Credits ‘slow life’ with her longevity
A St. Rose woman turned 105 this week, making her the oldest person in the parish.
Virginia Harris was born on Jan. 28, 1908 on a plantation that has now been developed into the Bar None Ranch subdivison just east of St. Rose Avenue on River Road.
Harris said it’s amazing how much has changed since she was a girl.
Before modern technology, her family lived a largely agrarian lifestyle, sustaining their life off the land as vegetable farmers and keeping in close contact with their neighbors.
In the time before electricity, indoor plumbing and automobiles were developed, Harris and her family lived a good life.
“Everything is on a fast move now. Back in those days you raised yours at the table,” she said. “Now you go to Winn-Dixie and find that fast food.”
Harris remembers riding in a horse and buggy when she was a little girl, which was her family’s primary way to travel for a time.
“Horse and buggy – that’s all we had. Then when we got a car we were just children – a T Model Ford, that’s what we had.” Harris said. “They was happy to have it.”
It was only after she became an adult that she got a telephone.
“After I grew up I got a telephone. We didn’t know nothing about telephones,” Harris said.
She said the cellular telephone is an indication of a technology that may have been taken too far.
“That telephone is a thing that is killing,” Harris said. “They’ve got that little telephone in their little car and they are talking and driving and kill themselves – that’s the fast life.”
She credits her upbringing in what she calls the “slow life” for her longevity.
“The slow life made me live to 105,” Harris said.
She longs for the way things used to be because she said it caused her to grow up a better person.
“I am blessed by the way my parents trained me up,” Harris said. “I thought it was rough, but I thank them today. That’s the thing that’s carried me through the world.”
The biggest change she said is the way people treat one another.
“Children don’t obey their parents, children are raising their parents when back then the parents were raising the children,” Harris said. “Children can say what they want and eat what want. They also wear what they want.”
Growing up, Harris said she either ate what was served or she went hungry.
She said her family practiced a rigorous discipline that kept them out of trouble.
“When nighttime come we didn’t stay out at night. When evening time came you’ve got to be at home. You’ve got your homework to do, pick up chips (animal droppings) and see that the chicken gets in. It’s a big difference now.”
She also said the community was closer knit when she was younger.
“You would pass a person, it didn’t matter how often you passed their house, you had to speak to them old people. If you passed two or three times a day you’d have to speak and call them by their names,” Harris said. “But today that is fogeyism, that is old style.”
In her teens, Harris married Reverend Solomon Harris and they were together for 81 years until he passed away.
“Where you see him, you see me. We was like two peas in one shell. He didn’t go and I stayed home, we two went together,” she said. “He was a good reverend, he was a good preacher and he was a good husband.”
Although the couple did not have any children, she said she had plenty of nieces and nephews. Recently they had a birthday party for her at the Evangeline of Ormond Nursing Home in Destrehan where she now lives.
“They had a party for me yesterday and had all of my relatives,” Harris said. “I had five generations here.”
Harris and her husband lived in St. Rose before the Hale Boggs Bridge was built and they led True Vine Baptist Church in Hahnville together.
For many years they took a ferry to get from their home to the church, a journey that now only takes 10 minutes was closer to an hour then. She said those trips are much like the journey of her life – the slow life.
“If the Lord’s with you it’s no trouble, but if you go by yourself it is hard,” Harris said. “If you let the Lord lead you and guide you it’s easy.”
She said putting her faith in a higher power has brought her to the milestone of turning 105 years old.
“I’m just a happy Christian. I’m serving the Lord and every day I am happy,” Harris said. “I’m just holding my Savior’s hand and I’m viewing the Promised Land. Nothing will stop me from holding my Savior’s hand.”