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Identical twin sisters to celebrate 100th birthday

January 13, 2011 | 11:12 am

Inez Harries of Sylmar, left, and her twin sister, Venice Shaw of Newbury Park

For nearly a century, the two look-alikes have been confusing people.

"Teachers told Mother to put different-color hair ribbons on us so they could tell us apart," Inez Harries said.

"We'd switch them on the way to school," said her sister, Venice Shaw.

On Sunday, there are likely to be more double takes when some 150 friends and family members gather in San Fernando to celebrate the identical twins' 100th birthday.

"I don't feel a century old," Harries said. "I probably don't feel any older than in my 80s."

Shaw nodded in agreement. "We both eat good food," she explained.

Born Jan. 15, 1911, in Pasadena to citrus ranch manager William Hesser and his wife, Anna, the twins were reared in San Fernando and later in what is now Granada Hills. The family also lived in Whittier for a time.

Harries is now a Sylmar resident and Shaw lives in Newbury Park.

Inseparable as young children, the twins dressed alike, double-dated as teenagers and worked at the same Sunkist packing house as young adults. Later, after both were married, the two couples vacationed together on camping trips to such places as Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks.

Family photos show them dressed in identical baby clothes and in matching dresses, sewn by their mother, in elementary school and high school — their San Fernando High School senior portrait from 1929 shows them wearing identical pink polka-dot outfits.

In grade school, the pair had the same friends — at the same time. They would pick one girl and Inez would be on one side of her and Venice on the other, they recall.

"Other kids called us 'Twinny' rather than make a mistake calling us the wrong name," Harries said.

Even their mother sometimes had difficulty telling the two apart.

Shaw recalls one time their mother decided to spank her for sitting in a swing she wasn't supposed to sit on. When her mother left to get a switch to use for the swat, Shaw ran off and her sister came up, sat on the swing and ended up getting the spanking.

They still share similar tastes. Both say Carol Burnett is their favorite entertainer, "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" are their favorite TV shows and the Bible is their favorite book.

They have gone to the same doctor for 20 years, cruised together to Alaska and traveled together on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers aboard the Mississippi Queen. Both were members of the San Fernando Friendship Club from the mid-1940s until it disbanded about five years ago.

They vividly remember the 1918 flu epidemic when their whole family was quarantined and the terrible San Fernando Valley flooding of 1938, when the two of them were nearly washed away as the car they were in was caught in rushing water on Harding Street.

Shaw worked as a supervisor for 12 years in a plastics injection plant that made small parts for sprinkler systems. Harries worked for Lockheed Aircraft for 27 years, installing control cables in P-38 fighters during World War II and later helping build Constellation airliners and helicopters.

Both women were members of the Lockheed Federal Credit Union, where Harries still has an account.

On Wednesday, officials of the Burbank credit union staged a 100th-birthday reception for the pair. Andrea Carpenter, a vice president of the organization, described the odds of identical twins living to be 100 as about 1 in 700 million.

Before cutting a giant cake, Harries and Shaw, wearing identical black suits, spoke briefly about their long lives.

Then they performed the song that they sang on New Year's Day in 1917 when — dressed as poinsettias — they rode on their school's horse-drawn float in the Rose Parade, singing the same tune over and over.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. All good children go to heaven. When they get there, they will say: Lamanda Park School has led the way!" the twins sang for the crowd.

In unison, of course.

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Photo: Inez Harries of Sylmar, left, and her twin sister, Venice Shaw of Newbury Park, will celebrate their 100th birthday with about 150 friends and family members Sunday in San Fernando. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

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