By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
On a given afternoon, you’re likely to find Clyde Mullin a couple of places: At home, or perhaps at the Oregon State Library, repairing a Talking Book cassette player. Or maybe he’s delivering meals on wheels.
Your chances of finding him doing one or the other are pretty good: He’s delivered about 30,000 meals in the past 18 years, and has given 8,373 hours (and counting) of service to the state library.
It was enough to catch the attention of the governor’s office. He’ll be recognized at the Governor’s Volunteer Awards on Friday, November 9. Just eight people were selected for the statewide award, and winners get a grant from Wells Fargo to donate to their charity of choice.
At age 95, you might wonder why Mullin doesn’t spend his time relaxing. But the pleasure he derives from his work is evident.
He flips a cassette tape over to a short story by Ernest Hemingway. In the story, a woman protests the eight-hour workday, saying “if a husband works until 6, he gets only a riffle drunk on the way home and does not waste too much.”
Mullin laughs the way you might laugh at a joke you’ve heard before, but hasn’t lost its humor.
He takes pride in his work. You can see the satisfaction in a job well done as a Chet Atkins tune comes through the speakers. The players he repairs have variable speeds – Atkins sounds like acid jazz and Hemingway like Alvin and the Chipmunks if played at the incorrect speed.
Mullin is well aware that cassette tapes are mostly a thing of the past. He knows about the small, digital music and book players the library has now. He also knows that, for the blind and visually impaired, sometimes bigger is better.
“One lady came in and she had gotten one of the new digital units, which are much, much smaller,” Mullin said. “Maybe a fifth the size of this. And she says, ‘I’m blind and I lost it.’ She found it under her bed.”
After growing up in Eugene, Mullin was three and a half years into a business administration program when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He joined the armed forces, serving in the European theater during World War II, and settled in Portland, where he went to work for Bell Telephone as a technician.
He was transferred to Salem in 1960, and they bought the house he still lives in today, a three-bedroom ranch-style home in the Palma Ciea neighborhood. Mullin retired in 1982 and was looking for something to do when it was suggested to him he start helping out at the Oregon State Library.
“I tear all these apart, replace broken and worn parts, about one or two a day,” he said. “At that time (he started) three of us were working on them at the state library. I’m the only one left, and I bring them home and work on them.”
Meals on Wheels entered his life in 1994, and has never left – “I’m older than any of the people I deliver meals to,” he said.
Still driving, he draws satisfaction knowing he’s delivering a basic human need.
“One little lady said, ‘Bless you, I’m so hungry,’” he recalled of a recent delivery. “I make a lot of people happy when I deliver meals.”
And that’s exactly where Mullin draws his satisfaction.
“I enjoy life, and I have lots and lots of friends,” he said. “And I just enjoy being with people.”