Earl Breuer takes life one day at a time, as he has every day for the past 35,724 days.
The Brookings man turns 98 today, and plans to go out to dinner to celebrate. He might drive to the restaurant, as he still holds his license. And while the nonagenarian uses a cane to get around, he doesn’t wear glasses, or sport hearing aids.
“I have no goals to be alive tomorrow, or live to be 100 years old or anything else,” he said with a broad grin and a hearty laugh. “Just live life one day at a time.”
His first day of life was Sept. 29, 1914, when he was born in Myrtle Point. Although interested in high school education and political science, he eventually found himself working as a dairyman, making cheese, ice cream and other “solid-milk” products.
He spotted Margaret Templeton when he was taking a break outside a dairy factory in Eugene.
“It was one of those beautiful days you only get on the coastal mountains of Oregon,” he said. “I saw Margaret and asked her younger sister, ‘Who in the world is that beautiful girl? I’ve got to meet her.’”
Knowing Margaret loved to dance – and even though he couldn’t have cared less about the activity – he attended one in hopes of meeting her. Later, she met Breuer’s parents, he proposed and “she foolishly accepted,” he said, again laughing. They wed the following year.
Breuer moved the family to Brookings in 1951, and acquired Seaview Dairy on the current site of the humane society on Railroad Street. It represented a new challenge for the young man.
“I didn’t know anything about fluid milk,” he said, “except that it came from cows.” He ran the facility for 32 years.
At the time, Brookings – which incorporated in 1951 – was home to about 1,000 people. Chetco Avenue was the only paved road in town. Timber and lily bulbs provided the economic backbone. A railroad, appropriately, ran down Railroad Street. Banking was conducted in Gold Beach, over Carpenterville Road.
Breuer remembers the grocery store, dry cleaners, Shell gas station, theater, two taverns, restaurants, the hardware store and the huge diesel engines that furnished electricity for the town. He remembers names, too: Elmer Bankus, Hagen, Baker, Manley, Bob Dimmicks, Akers, Fred Fox and Roy Brim.
It was Dimmicks who challenged him to run for city council, a post Breuer held from 1955 to 1959. He only quit because of his work at the dairy.
“I started to realize I needed to spend more time with the business,” he said, “or my partner was going to shoot me.”
While on council, he spurred the effort to get the city’s wastewater treatment under control.
Wastewater was run down redwood logs and dumped onto the beach below Tanbark Road, he said, adding that the water was “sometimes … well, it was pretty discolored.”
And construction was about to begin on houses across the street from the current Dairy Queen site.
“They weren’t allowed septic tanks (because of the lot size), he said. “We were behind the eight-ball. We had to have a sewer system in before people started living there. They put a tank in there; to this day, I don’t know where they hauled it.”
He negotiated the purchase of the sewer system, as it was, from Bankus – and then only because an attorney in Grants Pass had a summer home in the Brookings area and “signed, sealed and delivered” the transaction while Bankus was out of town.
“So you see why at the end of my term I was desperate to get off council,” he said with another laugh. “But we had a water treatment facility.”
Breuer served on the city’s budget committee for three years in the early 1960s, and later the planning commission, on which he served for 29 years.
His favorite stories come from that time period.
Rumor had it that the parking meter supervisor loved to fish. And if the game warden wasn’t around to tag the man’s two-fish-limit catch in the morning, he’d return to sea again that afternoon. And he was “very efficient” about his parking meter duty, Breuer said.
“That didn’t set well with Wilma (Kemp) and her taverns and her beer drinkers,” he said, adding that word on the street was she threatened to turn him into the game warden if he didn’t lighten up. He apparently didn’t, and she ran for mayor on the platform that she’d eliminate the parking meters. She kept her promise.
Another issue involved the teenage girls who boarded at a house between the Parkview Care Center and the Nazarene Church. Their horses were stabled in the area, as well, and residents didn’t like the smell of manure.
“We had people from both sides – people from as far away as Salem,” he said of the turnout for that debate. “We tabled it until the next meeting, and the next meeting it was more of the same, so we tabled it to the next meeting. … Cowards that we were.
“We dumped it onto the city council without any recommendation,” he continued. “And the city council, being the cowards that they were, they decided that there would be no horses on the ocean side of the highway after dark. It was humorous, and it was serious.”
He solved an argument about which street a corner greenhouse faced by relocating the front door on the side of the building that faced another street.
“I got the nicest letter from that gentleman,” Breuer said. “It made my 29 years all worthwhile.”
Breuer was 68 when he left the dairy business.
“I love Brookings,” he said. “I love to be close to the ocean. I’ve been here 61 years. I like the people here; I’m a people-lover.
And while he admires the strides the city has taken, he feels citizens need to carefully monitor the resources that make the area what it is.
He’s concerned about the fish and believes city water users should start using its gray water. He also thinks better marketing could increase activity at local state beaches, the golf course and fishing streams. He has his opinions on taxes and is impeccably knowledgeable about local issues.
“I’m perfectly sold on Brookings,” he said. “Brookings is the gateway to the beautiful Oregon coast – the gem of the Oregon Coast. Gold Beach, Bandon, Port Orford, Coos Bay – none of them compare to Brookings. We need to promote it. It might make some others up the coast a little irked at us, but so what. I think Brookings has a future.
As does he, Breuer said, by taking it one day at a time.