I first came to Melba in the third grade. It must have been in the spring of 1933. There were numerous new friends to get acquainted with. They included Portia Palmer and Florence Armstrong with whom I still communicate. There was Norma Harpster and Irene Feeney, a beautiful girl with curly hair who could draw beautiful girls, and there was Billy Eichenberger. He had an elbow that was bent and wouldn’t straighten. That was fascinating to me, but the rest of the kids had known him since first grade and they were used to it. And they watched out for him – I remember that he used it as a lethal weapon.
Billy was the last of the Eichenbergers. There were eight. Marshall graduated with the first graduating class of Melba High School. Kenneth went to Melba High School when it was in the basement of the Baptist Church before the high school was built. Ruth and Esther (who excelled at piano) went to high school and Lois tagged along. John Paul had health problems and died at an early age. They all played in the canal in the summer and road down Parsons’ hill in the wintertime and entertained their friends with parties in their home after church on Sunday nights. Then they moved away and Billy finished eighth grade in Portland, Oregon.
The Eichenbergers had one of the first stores. The father drove a team and wagon throughout the valley a couple days a week delivering products and buying eggs, milk and produce. When Marshall was old enough to drive they obtained a motorized vehicle.
Will bought the pool hall on Broadway and built the first Melba Feed and Fuel store. He had a stationary baler in which the kids described as one of their jobs helping “poking and tying“ bales of hay. Kenneth said his dad bought, baled and shipped hay all over the U. S. on the railroad. It was also the kids’ job to load the bales on a wagon and drive them to the railroad siding.
The Eichenbergers have kept in close contact with their old hometown having plots in the Melba cemetery. The parents are buried there – some of their children and grandchildren. Wilbert and his wife came often to contribute to the upkeep, and to keep in touch with Melba at the Senior Center. Bill came to a few reunions. Lois, married to a Nampa doctor, spent many evenings at the Melba gym when her son, Dave Mangum, was coaching volley ball and basketball. She was a true supporter of Melba.
So, last week the last of the Eichenbergers, Bill and his wife Marge, were interred in their places in the Melba Cemetery. About 30 relatives – Eichenberger grandchildren, great-grandchildren and various nieces and nephews from all over the country came to sing hymns and recount stories and just get acquainted with each other. They met again at the Friends Church where the Eichenbergeers had been instrumental in its beginning and looked at pictures, ate and reminisced. Their spirit will always be part of what made Melba what it is today.