Looking back on 100 years

Looking back on 100 years

Redwood Times special publication “Salute”  | November 11, 2016


Robert Myers’ house is modest but brightly-colored, located on a quiet side street in Eureka. Inside, the rooms are filled with furniture he built over the years, and the walls are crowded with dozens of family photographs.

Myers, a longtime Eureka resident, is a World War II veteran who recently celebrated his 100th birthday. In spite of his age, he still continues to live independently and maintain his home to impeccable neatness.

Born in 1916 in Selma, California, Myers spent the early years of his childhood living above small, “middle-of-nowhere” railroad stations all over the state, where his father worked as a stationmaster. His family moved into town when he and his siblings became old enough to go to school.

Myers graduated from high school in Ventura County during the height of the Great Depression. “It was very hard to get a job then,” he said. He worked at service stations for little pay until a friend invited him along to take a test in Los Angeles to work for the state’s highway department. He and his friend both received good scores, and Myers was hired to work in Eureka.

The day he arrived, he nearly turned around and went home. “It was a dismal-looking place,” he said, noting that people were living in shacks along unpaved roads and raising vegetables in their yards outside. He turned to leave, but then thought about how tough things were at the time, and he stayed.

While in Eureka, Myers met his wife, Carol, who was born and raised there. He quickly demonstrated a strong aptitude for his job for the highway department, starting out with transfer jobs, then moving up to surveying.

“I learned so many things; I could do anything that the older men who worked there could do,” he said.

Myers loved his job, but his employer couldn’t afford to pay him any more money, so when he was offered a job to work making maps at UC Berkeley, he moved there. From his third-story office window, he could watch the steam liners coming in and going out to sea, which he loved.

But while living there, the war was in full swing, and Myers wanted to get involved to help out the cause.

“I saw fellows walking around the streets. I never saw a healthy man, and I thought, that’s a hell of thing,” Myers said. “All of these young fellows are being drafted and going off to war without a choice, and here I am healthy and capable. There was no reason I couldn’t go.”

Myers enlisted in the service, starting out transporting airplanes for the Army Air Corps. He soon received training to fly airplanes, and then learned combat flight. He got very good grades, and on graduation day, he thought he would be sent to Europe. Instead, he found out that they wanted to keep him on as a flight instructor.

During the war, Myers trained many fighter pilots who were sent overseas and never returned. He said he would often hear reports of hundreds of planes being shot down over Germany during air raids.

After the war had been won in Europe, Myers was told he would soon be sent to the Pacific Theater. But one day, while he and some other pilots were flying a practice mission over Florida, the radio’s silence was broken with the sudden news that the war was over.

“Everyone in the planes started hooting and hollering,” he said. “By the time we got back to our base in South Carolina, everybody was in town, drunk with fires in barrels in the streets, celebrating.”

After receiving word that any pilot with a year’s service was free to leave the Air Corps, Myers went to Tennessee to receive his discharge papers and then returned to Carol, who was pregnant at the time.

Back in Eureka, and jobless once more, he went to his old office at the highway department to visit some former co-workers. In the middle of their conversation, the office’s new boss came out and offered Myers a job working there again.

“I could have kissed him,” Myers said. “I told him, ‘You bet I would!’”

In the meantime, Myers was working to renovate a small building on Carol’s parent’s property to use as a garage for a house. But their first child, Fran, came so soon that he ended up making it into a “little house” instead for the budding family to live in.

When Carol was pregnant with their second child, Beverly, a few years later, he bought the house that he still lives in today. At the time, the structure was only framework, so Myers worked hard to renovate the home, expanding the space and building cabinets.

He continued to work for the state for 60 years, and happily retired, continuing to pursue his hobbies: making furniture, working on cars, and building model airplanes. His two daughters now have children of their own–and some of their children have children, too, making Myers a proud great-grandfather.

“I always had the best luck,” he said. “The only bad luck I ever had was losing my wife.”

Carol passed away in late 2001 after complications from heart surgery, which Myers said was difficult for him to get through.

But he continued to maintain the house, work on projects, and go on with his life. At age 100, he still lives on his own, drives his own car, cooks for himself and does his own laundry.

“I guess I never did quit doing things–I never retired as some people do,” he said.

Several years ago, Myers befriended a widow who lived up the street from him. The two enjoyed each other’s company, and have spent time together doing things ever since then.

“We’ve talked about getting married, but she has her beautiful home, yard and car, and I have my home, so we just decided we would live our lives as we are and do together what we want to do, and it’s been wonderful,” he said.

In Myers’ home, his service photos hang alongside photos of his family members, and adorn furniture he made by hand. His workbench in the garage is still lined with tools, set up to be used.

A proud man who has lived a full life, Myers said he plans to stay right where he is for the rest of his days.


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