurer for 35 years.
Booth and Hobbs are simple women who've lived extraordinary lives. They've survived the Great Depression, and witnessed two world wars. They've seen technology skyrocket, even if they don't really care we've landed on the moon. "Oh I heard about it, but I don't pay much attention to that," says Booth.
Much of the present day bells and whistles are lost on Booth and Hobbs. A trip to the movies for instance is not something Arta looks forward to, nor has she ever. "I didn't really care for it. It was beyond me, I really didn't enjoy it at all," says Booth.
Instead, she'd rather just go back to the farm, and live out the rest of her life in the quiet freedom it provides, surrounded by family and friends.