Myra Huyck Manfrina is 100 Thursday
“Myra Huyck Manfrina: Gal of the Century” is a fitting headline for the article in the Lompoc Valley Historical Society’s Spring 2021 quarterly newsletter, which is named the Myra Huyck Manfrina Commemoration Issue in honor of the Lompoc legend, who is celebrating her 100th birthday Thursday.
The longtime researcher, genealogist and historian for the Historical Society still serves on its board of directors.
Almost the entire issue contains a lengthy interview that Cynthia Carbone Ward did with Mrs. Manfrina in 2016 for her blog, “The Living Stories Collective,” an oral history website.
Ms. Ward graciously gave her permission to use the 2016 material, along with several photographs for a story about the beloved Mrs. Manfrina, who was born May 27, 1921, in a house on Locust and L streets in Lompoc.
“Not in a hospital,” she was quick to add, “but a house,” according to the oral history.
Mrs. Manfrina was the only child of Lloyd and Marie Huyck and had a close relationship with her grandparents, who played a prominent role in many of her memories.
“I recall as a child in the 1920s going to Grandma Pierce’s for a chicken dinner, but first a trip to the chicken yard, where Grandpa would chop a chicken’s head off with a hatchet, or Grandma would pick one up by the head and whirl it around . . . After killing the chicken one way or another, the feathers had to be plucked off, then the carcass singed in the fire to get all the fuzz and pin feathers, and finally it got to the oven or frying pan.”
Fourth of July memories included the purchase of “real fireworks” at Mama Wong’s near the corner of K and Ocean.
“We would sit on the steps at Grandma Pierce’s North L Street home while Uncle Bert Rios and my dad would put up pinwheels on the big tree trunks, shoot skyrockets . . . the kids could pop long strings of small firecrackers themselves. There was usually a parade that day with lots of flags and John Philip Sousa marches by the Lompoc band.”
Mrs. Manfrina also remembered Sunday rides to the beach or over the countryside.
“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 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 Cafe after school for a marshmallow Coke. I was skinny then.”
Other happy memories Mrs. Manfrina recalled in Ms. Ward’s oral history:
“You knew it was spring and Easter time when the men and boys blossomed out in white shoes and gray suits, and the men wore straw hats instead of felt ones … You used the sun or the oven to dry your hair, and rubber bands held up our rolled above-the-knee stockings until the advent of garter belts … We didn’t lock our house or car doors … Everyone respected each other’s property … We ironed all our clothes … And we used ink for pens with pen points dipped in a bottle of ink or inkwell.”
During her teen years, Mrs. Manfrina went to school dances, where “we danced in our partners’ arms and only cheek to cheek when Miss Bowen wasn’t looking. It was an age of innocence. Every Saturday night, there was a dance at the memorial building. We even had dance cards. That’s one thing we did in Lompoc. We danced. Everyone had a good time. No money, but a good time.”
In March 1942, Myra Huyck married Walter Manfrina, who was drafted into the Army in 1944 when their first son Barry was a baby. Their second son Bob was born in 1947.
World War II memories included helping out in various ways at the Walnut Street USO while her husband fought for his country in Europe in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Hospitalized twice, he was awarded a Purple Heart.
After his discharge in 1946, Mr. Manfrina was hired by Burpee (Seeds and Plants) as a greenhouse manager. The couple were married for 72 years when he died in 2014 at the age of 100.
“Seventy-two years. Isn’t that wild?” said Mrs. Manfrina in Ms. Ward’s account.
In addition to her work at the Historical society and on the computer at home, Mrs. Manfrina has kept busy transforming bits of broken jewelry, porcelain doll faces and bric-a-brac into unusual pieces of art arranged in small shadow box frames.
“You just have to do your best and keep going,” she told Ms. Ward more than once.
When asked if she had some basic rules for a long happy life, Mrs. Manfrina was prepared with the following answer:
“Take pride in what you do.
“Do the best you can.
“Have a hobby and a goal.”