Editor’s note: Robert (Bob) Muir lived in Idyllwild for nearly half a century and he wasn’t born here. In today’s peripatetic world, that feat alone deserves recognition. Bob’s footprints are all over the Hill.
While most newcomers, arriving in this century, think of Marge, his wife, when hearing “Muir,” Bob has a long and valuable history in the community.
On Sunday, Sept. 9, Marge, their children, Chuck, and his wife Teri, Rob, and Kathy and one of his many grandchildren, Rob, spent time with me talking about Bob and what kind of man he was.
Services for Bob, who passed away on Aug. 27, will be 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 16 at the Idyllwild Nature Center.
Bob and Marge moved to the Hill in 1957, nearly 55 years ago, from Temple City. While having dinner at his uncle’s house, they learned of a vacant one-acre lot available for $2,000. The down payment was $25.
That was all the incentive they needed to leave the commuting and smog below. With three small children, Pine Cove became the new Muir homestead.
Since he was an only child, his mother refused to be left behind. So Bob’s parents moved here too. His father operated the only gas station between Idyllwild and Banning until he passed away.
While Idyllwild expanded after WWII, it was still small. Bob, a carpenter, had to commute to the union hall in the desert daily for work.
Shortly after resettling here, a summer fire started in Pine Cove. The area had to be evacuated. Muir and a friend helped fight it, but this effort made them conscious of the vulnerability living here without immediate fire protection. At that time, the U.S. Forest Service’s firefighters were seasonal and Idyllwild Fire was still a volunteer company.
Bob could not get the county to make a permanent commitment to build a fire station. But he persisted in seeking the aid his community needed. The result is one of his major contributions and it still exists.
He helped found the Pine Cove Volunteer Fire Department. He served as their chief for more than 20 years and was involved for more than 35 years. Over time and after many discussions and arguments with the county, a county engine and staff were eventually assigned to Pine Cove.
Apparently, the fire only rekindled his interest in firefighting. According to Marge, he played firefighter as a kid. He and a friend would use their wagon as an engine, fill it with water and put out the small fires, which they started in the neighborhood. His dad ended their early fireman’s career when the boys got too close to the local gas station.
But the volunteers and the community support continued under the auspices of Community Service Area 38. Marge is still a member of its Advisory Committee and a vocal supporter of the volunteer firefighters.
The community raised money to buy its first fire engine. Over the years, the community has helped purchase several engines and an ambulance. In the 1980s, Bob and Marge flew to Pennsylvania and drove one of the newer engines back to California.
Rob reminisced about accompanying his dad to bring another engine from Arrowhead in the 1960s. Eventually, the county acquiesced to Muir’s arguments about the need for Pine Cove station. “You provide the equipment and we’ll send an engineer,” they told him, Marge said.
In 1968, the current Station 23 was built from tax revenue exclusively raised in Pine Cove. And those residents continue to support the station’s volunteers and emergency medical service today.
In the early 1980s, Rob, now an adult, paid for 12 consecutive personal ads in the Town Crier. Each one was addressed to Bob and Marge, such as “Check your baggage.” The ads ended in December. For Christmas, there was a box under the tree filled with gadgets and wires from various jobs, also instructions in an envelope.
When Bob and Marge opened it, there were airline tickets to Hawaii — their first airplane ride and they went in January for their anniversary.
When they returned, Bob spent mornings at the Red Kettle proudly showing pictures of his trip. He was the family photographer and always carrying pictures of trips or events to share with friends. “We hardly have any pictures of him because he was always taking them,” Kathy lamented.
Chuck described how generous his dad was. He was “always buying groceries for families, offering jobs to the out-of-work and giving money to someone in need.”
His generosity affected his family. It took years to complete the house. For a long time, the kitchen and garage shared the bottom of the three-floor home.
As the Jeep parts continued to expand into the kitchen, Marge finally painted a red line marking where the wall should be. Of course, the kids often ate dinner sitting in dad’s Jeep.
It was his perfection, which slowed his accomplishments. Everything had to be square and measured. Unfortunately, some snow storms would leak into the living quarters, Marge said.
Bob was a good skier and had spent time skiing in Northern California. This eventually led to operating the local ski lift. Yes, decades ago, Idyllwild had ski tow and the Muirs ran it.
He was a good friend with many people, including the local sheriff’s deputy. They would play practical jokes on each other. Chuck remembered that once his dad was able to jack up the rear of the deputy’s vehicle, then arranged for a call to go to Anza.
Jumping in the car, turning on the lights and applying the gas took him nowhere. “Damn you, Bob Muir,” was his reaction, Chuck said.
One of his philosophies was his acceptance of life. “I’ve made one mistake in life, but first ones don’t count,” Chuck said, recounting his father’s motto.
Remembering Bob ...
A Celebration of Life for Bob Muir will be held at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 16 at the Idyllwild Nature Center. (parking fees are waived).