Myra Huyck Manfrina was born in Lompoc on May 27, 1921. Members of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society plan to gather outside the house of the beloved historian and lifelong resident at 11 a.m. on her hundredth birthday, and she will sit on her porch as various proclamations are read in celebration of her.
“My roots here go way down deep,” Myra told me with pride in a previous interview. She is a researcher, genealogist, and historian who also worked as a legal secretary and newspaper writer. “I began as a stringer for the Santa Barbara News-Press in 1950,” she explains. “I was asked to do a story about Lompoc, and of course I got carried away. The Sunday feature turned into a three-part series.”
That tendency to get carried away is why Myra does such thorough and meticulous work. She has researched exhaustive histories about family and town, compiling single-spaced articles and volumes dense with dates and details, but always rendered compelling by her distinctively well-written narrative. She is a genuinely good writer and a remarkable source of information about the people and events of Lompoc. A vital presence at the Historical Society, she draws upon her knowledge to help fill in gaps and maintain records. Over the years, she has become very adept at using the computer and appreciates the relative ease of communication and research via the internet.
“The wonderful thing is that I still have my mind and memories,” she has said. “But not everyone I know that’s my age still does. I can’t reminisce with them. There are very few left, but I can’t reminisce with the ones still here because they can’t remember. And that’s sad.”
But the sharing continues. Myra is a treasure trove of stories, and she delves into the past for younger relatives, friends, and strangers who contact her for genealogical information or background material for books. Lompoc, of course, is her specialty, and she is its affectionate scribe.
“Like many other native Lompocans of my era and earlier,” she has written, “I have the feeling that Lompoc is mine. I roamed the fields following my dad and my grandfather as they plowed and harrowed the acres of empty ground in town in the 1920s. I rode on their gravel wagons back and forth from Lompoc to the riverbed at H Street. I couldn’t count the times I spent ‘helping’ them load the wagons with each shovel full of sand or gravel, or ‘helping’ them hitch the horses from one wagon to the team of the other so that heavily loaded wagons could be pulled out of the riverbed.”
“[In later years] there were Sunday rides to the beach or over the countryside — endless gates to open and close, flat tires to be changed, and we always took our picnic lunch — there were no handy restaurants or fast food places to buy anything to eat. The only one I can think of was Morinini’s Store at Surf. We could get candy and soda, and crackers and cheese. We went to the Elite Bakery, westside alley corner, 100 block South H, and got a frappe cone, double scoop for five cents. In my teenage years I went to Lind’s Café after school for a marshmallow Coke. I was skinny then.”
In March 1942, Myra married Walter Manfrina, whose main occupations, according to Myra, were farming, flower seeds, and his favorite, fishing. As Myra tells it, Walt’s love for fishing probably started when he was just a toddler sitting on a creek bank near El Jaro (on the San Julian Ranch) watching his older sister pull out trout after trout with a string and hook attached to a willow stick pole.
Walt served honorably in the European Theater of Operations, taking part in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge with the 1st Infantry Division. He was hospitalized twice and awarded a Purple Heart for his service, returning home to Lompoc in 1946. Walt was soon hired by Burpee as a greenhouse manager, and the Manfrinas contentedly settled back into life in Lompoc, where they raised their two sons. They had been married for seventy-two years when Walt passed away in 2014 at the age of 100. “We had 72 years of marriage. Isn’t that wild?” says Myra.
“I’ve always had a positive outlook,” she adds. “I’m able to rise above it, somehow or other. And I love to do things for other people. There’s a satisfaction in that.” Being 100 does slow one down a bit, but Myra’s days continue to be filled with worthy actions. She confesses that she sometimes sees Lompoc as it was, not as it is, but her gift to the community is ensuring that it does not forget its past.