Oral History Project
Perhaps best known for his business Chuck’s Plumbing, Charles (“Chuck”) Myrick has lived in Florence for nearly 43 years. Born in Denver, Colorado in 1942, he was adopted at an early age. He grew up in Burns and Ontario, Oregon as well as Santa Ana, Long Beach and San Pedro in California. After graduating from Crater High School (Central Point, Oregon) in 1961, Chuck enlisted in the Army at 18 years old. He was assigned to the Army’s 101st Airborne unit, and stationed in Kentucky. A Corporal, then an Assistant Mess Sergeant. Chuck’s primary duty was to feed 300 people, 3 times a day for 2 ½ years. He attributes his early cooking skills to being taught by his mother. While both parents worked, he had been responsible for preparing meals for his siblings (2 sisters, 1 brother).
In the summer of 1963, his Army unit trained for the humid conditions of Vietnam. Their preparation included forced marches in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and North and South Carolina. However, with the duration of his enlistment ending, Chuck was discharged prior to deployment at 21 years old. Having experienced discrimination in the Army and to honor his maternal grandfather, he changed his surname from Lopez to Myrick.
Chuck returned to Southern Oregon and worked in a sawmill for a short time before relocating to Sutherlin. He began working with an uncle at a dairy. They also maintained a truck/vegetable garden – ”everything from their garden went into the truck for sale in town”. He then opened a Mexican restaurant in Ashland, but after two years, and with the war escalating, he joined the Navy. He was assigned to the Aviation Maintenance Administration where he was responsible for the repair and maintenance of aircraft. For 9 months he was stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam. By the end of his deployment, he achieved the rank of 2nd class. Looking back, he sadly recalls the many times aircraft failed to return from flight missions. Following this service, he joined the Navy Reserve Seabees and ended his enlistment with the rank of 1st class.
After leaving the military, Chuck spent 4 years finishing his plumbing apprenticeship in Southern Oregon. He waited a year for the Secretary of State to issue his official plumbing license allowing him to become insured and bonded. In the interim, he relocated to Florence and held a variety of jobs. He cut burl rounds out of cedar for the mill, picked brush, and cleaned offices. Finally, in 1980 he was able to setup his own plumbing business doing all facets of the trade. He worked on new to remodels jobs, repair, and everything in between. Chuck contends his interest in plumbing initially began in prior years helping his mother with repairs on a rental unit. At that time, he learned by reverse engineering whatever needed to be fixed and gradually figured out how things worked.
he has Chuck’s Plumbing has successfully grown to include one of his sons as a partner in the business. In addition, a grandson is currently an apprentice working for the company. Two other sons are also plumbers. One has his own plumbing business in Roseburg and the other is a plumber in Sams Valley. As youngsters, Chuck’s sons were first introduced to the trade by “chasing [fetching] parts” for him. In time, they gradually became familiar with not only the parts but with the business as well. Two additional sons have successful careers in other chosen fields. He is proud and grateful that all of his sons are thriving in their careers and living in Oregon. Chuck says living in Florence has been the ideal location for his love of the outdoors. He enjoys fishing, hunting, and crabbing. Throughout the 43 years he’s lived in Florence, he has known other plumbers who have come but leave for higher wages in larger towns. In recent years however, he has noticed a shift towards growth and development, particularly north of town towards Heceta Beach. He’s seen new shops and restaurants on Bay Street open, all of which he feels is good for our town.
In 1993 Chuck created the North American Antler of Oregon organization. He stated severe winter weather often results in massive starvation among the elk and deer populations, particularly in Eastern Oregon. He collected antlers donated from hunters, folks who were previous collectors, or from antlers annually shed by the animals themselves. After trading or selling the antlers to craftsmen he would donate the money to the Oregon Game Commission. The money was used for animal feed and distributed to various Oregon game areas for the elk and deer. Ranchers were also involved in the project and donated excess hay, grain and pellets. Chuck knows of an individual in Shady Cove who has since taken on a similar effort. He explained that depending on their grade, antlers can sell for $15 and more per pound. Pointing to one of his displayed mounts, he stated that animal was from a hunt in Utah. He estimates the antlers would have a market value of about $25 per pound.
Evidence of his previous hunts include the elk, deer, and big horn sheep displayed throughout his home. It’s not surprising that like their father, all 5 of Chuck’s sons share his passion for hunting and fishing. He hunts in Eastern Oregon and near the Oregon border, but it’s the camaraderie of the hunt he most enjoys. For 40 years he’s hunted with the same group of individuals. A particularly memorable hunting trip was one that allowed him to come home with a big horn sheep. He explained the rule allows the taking of only one big horn sheep within a person’s lifetime. He is grateful to have been among these same group of friends who were able to share the experience with him. As the interview concluded, Chuck mentioned he would be putting together night crawler threaders from a piece of wire for tomorrow’s day of fishing. He claims the technique presents a strong resemblance of a night crawler in the river. His theory for success? “You got to give the fish what they’re looking for”.
Chatting with Chuck was inspirational, as it was obvious he worked hard throughout his life. Perhaps even more significant to me was discovering how his experiences came to shape a man with many talents. Chuck established a successful business and is a self-published poet (Ramblings of an Old Plumber). He also wrote a cook book for his son. Chuck Myrick has made a good life for himself by his own doing and good choices. He is particularly thankful and proud of his wife Kristy, his sons, and their families. A prized treasure however, is his chowder . . . . . which he keeps as a guarded, secret recipe.
On the topic of retirement, Chuck is quick to respond that he considers himself to be “semi-retired”. The day before we met, he celebrated his 80th birthday (Dec. 19). For Chuck Myrick, another year brings one more reason to celebrate. And I hope the celebration never ends.