Still going strong: Happy 75th anniversary to George Ruby Gudbranson (yes, we said 75)

Former Ucluetians George and Ruby Gudbranson have been married as long as many Canadians live.

They’ll celebrate their 75th anniversary next Tuesday, Aug. 26.

George Gudbranson met Ruby for the first time in Grade 2 at school in Spalding, Sask.

“I never thought I would marry her,” George said. “She was eight months older than me and she was so bright.”

He started chasing her when he was 18 after she told a mutual friend she would only go out for drinks if George came along.

At the time, Ruby was in a band with her brothers.

“She played the guitar, the fiddle, the piano and the accordion. She was talented,” George said. “When I started chasing her, I joined the band.”

They graduated from high school during the Great Depression. George was lucky to find a job as a farm worker in Borden. He worked from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and was paid 50 cents a day. His days consisted of milking eight cows and walking behind a team of horses in the fields.

“I sure as hell would not do it now,” he said. “Back then, it was do this or starve.”

Ruby worked in a restaurant in Spalding as a waitress. She was paid $5 a month and got free meals from the restaurant. When she wasn’t working at the restaurant, she milked cows on her family’s farm.

The couple realized they didn’t want to go into farming. George left Saskatchewan in search of better work and ended up working in several gold mines in Abitibi, a remote region in northwestern Québec, along the Ontario border. One gold mine was located 1,097 metres (3,600 feet) under the surface of the Earth. The biggest gold nugget he saw was half the size of his thumb.

After a time, George started missing Ruby and his friends in Spalding. He took a vacation from the gold mines and came back to Saskatchewan.

“I asked Ruby to marry me,” he said. “She joined me in Québec during the 1939 summer and we got married there.”

Six days after their wedding, the Second World War broke out in Europe when Germany invaded Poland.

Because George was married and working in a mine, he wasn’t drafted. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and was posted to Vancouver. Despite volunteering for missions, he was never sent to Europe.

“I was ready to go,” he said. Ruby moved to Vancouver in 1944. Before the war ended, George had postings in Ucluelet and Pat Bay.

After the war, the couple moved back to Ucluelet, where they

opened an Imperial Oil bulk agency. They operated it for 10 years before selling it to build an Esso service station. During their free time, they played in a band. In 1965, they both joined the B.C. Old Time Fiddlers.

Back then, Ucluelet was a hamlet of 150 residents. To reach Port Alberni, people either traveled on a dirt road by the side of the Alberni Inlet or by boat on the

inlet. George and Ruby raised three sons in Ucluelet. Their sons Allan, Roger and Harvey still live in Ucluelet.

In 1975, George and Ruby retired to Parksville. George worked as a RCMP detachment guard and later as a provincial park security agent. He retired for good in 1982.

George and Ruby Gudbranson are marking their 75th anniversary next Tuesday and celebrating it with an open house the following Saturday. Their sons Allan, Roger and Harvey, all of whom live in Ucluelet, will be attending.

[JULIE BERTRAND/OCEANSIDE STAR]

The couple, now 96 and 97 respectively, still manages to play some 100 concerts a year in the region’s senior residences.

“We’ve played at the Coombs Fair and at the Bluegrass Festival,” George said.

Their friends and relatives are holding an 75th-anniversary open house on Saturday, Aug. 30, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Bradley Centre in Coombs. During the event, the Gudbransons will be presented with a letter from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating them on their many years together.