Life Story for
George Ernest Miley was born February 24, 1928, in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho, to Frances Charlton and Horace Harmon Miley. He joined his ten-year old sister, Irma “Jane” Miley. Having been born on the eve of the Great Depression may have helped form the man that George became—a self-starter and an entrepreneur. From his memoir, it is clear that he hit the ground running, with an avid interest in his surroundings, in people, and as he matured, in the various communities in which he lived.
His father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad when George was born, but within a few years, probably due to the economic repercussions of the Depression, his father became a reluctant but ingenious farmer on an eighty-acre farm about ten miles outside of Boise. He obtained one of the first milking machines and sold milk in five-gallon cans to Challenge Creamery, which was managed by George’s uncle. The family’s farmhouse, according to George’s recollections, had at least a kitchen and a living room—they slept on the screened-in porch both winter and summer. There was no electricity, but they had a root cellar to keep the farm produce in good shape. His first job on the farm, as he got a bit older, was to catch the chickens for his mother so she could prepare them for dinner. During haying season, he earned his keep taking water to the hay crew with his sidekick, Tippy, a collie-mix, and by cutting wheat with a small scythe to feed the pigs. He also remembered, with typical George Miley humor, that they had a “two-holer.” He wondered often, he acknowledged, “Why two holes? Who do you go to the outhouse with? I didn’t really have company going to the toilet until the army.”
George’s dad left farming for a job with the Idaho Highway Department, which started the family on a rather peripatetic path. In Twin Falls in 1933, they moved within a few months to Jerome, and then on to Shoshone, where George entered the first grade and began his career as a salesman, “When I was about 7 or 8, I got into my first sales/management job—had to manage myself—selling the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies Home Journal, and the Country Gentleman. The magazines arrived by mail and I picked them up at the Post Office in the middle of the week, sold them and made my report and sent their portion of the money to the publisher, the Curtis Publishing Company. I walked around town selling magazines to some regular customers and whoever else wanted one.” He opened a savings account and before long was able to buy a new bike. His parents took him to Boise, where he ordered a “top of the line, Montgomery Ward’s Hawthorne bike, with a head and taillight, a battery-operated horn and ‘knee-action’ on the front wheel,” for $21.00 to be delivered to Shoshone. It was while waiting for the bike to arrive, he remembered, that he learned a valuable lesson about life, “It was supposed to arrive on Wednesday. When it didn’t, I was heart-broken. The lesson can be looked at in a number of ways. Don’t plan on things happening as you want. Be careful when you depend on someone you have no control over. If one day is sad, the next can be great—the bike arrived on Thursday.”
By the third grade, they were back in Boise, and, at the advanced age of eight, he got his second selling job. He would don his roller skates, head downtown from 16th Street, and sell newspapers for the Capitol News on a street corner—earning up to twenty-five cents a day. His father returned to work for Union Pacific, and the Mileys moved back to Shoshone, where they were stationed for about a year. In 1938, UP transferred them to Cache Junction, Utah, and in the late summer, George’s father became gravely ill. He remembered his father being carried into the train on a stretcher and taken to Pocatello, where, after a nearly four-month stay in the hospital, he died. His mother, whom he called Namie, stayed in Idaho, and George was sent to Orinco, Oregon, to live with his aunt and uncle. Here, he walked uphill both ways to his two-room school, ran a crawfish trap-line with his cousin, Billy, and fished.
George and his mother moved to Portland, Oregon, the next fall, and he started a new job—he was eleven. He delivered the Oregon Journal, and learned another important lesson that guided his life, “Watch your money. Don’t spend it stupidly.” George learned quickly to collect for the paper subscriptions on a regular basis, but, as he noted, running around with all that money got him into trouble. His addiction to root beer floats and cherry pies soon depleted his financial holdings and he was unable to pay the Journal their due, and he was unceremoniously relieved of his duties. He spent the next few years working at the Oregonian and, again, at the Journal. Graduating from grade school, he attended Benson Technological High School and later, Lincoln High, playing football and basketball. Never one to pass up an opportunity, George became a truck-driver at sixteen. He fudged his age, got a chauffeur’s license, and delivered papers like mad.
George followed his mother to Santa Cruz, California, in 1944, and worked in his uncle’s redwood novelty shop. He attended Stockton Junior College, in 1946, and worked for Union Ice delivering ice to homes. Graduating in 1948, George worked as bartender, body-surfed in the ocean, and drove “hot rods.” In 1950, he moved back to Oregon, but within a few short months, he was drafted and sent to Fort Ord and then to Fort Benning in Georgia, where he was assigned to the 20th Field Artillery Battalion. Suffice it to say that George was an enterprising soldier. He spent nearly two years in Germany, and managed, with a couple of good friends, to see much of Europe while on leave.
