LA times head shot of reporter Lee Shippey.
LA Times columnist Lee Shippey.

In August 1930, Los Angeles Times columnist Lee Shippey went to visit the “bravest man in Los Angeles” and who “lives in a pretty cottage at No. 309 North Townsend Street.”

That man was Owen Myers, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Company C, 1st Machine Gun Battalion, First Division, in France during World War I. In July 1918, he suffered a shrapnel wound in his right leg which, coupled with a severe arthritic condition that set in during his so-called rehabilitation, left him disabled and ultimately bedridden the remainder of his remarkable life.

Three years after the war ended, Myers became the first veteran to receive a CalVet home loan, buying that bungalow – No. 309 North Townsend Avenue (not street) – in June 1922. He paid $4,120, with a monthly mortgage payment of $25.94.

That CalVet rewarded a disabled veteran is no surprise. The Home Loans program, created by the California State Legislature in May 1921, doesn’t allow disabilities, gender or age to block to the American dream of home ownership.

Based upon Shippey’s depiction of Myers, no veteran could have been more deserving. Shippey told the story of a very special man making the absolute best out of overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. The bravery he displayed in war became a precursor to what he showed the rest of his life.

“Myers cannot turn his head or crook his finger,” Shippey wrote. “He cannot move any part of his body.” He also endured blindness and hearing difficulties. However, Shippey wrote, “His mind is as active as his body is inactive.”

Despite his beyond-severe disabilities, Myer maintained an amazing disposition.

“He was so convincingly cheerful himself that his mother could only think of him as happy and share his happiness,” Shippey wrote in a subsequent column, published after Myers’ death in July 1933.

Myers loved people, and 100 or more of them came to visit him each week. When a neighbor learned that Myers’ diet consisted only of malted milk, the neighbor made certain he had an unending supply. Friends came to read to him, among them James W. Foley, a renowned poet of the time.

Myers had a great sense of humor. He loved telling stories and was determined to get them published, using his mother (also his caregiver) and neighbors as his stenographer. A magazine on the East Coast published his first story.

“A flood of letters came to the magazine as a result,” Shippey wrote. Lost in the translation of dictation, the columnist opined, was the spontaneity and ability to record it instantly. “What Owen needs is a dictograph.”

He got one: an Ediphone, courtesy of Thomas Edison himself (Shippey conjectured). The local phone company connected it to a special phone, enabling Myers to dictate his stories.

Myers inspired others to be generous and positive, Shippey wrote.

“A radio was the gift of two admiring friends and every day brings its offers of service from people who sincerely want to do something for the bravest man they have ever seen.”

Indeed, CalVet couldn’t have gotten off to a better start than with Myers as its first Home Loans program client.

For more than 100 years the CalVet Home Loans program has helped veterans build, rebuild, and own homes, and it will continue to do so for well into the future. For more information on obtaining a CalVet home loan, CLICK HERE or call us directly during regular business hours at (866) 653-2510. We are happy to help. 

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