hard work, maybe it’s eating right, maybe it’s just good genetics.
Betty Ellis and Billy Mae Peterson don’t know what the secret is to
reaching an 80th birthday, but they admit they haven’t
given it much thought, either,
“I never thought about living to 80”, said Betty. “I don’t
feel like I’m 80, said Billy Mae. “Eat right and live right”, she
The twin sisters are two-thirds of the Schooler triplets who
will reunite this weekend to celebrate their birthdays. Brother, Bernard
Schooler, lives in Las Vegas. Betty lives in Chamberlain and Billy Mae
Billy Mae said, “and to think, all three of us are still
They were born at a time when big families were common and hospital
births were rare. In their case, their mother, Naomi, figured she was
carrying at least two babies and was told to deliver at the hospital.
Turns out, only one of the three was actually born in the
Chamberlain Sanitarium January 31, 1930. Bernard was born at the
sanitarium, following the girls who were born on the ride in.
“It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes apart,” said
And they were all healthy – all 17 ½ pounds of them, carried
by a woman who was just over five feet tall and weighed not more than
Multiple births weren’t common in the family, either. While
their mother was a twin, no other multiples have been born through the
The trio filled in the middle children – six, seven and eight
– in a family of 15 - 11 boys and four girls, born to Naomi Schooler in
a span of 27 years. Of the 15, besides the triplets, one child – maybe
two, was delivered in the hospital, recalled Billy Mae.
“We were one of the larger families in the area”, said Betty.
The oldest living sibling and second to oldest child, Lowell,
will soon turn 90. The youngest, Jack, is now 63. Brother Lionel, the
third to the youngest, lives in Chamberlain.
16 when Jack was born,” said Betty. “He was upset when I told him I was
Betty and Billy Mae were the oldest girls in the family,
after five older brothers. Two girls and five more boys followed the
triplets. “We practically raised the little ones,” said Betty.
In 1934, the Schooler family moved from the family homestead
south of Reliance to a farm south of Oacoma, less the half a mile from
the White river.
They went to Walker School, a country school, which was about
2 ½-3 miles away. Usually, they would walk but sometimes their father,
Ed, would haul them in the horse and buggy.
“In country school, we always had someone in our
on the advantage of being a triplet. They were schooled through the eighth
grade, then worked on the farm until they married or, for the boys,
joined the military.
Nine of the 11 boys served in the Armed Forces When they
weren’t working on the farm, which was more often than not, the kids
might wander down to the river and set lines for fishing or, in the
winter, skate on the ice. Or, they might meet with neighbors and play
cards. “We played a lot of cards,” said Betty.
“I made an awful lot of clothes for the little boys,” said Billy
Mae. She still sews today, making quilts and weaving rugs to sell. “We
all did everything.”
In the summer, they worked in the two acres of gardens,
which were kept watered by an artesian well. Lionel remembered having
one acre alone of just potatoes.
“The gardens all did well,” said Betty. “We had gardens like
you wouldn’t believe. I miss the garden.”
It wasn’t just the garden. They lived on what the land
provided, mostly, and that would include deer, pheasants, ducks, geese
and raccoon, and fish.
Billy Mae remembered a flock of geese landing on the farm one
morning and she sent her brothers out to get them. It seemed like a good
idea until she had to dress all the birds.
Growing up, going the 15 miles to town, to Oacoma, was
usually reserved for school supplies and the few groceries they needed.
Betty remembered being snowed-in on the farm and the boys
having to walk to town for staples like sugar and flour, in the snow.
“We did have a lot of snow in those days,” she said.
In their teen years, work still came first – like milking the
cows before girls could go on a date. “We couldn’t go until our work was
done,” Betty said.
Billy Mae was the first of the triplets to marry. She married
in Ralph Moulton in1948, then moved to Reliance. They had three
children. He passed away in 1973. She married Roland Peterson in 1974.
She has nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and one more on
the way. For the record, Roland is also a twin.
Bernard married next, in July of 1959. He moved to
California, like most of the other Schooler boys, in 1960. He has five
children and now live in Las Vegas, NV.
Betty married Wayne Ellis in September of 1950. He passed away in
June of 2009. Together, they raised seven children who brought 15
grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, with one on the way.
Saturday, January 30th, the families are hosting an 80th
birthday party for the triplets at Charly’s Restaurant with all three