By Heidi Bunch and Shanna McKenzie, MCIN Staff
A familiar face in Mineral County, Ruby Hume enjoys stopping and smelling the roses, literally. She spends many mornings in the Hawthorne Rose Garden, deadheading the flowers, making sure watering systems are functioning and caring for the roses that have been bought in memory of loved ones.
“I love to volunteer,” she told Shanna McKenzie, an Independent-News worker.
Hume moved to Hawthorne in 1942 from Idaho and entered into high school at Mineral County High. Hume would marry in 1946.
Many know that Hume was a USO hostess while the now convention center was used as a USO building for military personnel. Opened in 1942, the USO building catered to the servicemen and women of the area by hosting social events such as dances, roller-skating and a place to sit and write a letter or card.
Hume would make milkshakes and dance. “We danced the jitterbug,” she said.
One of her favorite memories of bygone Hawthorne is “All the sailor boyfriends (wink…wink…). It was a good time in the old town.”
McKenzie enjoyed her interview of Hume. “I envisioned the romance of that era when Ruby talked to me about Hawthorne. I can see the ladies in their skirts roller-skating and dancing.”
For those who are unaware, Hume began her career with the telephone company in Hawthorne. Located where Glamour on Main is today, Hume started out at 45 cents an hour. Owned by the Marshall family, Hume was a telephone operator when switchboard operators connected calls by inserting a pair of phone plugs into the appropriate jacks and unlike phones of today, these phones had to be cranked.
One of her funnies moments as a phone operator would be when people would call and request “the red light house.”
The Hume family would move to Yerington when the Anaconda mine opened. They would spend 11 years in Yerington and they moved onto Reno where they lived only one year. Still working in Reno, she would live in Incline Village until her retirement as a senior engineer in the planning organization of a phone company.
Young at heart, Hume spends many afternoons with her quilting ladies and is busier now that she is retired. Besides working with three others in the rose garden, which she believes needs to be saved, “So it won’t get torn down,” she is active with the local Red Hatters, is on the board of directors for the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum and just recently was initiated into the Hawthorne Elks Lodge.
Hume still thinks of her days as a phone operator and collects phone books and memorabilia that are now unthought-of by today’s generation. When the military is in town, she still visits the USO where she talks to the service members about the importance of the USO building and the history.
If you see Hume on the street or at the rose garden, stop her and say hello as our older generations have many stories and wisdom to share.