Released from the service, he returned to the state of California, and eventually got a job at an auto parts store. Within a few months, the owner put him on the road selling parts to garages and service stations—as he stated in his memoir, “I did pretty well. At least I didn’t get fired. It seems that I was always doing work that involved selling of some sort.” Nonetheless, he decided that there had to be a more efficient way to earn money, and he enrolled in the College of the Pacific in the fall of 1953, majoring in speech with an emphasis on Radio and TV Production and Direction. He graduated in 1956.
It was at this juncture, that George found his niche—the insurance business. Hired by Travelers Insurance in the spring of 1956, he moved to San Francisco, worked a few extra hours touring tourists through San Francisco nightclubs, survived a couple earthquakes, and was eventually moved to the Sacramento office. Travelers, a clearly appropriate name, also sent George to Washington and then to Arizona, where he became a Property Insurance Underwriter.
And, it was in Phoenix that he met Carol Cole, who became his wife in 1963. Carol and George had three children, Scott, Steve, and George, Jr., or Chip. Between 1963 and 1979, the young family lived in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. He remembered with fondness their family camping trips to Yosemite in their tent-camper. George also began teaching for the California Education Association. He taught Risk Management in a course designed to introduce Japanese insurance agents to United States insurance business practices.
In 1979, George and Carol decided to return to George’s Idaho roots. The family had vacationed in the Hailey-Ketchum area and had loved it. Interestingly, George thought he might open a bar and restaurant, there. But, cooler heads prevailed, and he stopped in at the R & R Insurance Agency to inquire about homeowner’s insurance and wondered aloud if the agent would like to sell his business. He would and he did. The Mileys sold their home in San Diego and moved to Idaho. George loved to tell the story that he lived near the former stomping ground of his grandfather, who had owned and operated an “interesting” collection of businesses in the early mining days of the Wood River Valley.
Moving back to Idaho brought a number of changes. In 1986, he met and married Evelyn McCracken. The couple was very involved in the Wood River community, with membership in Rotary and a commitment to the Hailey Episcopal Church, where he served in the Vestry as Senior Warden. In 1995, George and Evelyn “retired” to Salmon, but, as made clear by his early life, retirement was something George didn’t really understand. He opened an insurance agency in Salmon, joined the Chamber of Commerce, and became an active member in the local Rotary Club. He and Evelyn joined the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, which, as Father Bob Perry said, remained an important and comforting part of George’s life to the last. Over the years, George served in many church offices, including leadership roles in the Vestry and on the Stewardship Committee. He attended services every Sunday he was in town. Always interested in the stability of the Lemhi County economy, George served on the Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) for seventeen years—for many of those years as secretary. Tammy Stringham, Executive Director of LCEDA, acknowledged that George, more than anyone else on the board, knew the importance of the personal touch in an era of emails, texts, and instant messaging. He said many times, “you know, there are such things as telephones and letters.” Also, while retired, George served on the Salmon City Council. Taking over for a councilman who resigned in 2002, George was subsequently elected, holding office through 2007. He served on the committees of Public Works, Personnel, Finance, and the Sacajawea Center, and was instrumental in having the City of Salmon recognized as a Gem Community. When he finally and truly retired from the insurance business, George volunteered at both the Sacajawea Center and the Lemhi County Historical Museum. He met the visitors with warmth and interest and always worked to help the organizations achieve their goals, including the installation of handrails for the Salmon Grange and a movie screen for the museum. He enjoyed chatting with the other docents and sharing entertaining stories of his life and interests. And he loved tooling about town on his motorized three-wheel trike. His good friend and favorite technology wizard, Wayne Talmadge, enjoyed their many visits and pointed out that George’s favorite pastime in recent years was sitting in his easy chair, looking at his “million-dollar view,” and sipping a good gin (with none of that over-priced vermouth) at 5:00 PM. He loved his family, announcing, often and with joy, that he was off to see his children and grandchildren.
A true gem of the Gem State, George will be greatly missed.
George is survived by his sons, Scott (Jane) of Hailey and granddaughters, Cassidy and Sienna; Steve of Boise; and George (Susan), Jr., of Twin Falls and grandchildren, Kori and Kyle; stepchildren Charlie McCracken, Jude Carlin, Cindy Broxon, Gini Ballou, Shelley Bahrenfuss, Aliza McCracken, Tom McCracken,
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Irma “Jane,” and his wife, Evelyn.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at 2:00 PM at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Salmon, Idaho. A graveside service will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 2:00 PM at the Hailey Cemetery with Military Honors in Hailey, Idaho.
Arrangements by Jones & Casey Funeral Home of Salmon, Idaho. www.jonesandcaseyfh.com