Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

January 9, 2011

Plumbing leads to deployment in Africa

GOSHEN — GOSHEN — George “Joe” Myers grew up on Emerson Street, the youngest of three sons of a plumber.

“I was born on Oct. 29, 1930. My dad said I caused the Great Depression,” Myers began.  

“Every day I swam in the race,” Myers said. “I swam at the tailgates, too. It was real deep.” He said his great-uncle was a foreman at the race, which was operated by Hawks Electric.

Back then, the sewer lines from homes along the millrace emptied into the raceway, he said, but they eventually converted to septic tanks and later hooked into the city sewer system.

Myers said he remembers the morning of Dec. 7, as he listened to the radio and heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I was still in my bed with a busted up leg,” said Myers, who was in the seventh grade at the time. He went on to explain he suffered the broken leg while helping his brother tow a car south of town. While steering his brother’s Oakland — the towed car — it rolled over and threw Joe out at Ind. 15 and C.R. 40.

His older brothers are Dick, who was in ROTC while he attended Purdue and became an aviator, and Bob, the oldest, who served in Patton’s Third Army in World War II.

Myers enjoyed music while growing up. He was a member of the Parkside Elementary School band, whose picture is part of the historic collection of photos on the wall at the Meijer store. He is third from the left in the front row in the photo. He said he started on piano, played the trumpet and then the drums in the Goshen High School marching band.

“I took lessons from Harold Firestone. When I was a senior I was head of the drum line,” Myer said.

Myers said his first job was delivering newspapers for The News-Democrat, making 18 cents a week. He later was hired by Ed Fiedeke to work as a stock boy in the Fiedeke gift and paint store.

When Bill Marque started building the homes in the “Zook Addition” along C.R. 45 west of Goshen, Myers went to work for Marque as a “go-fer.”

“Those (modular) National Homes came in on semis. We would erect them one day and shingle them the next,” Myer said.  

Even before he graduated from Goshen High School in 1947 Myers served as an apprentice in the family plumbing business. After graduating, he became unhappy with his father’s pay of $1.35 an hour and he went to work for Ed White, who paid him $2.42.

Myers attended Goshen College in 1948 but did not finish because of joining the military.

He was inducted into the U.S. Navy in 1950, joining the Sea Bees because of his plumbing experience. He said he joined the Navy with his friend, the late Wilson Snyder. Snyder married his wife, Nancy, just before Myers married his wife, Delores, and their brides traveled to bases with them.

The Goshen sailors went in as third class petty officers because Snyder was a builder and Myers was a plumber, he explained. “I was the youngest jouneyman plumber in Indiana, at age 20.”

Joe and Delores were married July 15, 1950. She was able to join Joe after he was assigned to a base in French Morocco. He added that the Snyders were assigned to Bainbridge, Md.

Myers said there were still remains of the warships that were sunk off the coast of Africa when he arrived. The Sea Bees built an airstrip five miles long and 18 inches thick for the large aircraft that flew there.

Their first child, David, was born in Africa and Myers had to go to Casablanca to get his citizenship papers.

“They told us he could never be president, because he wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Myers joked. They later had a daughter, Georgie Ann Eppley, now living at Leesburg. There are four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Myers also remembered once he was able to call home to his father, thanks to a short-wave radio setup. “It was remarkable. I cried,” he said.

He also enjoyed seeing fellow Goshen residents Dean Schwalm and Cliff Holdread while in Africa.

The Myers family returned after a three-year deployment and Joe bought out his father’s business. He operated the business 16 more years but dissolved it in 1973 and went to work for Miles (later Bayer.) After 20 years with the Elkhart employer, Myers retired.

He then worked for 10 years as a building inspector for Elkhart County, before retiring again in 2005.

“That was the best job I ever had,” Myers said of the inspector work.

He explained he lost his wife of 60 years last summer.

“I called the ambulance on our 60th anniversary,” he said and she died just seven days later, on July 23. He said, “Hospice was so wonderful. We were all together for her death.”

Myers spends his days with his Shelty, Polly, and continues his hobby of building model airplanes and riding motorcycles.

Myers has built dozens of model aircraft, now using wood and tissue paper after making many plastic models. They are on display at the county office building at Dunlap, in at least one friend’s home and along the ceiling of his garage on Player Drive.

Myers said he has been a fan of two-wheeled machines since he was young.

“When my cousin Charles Juday at Middlebury went into the Army, he had a scooter and he gave it to me,” Myers said. He rode the machine up and down the alley near his home, up to Purl Street, because his father said he was too young to ride on the street.

After Myers got his license, he had a Harley-Davidson.

“I was working for Ed White, getting $2.42 an hour. I made millions,” he joked. He had a 1949 or 1950 flathead, too, but after he got out of the Navy, he started buying a series of Hondas. He said he first bought a “beautiful 305 Hawk for $100. That was the start of it.”

He also rode a 350 Honda, then a larger Silver Wing then bought a Gold Wing from Wayne Stutzman. He rode his Gold Wing many years until selling it recently.

But his newest ride is a purple Honda Shadow he bought in Warsaw.

Besides riding with the Goshen Gold Wing club, Myers has enjoyed dinner rides with the Gourmet Riders.

This summer Myers said he hopes to take his family to Washington, D.C., by train and tour the capital. Then on the Labor Day weekend he plans to get to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberger Festival in Auburn.

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