Bob Miller dropped out of school to take a job at a gas station. It was the 1940s; just having a job was luxury for Miller, whose father died years before.
One day, Milton Principal Warren Good came to visit Miller as he worked at the long-gone Harold Clendaniel service station - now an empty lot next to the Milton Historical Society.
“I was underneath the car and Warren kicked my foot and said, ‘Can you come out here? I heard you were quitting school,” said Miller.
Warren suggested Miller come to live with the principal’s family to enter ninth grade.
So Miller’s schooling began in Milton.
Miller, 78, was born on a Selbyville farm, a child of the Great Depression. When he was in third grade, he left Selbyville for Georgetown. Soon, his family moved again, this time to Frogtown, a section of Frederica. Miller said he used to trap muskrats for money. “We skinned ‘em and sold the hides in the three general stores in town,” he said. He also raised rabbits to help his family, at one point managing a warren of 130 rabbits.
“When I was 14, we would kill rabbits every Friday night, skin ‘em for the meat and sell two for 75 cents,” said Miller.
“No you weren’t. You were 13,” says his wife, Gloria, to whom he’s been married for 56 years. Their conversation is often marked by polite interruptions, as Gloria helps her husband jog his memory.
Bob stretches out in his recliner at his home on Atlantic Street. He closes his eyes to remember details and occasionally scratches his bald head. Gloria sits in her recliner, a wood-burning stove between them, both rocking and remembering in their home built at least 150 years ago.
Today, Bob owns his home where he and Gloria raised their two children. The couple has traveled around the world and still enjoy camping in their RV.
Bob met Gloria, also known as Glo, at the same Milton high school he was encouraged to attend. Gloria moved to Delaware from New Jersey in the 1950s, following her father, who worked in a hosiery factory on Cave Neck Road.
After one year of college at the University of Delaware, Bob was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952.
He worked as a cryptologist, he said. “Back then we had teletype machines we used for Morse code,” he said.
Bob was on his way to Korea, but ended up serving in Japan, Indochina and the Phillipines. “They wouldn’t even tell us where he was,” said Glo.
In 1954, Bob was discharged and returned to Delaware to marry his high school sweetheart. In 1958, they bought the house they still live in today.
Bob landed a job at the Milton Hardware & Furniture Company in downtown Milton. Two years later, he was sent to work at the hardware store that moved to Lewes. He eventually bought the store, where he worked for 43 years.
“We were doing very well until 1975, when he had a massive heart attack,” said Glo. “In 1979, Bob had open-heart surgery when they first started doing open-heart surgery,” she said.
“I’ve had 10 bypasses. You gotta do whatcha gotta do,” said Bob.
The couple attributes their success today to not living beyond their means. Still, they’ve traveled across the United States in their RV – twice. Glo also ticks off the places they’ve visited overseas.
“For a man who’s been through all he’s been through, he still golfs,” she said.
Bob says the Great Depression was far worse than the economic troubles the nation faces today. “In the Depression, the banks closed right up. My father lost a farm and two hardware stores,” said Bob.
“Obama’s pulled us out with his plan, but he’s helped the financial district more than the poor man,” he said.
Bob collects miniature cars, vintage tractors and has built a miniature Model-T car that many Cape Region residents have seen him driving in parades.
“Denny Forney says it ain’t a parade unless Bob Miller’s in it,” he says, with a laugh.
For more than 50 years, Bob has been a member of the Odd Fellows, Golden Rule Lodge 17. Both have been members of Goshen United Methodist Church for more than 60 years.
Inside their restored home, Gloria displays hundreds of plates she has collected on shelves inside her kitchen.
Upstairs, she also has 300 Beanie Baby bears, she says.
“I know I can walk out my front door, walk to church at night and feel safe. It’s still a small town, but I miss the different stores, and I miss the closeness of the neighbors. A lot of old friends have passed on,” she said. “What you see is what we worked for and neither one of us are pensioned,” she said. “We still cut our own wood.”
“We owe it all to the Lord. We wouldn’t be here without him,” said Bob.