- Douglas Towne
A Homespun Phoenix Family Business: Willard Myers and Sons Contracting
Near the radio towers at what was formerly Tower Plaza Mall on East Thomas Road in Phoenix, are some houses built by the quintessential Mom and Pop construction outfit: Willard Myers and Sons Contracting. The family got into home building right after World War II, when homes were in high demand.
The contracting company was a close-knit operation. At one point, Willard Myers and his wife, Loura, lived with three of their children and their families in a 1,500 square-foot house in Phoenix. Amazingly, and despite living and working together in close quarters, there was little family drama. “I never heard of any major disputes,” says James Myers, grandson of Williard Myers.
Willard Myers’ history is an inspiring story about resourceful individuals who took advantage of the skills they acquired in America’s agricultural heartland. During almost two decades in the contracting industry, the company constructed about 35 homes, many of which came with a unique amenity. “Most of the families they built homes for became lifelong friends,” James Myers says.
First house on 18th St north of Indian School
There wasn’t much time for a carefree childhood for Willard Myers, who was born in Pittsburg in southeast Kansas in 1891. Coal mining was the area’s industry, and Williard’s father died while working in a mine when his son was 14. Willard then provided for his mother and three younger siblings by working as a blacksmith for the Kansas City Southern Railroad, and farming on the side.
He married Loura, and the couple had four kids: Robert, Ruby (Lorene), Donald, and John (Jake). Willard built a house for his family and later took out a loan to expand the home. But then things went south for Willard—and the country. With the Great Depression, he lost his job at the railroad. Unable to make payments on his house, Willard lost that too.
Willard, however, was not unaccustomed to dealing with adversity. He arranged to improve an abandoned farmhouse instead of paying rent. He farmed, worked odd jobs, and collected waste coal using a horse and wagon, which he sold for fuel to heat homes. His eldest son, Robert, quit school in the 6th grade to help Willard support the family.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/June 2020 issue, Vol. 9, No.3.