BELFAST — Their lives have spanned 18 U.S. Presidents and nearly every advance in modern medicine, transportation and technology. They are two women who have spent the last 100 years together, separately.

On July 2, Belfast residents Elizabeth “Ginger” Jackson and Mary Robbins celebrated their 100th birthdays together at The Residence at Tall Pines. The centenarians have been good friends for 80 years. Their enduring connection is made more impressive when one considers the two women have spent most of that time leading different lives, often separated by thousands of miles.

“I don’t think our lives could have been any more different,” Jackson said, “but we’ve always kept in touch and shared what we were both doing.”

The friendship was kindled at a local shoe factory in 1941.

“I was working in the office at Daly Brothers Shoe Factory and Ginger came to work there,” Robbins said. “We got along pretty well.”

Both left the workforce to raise families.

“I had twins,” Robbins said, “and Mary had two girls (about the same age), so we would spend time together with our kids. Back in those days every community had a dance hall, so we would go to dances quite often.”

Robbins raised her twins as a stay-at-home mom while Jackson was working in local factories to help support her family.

“I think Penobscot Poultry is the only factory I didn’t work in,” Jackson said. “I guess I just never got around to it.”

Somewhere along the line, Jackson was bitten by the travel bug and found a way to mix work and adventure.

“I went to Florida probably eight or 10 times,” Jackson said. “I’d go right to the unemployment office and get a job and live there for the winter. I’d come back up here during the spring and summer and go to work, then I’d go back down during the winters.”

Jackson wanted more. She began traveling throughout the United States in her car, with just a Kodak camera for company. Those trips evolved into world travel.

“You name it and I’ve probably been there,” she said.

Jackson has been to all 50 states and a host of international destinations that include stops in Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and her favorite, Egypt.

“It’s so different,” Jackson said of Egypt. “It’s fascinating. I just couldn’t imagine how they built those pyramids.”

Whenever Jackson returned from her travels, she would make sure to reconnect and share her stories from the road with Robbins.

“She’d come back with all these pictures from her trips,” Robbins said. “I’d sit on my couch and travel the world with her through the pictures.”

Robbins marvels at Jackson’s independence.

“Everyone was amazed,” Jackson said. “A woman driving all over the country, alone, in a car to all those places. That was unusual.

“I was lucky,” she added. “I only had car trouble once and the mechanic said he’d fix it right there.”

Jackson was also making those trips on meager financial resources, most of which came from brief periods of employment at her chosen destination.

Jackson has produced a book on how to see the country on a “shoestring” budget.

“I would sleep in the car,” Jackson said. “Sometimes I’d live at the place I was working. There were lots of ways to do it.”

While her friend traveled the world, Robbins remained in Belfast with her twins and husband, raising race horses. Robbins also volunteered for decades at local hospitals and organizations.

“I’ve been a pink lady and a gray lady,” she said of her hospital stints. “I enjoyed (volunteer) work and raising the twins.

“Most of our trips were to horse races.”

Somehow, the pair found a way to stay in touch. While the occasional letter or postcard would come from Jackson, Robbins said most of their relationship has been cultivated in person.

“(Ginger) and I would always visit when she got back (from her trips),” Robbins said. “She would bring me her pictures and we’d talk about what she’d seen and what was going on around here.”

Both Jackson and Robbins describe life today in similar, but different, terms.

“We had more freedom,” Jackson said of life years ago. “We were able to do more. There weren’t so many distractions.”

“Life speeded up,” Robbins said simply.

Today the two catch up in person or via telephone.

“We talk once or twice a week,” Jackson said. “We’re both amazed that we’ve made it this far.”

“I can’t give you one event that brought us together,” Robbins said. “We just liked each other and we’ve found a way to maintain the friendship through the years.”