Still a farm boy at heart after all these years Amateur champ: 'Country' Myers reminisces about his boxing days and the career that might have been.

February 04, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Country Myers hasn't ducked through the ropes and into the business side of a boxing ring in 40 years. But his trunks, his gloves, his punching bag and his scrapbook full of clippings are still at hand on the farm near Union Bridge.

At 61, he still fits into the trunks, weighing in at 188 pounds, his fighting weight in 1956.

Elwood C. Myers is the hands-on owner of Jubilee Foods in Union Bridge. He stocks shelves, works behind the meat counter and greets many of the customers by name. He is part-owner of Eagle Jewelers in Mount Airy and raises steers on the farm.

He's still Country Myers inside, the farm boy from Uniontown who didn't care what they nicknamed him as long as he could box, who had a promising career as an amateur but never gave professional boxing a shot.

"I could have been someplace else if I'd kept it up, instead of sitting here," he says. On reflection, he admits that he could just as easily have ended up brain-damaged.

Mr. Myers fought before boxers were required to wear headgear. He was a Rocky Marciano-style fighter. He didn't float like a butterfly or sting like a bee. He just kept slugging. A fighter like that gets hit a lot.

He grew up on a 165-acre farm where the family raised steers, hogs, sheep and calves, slaughtered the animals and sold the meat at the grocery store Mr. Myers' grandfather, Walter Rentzel, started in 1908.

Mr. Myers attended New Windsor High School. He was 16 or 17, working on the farm, when he decided he had to learn to box. No formal instruction was available in Carroll County, but a friend showed him the rudiments and another friend took him to the Baltimore YMCA, where a coach and trainer were available.

Mr. Myers started as a light heavyweight, fighting at 175 pounds, and later moved up to heavyweight. He won the Maryland and South Atlantic heavyweight championships in 1952.

When the Baltimore YMCA team fought a Marine Corps team at Quantico Naval Air Station in Virginia in 1953, Mr. Myers knocked out his Marine opponent in the second round. Soon a major approached him and another Baltimore team boxer to ask, "Have you fellows ever thought about joining the Marines?"

By early 1954, Mr. Myers was on the Corps boxing team at Quantico, which fought college and other amateur teams. He qualified for the 1956 Olympic trials by winning the Southwest Olympic Regional Tournament, but lost a split decision to Joe Hemphill, a Washington fighter who then lost a split decision to the boxer who won the Olympic championship.

"At the Olympic trials, people would come up and pat you on the back and offer to buy you a soda and tell you they thought you won," he recalls. It was a good feeling.

Mr. Myers lost his last bout, the all-Marine championship in North Carolina in 1956. He finished his tour of duty, came home and went to work in the store and on the farm. He had won 35 of his 45 bouts, 25 by knockouts or technical knockouts.

In 1956, he married Mary Alice "Rusty" Rue, whom he met in 1954 when she was working at Warner's Dairy Bar in Frizzellburg.

"He was different," she said. "I didn't know anyone who boxed."

Mr. Myers bought what was then called Myers SuperThrift from his father, Edward Myers, in 1972. Mrs. Myers worked in the store as a cashier and bookkeeper. She has been semi-retired since 1989 and no longer goes to the store daily.

The couple has two sons, Kelly, an insurance salesman and defensive coordinator for the Trenton State College football team, and Ben, a partner in the jewelry store.

Mr. Myers coached the Westminster Terps amateur boxing team, formed in 1980, but quit in 1981 because of disagreements with team organizer Charles E. Shutter.

The team folded in 1982. That year, Mr. Myers was one of nine fighters inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

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