By Samantha O’Conner

soconner@bakercityherald.com

If you were to drive by Memory Lane Homes in Baker City, you might see Arthur (Art) Phillips sitting in the swing chair.

Phillips will celebrate his 102nd birthday this Friday.

When asked what contributed to his longevity, he said “I just didn’t die. That’s all I know, I didn’t do anything different from anybody else.”

“I feel good, though,” Phillips said. “I haven’t been sick or anything. I feel healthy, except I can’t see or hear.”

Phillips was born on July 17, 1917, at Goodrich Creek between Council and Cambridge, Idaho. He was one of seven siblings.

He recalled living with his grandparents for a short time when he was a child. They were loggers who traveled around the area for work.

“I know he (grandfather) worked up in Cascade (Idaho) when I was five years old,” Phillips said. “I stayed with him for a month. My grandma went out and sawed logs with him.”

Phillips remembered that they always lived in a tent around logging camps and drove a big car.

At the age of nine, he worked for a farmer cutting and stacking hay and working with a hay derrick, earning 75 cents for a 10-hour day.

“They’d never heard of a baler back in them days,” said Phillips.

When he turned 12, he ran a wagon and worked at stacking hay until he was in high school, doubling his daily pay to $1.50.

He also worked at the Mesa Orchards in Idaho, spraying the apple trees to ward off worms.

He played baseball around town when he was a kid and played basketball in high school. He didn’t participate in a lot of winter sports.

“Couldn’t afford the skis,” said Phillips, who was a teenager during the Great Depression.

“When I was a kid and wanted to, I couldn’t stand up. I was always on my head,” he said with a laugh.

He wasn’t one for hunting, either.

Phillips said his father-in-law lived on a ranch and he would take Phillips out hunting with him.

“I didn’t really care about it,” Phillips said.

He met his wife, Beth, when they were in high school — albeit neighboring rival schools for most of the time.

“She went to Cambridge High School and I went to Council,” Phillips said. “But the last year of it, she was a senior, she came to Council to take care of her grandparents.”

The couple were married on Nov. 11, 1937, when he was 20 and she was 18. They had two daughters, Gloria and Marlene.

Phillips said Beth was fond of dancing.

“That’s the one thing my wife said I had to learn to do was dance,” he said. “She danced with her folks when she was a little kid and she loved to dance, so I had to learn to dance.”

Phillips enrolled in barber school in 1939 in Boise and received a draft notice for the military and entered the Merchant Marines in 1945.

But he didn’t serve for long.

“They told me the war was over and they told me I could either stay in or go home,” said Phillips. “And I had two little kids and I said, well, that isn’t a very big decision, so I went home.”

Returning home, he purchased a barber shop in Cascade, where he cut hair for nearly 28 years.

He retired from the tonsorial business and went to work for the state of Idaho managing a liquor store for eight years.

Beth worked in different places — restaurants in Cascade, the post office and then in her sister’s business.

Phillips said that although they didn’t travel frequently, he and Beth went on three cruises — to Alaska, Mexico and out of Florida.

When visiting their granddaughter, they toured Washington, D.C, seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and other sights in the nation’s capital.

Phillips said he also took several flights with his son-in-law, who is a pilot.

The couple moved to Baker City in 1996 to be closer to family. Beth passed away that same year.

Phillips has five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

In a letter, Phillips’ granddaughter, Stephanie Tweit wrote: “The most important thing to Art is family. He loves them all so much that it chokes him up to talk about them.”

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