Maintains own apartment

by: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Anna Meyers, 103, keeps her birdfeeder full, so she can continue to enjoy watching birds from her apartment at Golden Age Manor.Anna Meyers, who turned 103 in January, takes a break from folding her laundry to answer the door as a visitor drops by with some flowers, then hops up on a step stool to reach a vase from the cupboard.

She still does her own cooking and laundry, and keeps her little apartment at Golden Age Manor in Madras as neat as a pin.

Family members gathered at her place to celebrate her birthday. “Loyd and Deloris brought in Kentucky fried chicken, and Ron and his family brought an ice cream cake,” she said with delight. (Deloris Vincent is her daughter, and Ron Vincent is her grandson).

The day before, her daughter took her to the senior center for lunch during its monthly birthday party celebration. “She and Margaret Dement are having a race, and Margaret is one year younger,” Deloris joked of another local centenarian at the senior center.

Meyers chuckled over a gift her sister, Helen, 90, who lives near the Canadian border, had given her. “It’s a little plaque that says `I’ve survived almost every damn thing!’ and she said it just fit me,” Meyers said, noting, “I almost drowned when I was 2, and survived the Dirty '30s, a tornado, and an electrical storm.”

Asked the secret of her longevity, Meyers replied, “I don’t know. I’m just here and that’s it.” But reflecting for a moment she said, “Well, I don’t drink or smoke. I tried a drink once in 1945 and I told my husband, `If that’s what it tastes like -- then no more!’”

From her apartment patio Meyers presides over the manor’s courtyard, watching traffic come and go, tending flowers in the summer, and feeding the birds in the winter.

“I sit and watch the birds. Early in the morning there are eight or nine at the feeder, and I put warm water out for them. I’ve seen sparrows, blue birds, finches, woodpeckers, starlings and there’s even a falcon that scares the birds away,” she said.

While Meyers doesn’t leave her apartment much, that doesn’t mean she’s tied down. Last July, she, Deloris and granddaughter Suzie took a 3,000-mile road trip to Blanchard, Okla., and spent two weeks visiting relatives.

“It was too fast for this old woman, but it was fun,” Meyers laughed, adding, “I got to see all my relatives, including twins I’d never seen – a girl and a boy,” she said showing a picture. “And I got to visit the old home place in Turpin, Okla.”

Deloris noted, “She’s a good traveler, and we drove all the way. And she’s so sharp. She knew all the people who used to live there and remembered how many miles they rode to school.”

Anna’s history

Meyers wrote up a short history about herself, highlighting disasters she had survived, to which her sister had alluded.

She was born Jan. 30, 1911, on a farm near Hutchinson, Kan., to Emil and Elizabeth Scheuchzer. The farm was near the Arkansas River. When she was 2 years old, she recalled, “One day, when my folks with a team and wagon went to gather wood, I ventured to the river and fell in. Mother fished me out, dad put his jacket around me, then we went to the house.”

Her grandparents from Isny, Germany, came to the U.S. and lived with them. She started her education at an Amish school, even though she wasn’t Amish. Then in 1916, her family moved to Turpin, Okla. Anna and her four siblings attended school there.

“There were days when Dad would go clean out fence rows of tumbleweeds, and we kids would lay and let the tumbleweeds roll over us. In the evenings, we’d go out in the cow pasture and pick up dry cow chips so Dad could start the fire the next morning. There was no trees,” she said of the flat, windswept area.

“In 1928, my younger brother and I rode a pony to school. A storm was brewing, but we thought we could get home before it hit. Half a mile from home, there was a big flash of lightning. It either stunned us, or scared us to pieces. Anyway, the pony took us home and someone took care of us and the pony,” she said of her second close call.

At the Turpin school, she caught the eye of her girlfriend’s brother, Ralph Snyder. They started dating and were married March 16, 1932. The Snyders moved around quite a bit during the Great Depression trying to find jobs or a decent place to farm.

Those were also the Dust Bowl years in the Midwest. “We called it the Dirty '30s,” Meyers said.

Winds scoured top soil off the fields, forming huge dust clouds that buried everything in dirt, and blew it in through cracks in the walls and windows of houses. “Some days would be sorta nice, and we’d scoop out the dirt. At night many times, we tied a bed sheet to each bed post so the dust wouldn’t get in our faces,” she said.

One day sticks out in her mind. “April 14, 1935, was as dark as night. Dirt rolled in from Nebraska and people got lost in their own yards. Many died of `dust pneumonia’ and the dust killed a lot of the livestock,” she said.

They had moved to a place by Vinita, Okla., when she had her third brush with disaster. “In December 1936, at eight in the morning, a tornado hit and we were lucky to be in the house (root cellar) because it took the hen house and chickens, the newly built barn, and the pig shed, but left the house and the granary,” she said.

If that wasn’t bad enough, in 1937, she said, “Grasshoppers moved in and ate everything, even the fence posts.” They relocated to a place near Hutchinson, Kan., which they farmed from 1940-45.

To escape the dust storms, the Snyders were the first in their family to head West, with her husband and a hired man driving two big grain trucks, and Anna driving a Dodge station wagon that was pulling a 17-foot trailer. After the flat plains of Kansas, she was so frightened by driving in the mountains that she never renewed her license or drove again once they reached Oregon.

In the Willamette Valley, the family picked hops and filberts, but didn’t like the rainy weather. Hearing that Bend had a dry climate, the Snyders were headed that way, when their vehicle broke down in Madras. Unable to get car parts for some time because of World War II, they decided to stay and enroll their kids, Deloris, Bette and Ralph Jr., in school.

By 1947, they had bought and leased out a couple of farms. Anna worked at local restaurants and stores, while her husband worked as a carpenter, building houses and many of the stores in downtown Madras. Ralph Snyder passed away in 1967.

In 1970, Anna moved to Antelope, where she owned a trailer court. She married Wheeler Meyers, who she had known back in Kansas, and they enjoyed Antelope until the Rajneeshees built a commune nearby and started taking over the town.

“In 1982, they came in and my husband couldn’t stand them, so we moved to Madras,” Meyers said. When her second husband developed serious health problems, he moved back to Oklahoma, so his daughter, a nurse, could take care of him. He and Anna kept in contact regularly until he passed away two years ago.

She moved to Golden Age Manor in 2001, and for many years did laundry for other tenants and walked to Erickson’s grocery store every day.

Today, Meyers is already making plans for her 104th birthday. “My son has a cabin in the hills and she wants to go spend the night there, and we’ll try and do it for her,” Deloris said, amused by her mother’s spunky attitude.

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