Friday, April 16, 2021
Myrle Bradshaw Chalks Up 107 Years
Myrle Bradshaw breaks out in a smile as she watches friends wish her Happy Birthday.
Sunday, December 20, 2020


Woodrow Wilson had just succeeded William Howard Taft as president when Myrle Bradshaw came into the world on Dec. 19, 1913.

The 16th Amendment had just been ratified, authorizing the federal government to collect income taxes. Alice Paul had just led a Woman’s Suffrage March through Washington, D.C. on horseback. Ford Motor Company had introduced the world’s first successful moving assembly line. And R.J. Reynolds introduced Camel, the first packaged cigarette.

Rosa Parks and Richard Nixon had been born months earlier, and Louis Armstrong had begun playing the cornet in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs.

Members of the Ketchum Fire Department turned out in force.

Fast forward 107 years and this time Bradshaw was in the spotlight as she took her place on the porch outside her Swiss chalet-style home near Ketchum’s Knob Hill Park. Her son Doug rolled out her wheelchair as far as the cord on her electric blanket allowed. And she smiled as she watched well-wishers drive by, all wearing face masks to protect her from the coronavirus even though they were 25 feet away.

Even Ketchum firefighters arrived on the scene, producing signs that said “Happy Birthday” and “You Are Loved.”

“You’re the only person I know who brings out the whole fire department,” Ketchum resident Nancy Humphrey told her. “We’re not coming any closer but we love you. Next year we will go out for lunch like we’re supposed to.”

Bradshaw, who was unscathed by the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, was born to John C. Robertson, a Mississippi native who was on to his way to the Klondike when his money ran out prompting him to settle in Sandpoint for a couple years working in the timber industry.

Myrle was the envy of all, bundled up as she was in her electric blanket.

Robertson, who weighed 135 pounds in his stocking feet, moved south to Ketchum a couple years later in 1898 hoping to score work in the mines. Instead, he met the Englishman Frank Gooding who was raising cattle in the Greenhorn and Timber Gulch area south of Ketchum and selling the meat to miners.

Robertson and his brother Bill joined forces with the man who would go on to become governor of Idaho, raising milk cows for the miners. Then they followed Gooding to what is now Gooding in 1900. They yanked out sagebrush and planted alfalfa. And eventually they traded the cattle business for sheep, establishing one of the original sheep ranches in southern Idaho, even though Robertson had attended college for a couple years with the idea of becoming a doctor.

“The sheep business was sort of a disheartening business because it was either up or it was down,” Bradshaw told Miriam Breckenridge during an oral history for The Community Library years later. “I can remember we either had everything we wanted or else it was a poor year. I once told someone we ate lamb in good years and mutton in poor years.”

Bradshaw recalled how in 1924 there was little hay or feed in southern Idaho so she and her family followed her father as he trailed sheep through the Bruneau Desert to Grandview. On Christmas Eve he  and his herders were caught on the desert with the sheep in a terrible blizzard.

Myrle Bradshaw, who was grand marshal for the 2005 Wagon Days parade, took her place among other grand marshals during a 2019 gathering.

“We didn’t even know where he was. We were so frantic,” Bradshaw said. “Finally, on Christmas Day my father walked to one of the hot springs on the Bruneau desert and called home to say where they were.”

Bradshaw and her brother attended a little country school in Grandview with children of other sheep ranchers and herders until they returned home in March. While there, she recalled, they walked a mile to school, the children laughing at her little brown patent leather shoes.

“We were scared to death of the dogs. It was terrifying,” she said.

During summers from 1910 to 1921 Bradshaw and her family lived in a log cabin three miles east of  Bellevue while the family sheep trailed up Galena Summit, turning up Horse Creek over Gladiator Pass into the East Fork of the Salmon in the White Clouds. Their range extended from the foot of Hyndman Peak to Carey, as well.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw spins a few jokes with Myrle during the 2019 Wagon Days celebration.

“My father was very kind and soft spoken and he used to take out my brother’s and my school books and teach the Basque boys to speak and write English,” she said. In return, the Basque showed them how to cook up a kettle of beans and sheepherder biscuits, pouring the starter in a sack of flour before tossing it in the Dutch oven so they didn’t have to clean any more dishes than necessary.

