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Old photo of car sparks a trip down memory lane

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the black-and-white photo, a slim young man with sharp features and a mop of dark, curly hair stands with one foot perched on the bumper of a sleek, 1930s-era automobile parked on a dirt road. Naked mountains and empty ground make up the backdrop.

At first glance you could not be blamed for thinking it’s a publicity shot for some mid-century movie star such as James Dean.

Myron Robart, then 22, poses with his 1935 Hudson Terraplane in this 1948 photo taken at what would now be at or near the intersection of Tramway and Candelaria. (SOURCE: Myron Robart)

That theory is wrecked by the wording on the reverse side –

“1948 Road to Juan Tabo Picnic Area

Today Tramway Blvd at Candelaria Rd

1935 Hudson Terraplane

Myron Robart, 22”

Put another way, the photo was taken in 1948 at about what is now the intersection of Tramway and Candelaria. The man in the photo is Albuquerque resident Myron Robart, 22 when his father took that picture but 92 now.

And the car is the 1935 Hudson Terraplane that Myron Robart purchased in 1948 for $25.

Robart sent the photo to the Journal because he thought it might be of interest. Probably because it shows how much Albuquerque has developed during the last 70 years. That barren area in which Robart posed with his car in 1948 now includes a house of worship and a mix of commercial and residential properties.

But maybe – just maybe – Robart sent the picture because, after all these years, he’s still pretty dang proud of that Terraplane.

Really fast

“It was my first car. It was really fast and fun to drive,” Robart said. “I enjoyed it so much I bought a 1947 Hudson and a 1951 Hudson.”

Robart was talking last week in his neat and meticulously organized home near the intersection of San Mateo and Menaul. He and his late wife, Rosemary “Rosa” Robart, moved here in 1950, a few years after their marriage.

This 1940 photo shows Myron Robart, then 14, working at the Central and High Nook magazine stand at Central Avenue and High Street. (SOURCE: Myron Robart)

Robart’s mop of dark hair is long gone. So is much of his hearing and some of his memory. But years ago, in anticipation, perhaps, of when details might not be so easy to summon up, he compiled a list of the places he has lived, his employment history and even an inventory of the cars he bought. Since that 1935 Terraplane, he has owned a dozen cars, the last a 2012 Ford Fusion purchased new.

Hard times

The car count is now complete because a few years back Robart voluntarily gave up driving. But as the affable Robart goes over the other lists, the classic American stories of toughing out the hard times and the self-made man emerge.

He was born in Emsworth, Pa., on Jan. 20, 1926, his mother died on Dec. 21, 1928, and the Great Depression seized the nation in 1929, forcing his father, Fremont Robart, to travel the country looking for work and Myron to live alternately with his father and others as he attended schools in Alliance, Akron and Hammondsville in Ohio; Glendale, Ariz; Los Angeles; El Paso and Albuquerque.

“My dad was picking cantaloupes in Arizona,” Robart said.

But young Myron pitched in, too. In Los Angeles, when he was 11 and 12, he sold the Saturday Evening Post magazine door to door and the Los Angeles Examiner on a downtown street corner. In Albuquerque, when he was 14 and 15, he worked in an ice cream parlor, at a pawn shop and at the Central and High Nook magazine stand at Central Avenue and High Street.

“Camels and Lucky Strikes (cigarettes) were 15 cents a pack,” he said. “We sold the Albuquerque Journal, The Albuquerque Tribune, the Denver Post and the Los Angeles Examiner. I think the Post and the Examiner were 10 cents and the Journal and Tribune a nickel.”

Building a career

In 1941, Fremont Robart got a permanent assignment as a clerk with the Railway Postal Service in Albuquerque. That meant an end to Myron Robart’s gypsy existence, of moving from place to place to attend school. His father bought a house on Coal Avenue and ordered furniture from the Galbreth Furniture Co. While closing the deal on the furniture, Fremont managed to get Myron a part-time job delivering for Galbreth. It was to be the turning point in Myron’s life in more ways than one.

The Galbreth store at Seventh and Iron was right next door to the home of the Marteno family. One of the Marteno daughters was Rosemary, whom Robart would meet when he was 16 and marry five years later.

After an interruption for Army service during World War II, Robart, who taught himself to build and design furniture, became an invaluable employee at Galbreth, which changed its name to Franciscan Furniture in 1947. With only a single, brief interruption, he stayed with the company, which did a booming business making furniture for motels, as it changed hands and locations over the years. He was part owner of the business from 1955 until its closing in 1970.

“I certainly had a great ride,” Robart wrote in “Me and Franciscan Furniture,” a 40-page business memoir he authored some years ago. “That part-time summer job turned out to be the beginning of a 28-year adventure.”

Thanks for the memories

In more recent years, Robart kept busy building shelves for his wife’s collection of glass, learning how to do stained glass for his own amusement and spending time with family. Rosemary died in 2010, but Robart’s son, David, and daughter, Myrene Eklund, live in Albuquerque. He and David have traveled to every state except Alaska and Hawaii.

And he’s got his memories because he wrote them down and he kept the pictures. Like the photo of a young man and a hot car on a dirt road in the undisturbed heights east of Albuquerque.

“I did like to drive,” he said. “I remember that.”

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