Celebrating 100 Years
Longtime Fillmore resident Josephine Myers
Longtime Fillmore resident Josephine Myers
Josephine Myers
Josephine Myers

Longtime Fillmore resident Josephine Myers will turn 100 years young December the 3rd. Josephine has lived in the area for some 90 years during which she and has seen many changes to our special town. Josephine or Jo as her many friends call her, was born in Nogales Arizona, December 3rd, 1920, to John L. and Gertrude Schleimer. Her father was an Arizona State Senator and dabbled in real estate, while her mother was a stay at home wife. An interesting fact, Josephine was the first cesarean birth in the state of Arizona. Shortly after Josephine’s birth, the family moved to Los Angeles, where her father continued in politics. In addition to being the Vice Counsel to Venezuela, he was also an oil broker. The family soon grew by two with the birth of sons, Jack and Jim.

Her parents had many friends in the Ventra County area where the family would frequently visit. In the early 1920’s her father purchased a walnut orchard in lower Bardsdale, at the south east corner of Riverside Ave. and Sespe Street. This was Josephine’s first exposure to Fillmore. The family would often visit the ranch spending weekends and holidays there. Jo says she remembers her mother frequently hosting bridge games for her many friends in the county. There were always many visitors with lots kids to play with. One of her more vivid memories was coming up to the ranch shortly after the San Felicia Dam burst. The disaster which sent a massive wall of water sweeping through the Santa Clara Valley resulting in over 400 deaths. She remembers hearing neighbors saying that there were bodies caught in their walnut trees as well as trash, mattresses and furniture. Jo’s brother Jim recalls hearing his mother say that they eventually recovered 14 bodies off their property. The disaster occurred on a Monday and she remembers going to the ranch that weekend, only to return to L.A. on Saturday morning. A sprinkler system was being installed in the yard and the water to the house was turned off. Her parents did not want to put up with the nuisance. She often wondered, if the water hadn’t been turned off, would have the family returned home Sunday or Monday morning?

In 1932, circumstances changed for the family, Josephine her mother and two brothers, Jack and Jim, moved to the ranch thus becoming fulltime Fillmore area residents. Shortly thereafter, their circumstances again changed, and they moved this time into town. For a short time, they lived in town on Sespe Street. They all soon realized that city life was not for them, they preferred country living, so it was back to Bardsdale. They moved into a house on Don Shaw’s ranch where Josephine lived until she married. Jo’s mother, Gertrude Schleimer, continued to live in the house until she passed away in 1965.

When the family moved back to Bardsdale, Jo and her brothers started school at the Bardsdale Grammar School. Josephine often talks about living across the river, the experiences she had and the lifelong friends she made. She tells of them riding their horses to town on weekends, to go to the show. They would ride their horses across the river to town, where they would tie the horses to a tree behind Corio’s restaurant on the NW corner of Santa Clara St. and A St. The building is still there today. They would then walk uptown to the show. She said that she’s seen a lot of changes in her 90 plus years here. The buildings along most of downtown, Central Ave., today looks very similar to what it did in the “30’s. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake did alter the landscape a little. She remembers all buildings having awnings that the merchants rolled in and out every day. It was a very friendly environment. Everybody knew the merchants and they knew you, or at least your family. As a kid, you didn’t dare act up, because your parents would know about it before you got home. Everyone shopped right here in Fillmore, no one thought of going out of town to shop. Everything you needed was right here in Fillmore. On Central Ave. between Hwy. 126 and the High School, we had 5 full-service grocery stores. In North Fillmore we had 3 more grocery stores and on Main St. we had 2 or 3 small Mom and Pop grocery stores. We had 2 liquor stores and 2 theaters, we called them shows back then, 1 furniture store, 1 men’s and 3 women’s clothing stores, a couple shoe stores, 4 car dealer ships, 2 drug stores, 4 service stations (I think 12 in all), a pool hall and a miniature golf course. At one point we even had an air strip across the river in the vicinity of the present-day horse stables.

