“Moonshine and garlic” is the secret to long life says Peter Smith, a Sault-area man who turned 100 yesterday.
From the age of 16 until his 40s Smith made and drank his own homemade moonshine out of potatoes and corn and always kept a lot of garlic in his diet.
Perhaps jokingly, he always tells his friends and family that it’s the secret to his amazing health and long lasting life.
While he doesn’t drink moonshine anymore Smith does have a glass of wine every day — advice he says his doctor gave him after he survived a battle with cancer years ago.
Perhaps just as surprising is that Smith said he smoked cigarettes for 60 years, only quitting when he was 70.
He has also never gone to a gym; he said his generation never needed to.
“We had to work all the time, wasn’t that exercise enough?” he said.
Born in Goulais Bay in 1916, Smith was one of 11 children who largely had to raise themselves after their parents died at a young age.
Because of the great depression, in his teen years he hopped freight trains and started “hoboing” across the country, dodging cops and getting charity wherever he could as he looked to find work and make a life for himself.
“It was brutal if the police caught you — they’d beat you. In Regina they’d club you off the train and (once the cops left) the train engineer would yell ‘Okay boys’ and we’d all come out from hiding behind the bank and hop back on," he said.
In 1939, Smith joined the Canadian Military, his first job was guarding the locks in the Sault and later he was posted as an ambulance driver and instructor in Toronto.
After the war he delivered mail via a horse-drawn cutter in Echo Bay before getting into logging and then becoming a self-trained mechanic.
He opened up a garage in Haviland Bay in the 1940s and later one in Goulais River as well.
Over the years, Smith, who’s not a professional builder, made with his own hands six houses, two garages, a cottage and several other smaller structures.
He also designed, made, and drove Haviland Bay’s first school bus.
These days, Smith describes his health as “darn good”.
He lives with his daughter Betty and although he uses a mobility scooter to get around his yard he can still walk on his own.
He was actually still driving his car up until last year but had to stop because of macular degeneration.
Smith is the last of his brothers and sisters and his wife Elizabeth sadly passed away last year at the age of 92.
The couple would have been married 75 years as of October 2015.
In total, Smith has 6 children, 7 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren, the oldest of which is 21. So maybe someday he’ll be a great great grandfather.
If the fact that he’s still drinking didn’t surprise you enough, wait until you hear about his gambling.
The family gets together every Saturday for a card game that involves betting for nickels and apparently Smith usually wins.
"He's still good. Those nickles add up fast," said his oldest daughter, Bernie Winter.
For his birthday Smith received letters and certificates from the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Premiere of Ontario, the Royal Canadian Legion, MP Terry Sheehan, MPP David Orazietti, and Mayor Christian Provenzano.
“He’s so special. He could always do almost anything. You don’t really realize it that much until you look back,” said Winter.
When asked how it feels to turn 100, Smith said “about the same as any other day.”