Since sharing this interview, Agewell Fresno staff were saddened to learn of Mrs. Pedreira’s passing on Jan 4, 2018.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fresno County has 83 centenarians, people over the age of 100. At 104, Mrs. Laverne Pedreira may be one of the oldest living persons in Fresno County. Mrs. Pedreira was born in 1913. She grew up in rural Fresno and the closest town was Conejo, a little town that is now just a street. She remembers a train running right through the town. And recalls that there “used to be something going on all the time, lots of entertainment, mostly all rodeos, and a dance hall.” The Portuguese built a dance hall and everyone came; they used to have a Festa there every year. The ladies made pies and cakes, but the men did all the barbecuing.
She grew up in a farming family. Her dad farmed grapes and was a dairyman. He had the first big dairy in Conejo. She used to milk cows all the time, by hand. Everyone had a job on the farm. Her dad was the one who worked the hardest; he built the house, and the barn. The women had to sew the families’ clothes, and cut the patterns out of newspaper.
For fun she used to swim in the canals. She rode horseback to school every chance she had. Weekends were special because they had ice cream. Family members took turns to churn the cream from their cows.
She remembers visiting her grandmother in Fresno. They came to town using a horse and buggy. Then they took the streetcar to Fresno. That was when the streetcars first started to run. She used to go downtown to the stores and look at all the pretty things, but wouldn’t buy anything. “Money was hard to come by.” Sometimes they went to the Fulton movie theaters, it cost 10 cents for a movie. And they would see the same people, pretty much all the time.
She was married with children, when in 1950 her family got their first telephone; a hand crank telephone. Three years later they were the second family in town to get a television.
Her sense of humor is still evident. She recalled the story of an older Italian neighbor who had a smoke house and made wine. When asked if she used to drink wine, she replied, “Yes, I used to drink it. What do you make wine for if you don’t drink it?”
Longevity may be in her genes; her mother lived to 103. However, when she asked if she would share her secret for aging well she replied, “Hard work. I did everything- pick raisins, dry apricots, pick peaches, milk cows.”
Mrs. Pedreira now resides at Sunrise Senior Living, where she remains active. She only stopped going to Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino after she reached her one hundredth and second year. She still remembers traveling to Reno to get to a casino, as casinos weren’t allowed in California. Even now she indulges in her lifelong hobby of painting and drawing. When she has time, she thinks about something she saw that she likes, and she draws it.
When asked to provide wisdom that could be passed down to the next generation she said, “Just be a good person, and do the right thing, but not everybody thinks what you think is right. So what are you going to do? Everyone has a different idea.”