Fun times involved going with her father to Picabo or Hailey to buy sheep camp supplies from the Kilpatrick Store or from Leon Friedman at Friedman’s in Hailey

“We didn’t frequent Ketchum much as a child—it was just headquarters for sheep shipping. But we always came to Ketchum on the Fourth of July when they brought out the ore wagons. Mr. Lewis, I can remember him driving the jerk rein--he drove the wagons himself.”

Many Idaho sheepmen went broke in 1930 when the bottom fell out of the market. Her father, who had had 13 bands of sheep and 26,000 head of sheep at one time, ran sheep for another 10 years but not on such a big scale.

Bradshaw played cornet in the Gooding school band. And, even though business wasn’t good, her father paid two years of tuition at Gooding College when she graduated from high school in 1932. She majored in music and home economics.

It was at a Saturday night dance at the American Legion Hall in Gooding in February 1934 when she caught the eye of Douglas “Buzz” Bradshaw.

A honeybee farmer from Wendell, his father had learned beekeeping in Long Island, N.Y. where his family had emigrated from Ireland. He started a honey business in 1905 upon moving to Payette.

Buzz was originally nicknamed Buss for the popular Buster Brown shoes, but his nickname was changed to Buzz when he began selling honey from a Model A Ford truck.

After getting a degree in business and economics at the University of Idaho and Stanford University,  Buzz returned to Idaho to help his family at a new honey producing company by then located in Wendell, marketing its 3BEARS and SPUN HONEY to supermarket chains throughout the West.

The two were married Sept. 30, 1934, at Myrle’s family’s house in Gooding and honeymooned in Ketchum at the Bald Springs Hotel, having always enjoyed the old hot springs plunge in Hailey’s Hiawatha Hotel.

“Buzz kidded me about marrying the bee keeper’s son,” she said. “But Buzz and I always had a lot in common because we understood each other’s backgrounds. Our parents and grandparents were sort of the same type of people.”

They moved to California to work for number of years but their hearts remained in Idaho where in 1954 they purchased property at the foot of Ketchum’s Knob Hill and built an Austrian-style chalet home boasting edelweiss flowers painted by Austrian painter and ski instructor Hans Thum.

They built a second home next to the original one in 1973, but the first remains in the family.

In 1964 the family sold what had become the largest independent honey producing and packing business in the United States. Two years later Buzz and his sons Doug and Ben purchased a food brokerage company that they named Bradshaw Incorporated and built into one of the major food brokerage firms in the Western United States with more than 800 sales professionals.

They later established Bradshaw International, which has become the national market leader in kitchenware.

Myrle, meanwhile, found her calling mentoring young girls in Job’s Daughters and Eastern Star. She was also very much involved in the philanthropic P.E.O. organization.

Every summer, Doug said, she would bring her sons to Ketchum to ride horses and enjoy the great outdoors. One summer they stayed on Trail Creek when there was nothing lining the creek but cottonwoods. Another time, they stayed at Easley Hot Springs north of Ketchum.

“There was a row of cabins on the creek. There was no refrigeration so we put milk and produce in little pools created by stone dams my brother and I built. We slept on a screened porch where deer would come up and look in. We had a wood stove and kerosene lamps. And I remember when the pool got  dirty the ladies would drain it and get out their Clorox and brooms and clean away.”

Buzz and Myrle Bradshaw were avid travelers. They went to China, Nepal, South America and even over Afghanistan’s Khyber Pass. And they saw the Dalai Lama when he was a 16-year-old boy during a trip to Darjeeling, India, where they visited a monastery and watched monks pray at a prayer wheel.

When home, Myrle relished a good game of bridge with friends, and she was involved in St. Luke’s Wood River hospital, St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum. In 1960 the couple donated three lots that would become part of Ketchum’s Knob Hill City Park.

Myrle lost her husband in 2011 after 77 years of marriage and two months shy of his 102nd birthday. Her son Robert Ben Bradshaw died last year at the relatively young age of 77. But she still has her son Doug, five grandchildren and two step grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

Bradshaw asked for no special meal or birthday cake on Saturday. And it didn’t matter, anyway, as friends had dropped off enough food to last the extended family for a few days.

And what does she attribute her long life to?

“My many friends,” she said. “I love this community and the generosity of the people.”


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