She recalls the Fillmore Festivals or May Day as it was called back then. Kids dancing around a May pole and feasting on pit B-B-Q prepared by one of the local service clubs. Playing bingo sitting on packing house field boxes, under the pepper trees along Sespe Street, feeling like a big winner if they won a 5-pound bag of sugar or some canned food. The men all grew beards, for this special event, so they didn’t get thrown in the temporary jail and or get fined. It was a much simpler time back then. At Christmas time there were Christmas trees all lit up in front of the stores along Central Ave. A big tree in the middle of the intersection of Sespe and Central. The lighting of the 60-foot Redwood tree at the high school. Fillmore was one big family.

During the war, the day of Pearl Harbor, Jo says that all their friends gathered at the service station at the SW corner of Santa Clara St. and Central Ave. to listen to the news. She remembers a potbelly stove a radio and 10 to 15 of her friends all listening intently. George Penrod a friend and longtime Fillmore businessman, ran the station. She also reminisces about the Potluck Club she and her friends started during the war. They would meet and share food once a week throughout the war. It was a close-knit support group as many of the husbands were off fighting. This group continued to meet, for some 63 years. At the end, grandchildren of the original 10 or 12 ladies were attending. Small town!

Her graduating class at Bardsdale, all 6 of them, graduated together from Fillmore Jr. High and then in 1939 from Fillmore High School. Miss Bee Albright, long time high school teacher, was their 6th grade teacher. It was Bee’s first job teaching. The Jr High at that time was on the high school campus in the present-day Art building. Those lifelong friend were Joyce (Patterson) Vosler, Winston Haase, Tommy Harris, Jean Anderson and Virginia Korton.

Shortly after graduating high school she married Aaron Myers, a native Fillmoreian. She recalls the night they got home from their honeymoon when their many family and friends showed up at their house to celebrate. The party was on, or rather a good old fashion ‘shivaree’ was on. They put Josephine in a wheelbarrow and paraded her and Aaron up and down Central Ave. They even went into the Fillmore Theater and as a movie was playing, they paraded them up onto the stage and introduced them as newlyweds. Then it was back to the wheelbarrow and up the street to Henrys Chili Hut for hamburgers. The night end with a party back at their new home. Got to love small towns. The marriage was a success, as they were married for 46 years until Aarons passing in 1985. They had one son, Don who now lives in Colorado with his wife Karen. After they married, they lived in a couple houses and in 1948 they purchased the only home Josephine has ever owned. The same house she now lives in and has for the past 72 years.

Josephine began working once Don started school. She first worked with her mother in her catering business, as well as cooking for local service clubs. There are many lady’s in Fillmore today that worked with Josephine and her mother, every Thursday, serving the Rotary Club at the Memorial building. She worked 18 years with her mother. She next worked 8 years for Orin Eberly in his Drug store next to the show. From 1973 to 1998 she worked at the cafeteria at San Cayetano Grammar school. She has said the reason she quit the cafeteria, at age 77, was that she realized she was then serving children of the children she first served when she started working there. It was time to retire.

After several years spent as a widow, longtime friend and widower Dick Schmittou, a long-time teacher and rancher in Fillmore, came into her life. They, with their late spouses had been friends for many years. Dick’s wife Corinne graduated at Fillmore with Josephine in 1939. Their friendship grew into something special and they have been happily together for more than 25 years. They have enjoyed many vacations and trips together. Dick is affectionately referred to as “Grampa Dick” by Jo’s many grandchildren and great grandkids

Over the years Josephine has been an avid traveler and ambassador for the City of Fillmore. At last count, she’s been on 27 Tauck or Maupin tours and a number of cruises. She’s been on tours in all 50 states, 6 of the nine Canadian Providences, 7 European countries and has done 3 major trips in and around Mexico. As far as being an Ambassador for Fillmore, this is how the conversation usually goes when she meets someone on one of her many trips. “Hello,” I’m Josephine Myers from Fillmore California”. Naturally they will eventually ask, where is Fillmore? Shortly thereafter these people know everything there is to know about her special town of Fillmore.

The family had a big party planned, but as fate would have it, Covid-19 has taken over our lives and any idea of a party is out. So, the family is asking that if those of you that know her (or if you do not know her, but appreciate her Fillmore Ambassador role) and would like in some way to help her celebrate, you might give her a call or better yet drop her a card or a note letting her know that you are thinking of her on this extra special birthday on December the 3rd. Her address is 239 Third St. Fillmore.