U-Haul is marking 75 years of moving America by saluting its pioneers who served in WWII, like Portland native Shivers
V-E Day on May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. Veterans such as Ralph C. Shivers Jr. returned home to start a new life after the war, and in doing so planted the seeds of prosperity for U-Haul®, a product of the peace for which they fought.
U-Haul is also celebrating 75 years of service. WWII Navy veteran L.S. “Sam” Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, conceived U-Haul in June 1945 when they recognized a basic need while moving up the West Coast, having abandoned most of their belongings since one-way trailer rentals did not yet exist.
From that idea, an industry was born and a new level of mobility became attainable for every American family.
To commemorate both events, U-Haul is celebrating former Team Members and U-Haul neighborhood dealers who served in WWII, such as Portland, Ore., native Ralph Shivers.
Man of Service
Shivers was born in January 1926. He attended West Linn High School, graduating in 1943. He and a friend spent the summer of 1943 hitchhiking around the country, hopping rides on a couple of freight trains in the process. That fall, he returned home to Portland and worked as a welder’s assistant. In January 1944, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve.
In October 1944, Shivers was assigned to the USS Craven (DD382), a Gridley-class destroyer, as a fire controlman. He boarded the Craven in Pearl Harbor while it was undergoing an overhaul. In January 1945, the Craven transitioned to the Atlantic Theater through the Panama Canal.
The Craven performed convoy duty from New York to France until the war in Europe ended that May. Afterward, the Craven ranged throughout the Mediterranean Sea on escort, training and transport duties until January 1946.
For his service, Shivers was awarded the Victory, American Theater, Asiatic-Pacific Theater and European Theater medals. He was honorably discharged in May 1946.
Shivers went on to enroll at Oregon State University and began working part time for U-Haul, doing repair work and hooking up trailers in Portland. He graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in geography and transportation.
In January 1951, Shivers began working full-time for U-Haul on an Oakland, Calif., rental lot. That August, he became one of only three U-Haul fieldmen, blanketing the entire U.S. for his route. Shivers and his bride of four months, Mary, embarked on a nine-month “honeymoon” servicing U-Haul neighborhood dealers across the country. Mary did her part by learning how to repair electrical wiring on trailers.
Over the next 20 years, Shivers served in a number of key capacities, including field director responsible for establishing and developing U-Haul companies in various parts of the country. He established the first U-Haul Traffic Department in Portland; served as U-Haul Company of Alabama president; U-Haul International vice president; U-Haul International president; and vice president of distribution services – the title he held upon leaving the Company in 1974.
The Shivers have been married for 68 years and live in Hood River. They have a son, Steve, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The Shoens started U-Haul upon Sam’s discharge with $4,000 of accumulated Navy pay and the courage formed by the cauldron of WWII. With the help of other veterans, the young couple forged their new enterprise from the freedom that victory produced.
Today, U-Haul serves all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces, helping an estimated 11 million families move every year. Shivers is one of the many of veterans who laid the foundation for the present prosperity U-Haul enjoys.
U-Haul continues to aggressively recruit veterans and gives them preference in the hiring process, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s top veteran-friendly employers. U-Haul is also committed to honoring veterans and supporting veteran causes. This is accomplished through direct assistance to veteran groups, as well as participation and sponsorship of Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, and Pearl Harbor tributes.
These 2020 tributes will peak triumphantly with the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s dedication of the renovated Ford Island Control Tower on Aug. 29. U-Haul Pacific Theater veterans’ bios and photos will be displayed in the tower lobby. The tower will offer a new elevator, gifted by U-Haul CEO Joe Shoen, providing public access to the observation deck where America’s lone WWII aviation battlefield can be revered and our heroes remembered.
U-Haul is one of a myriad of companies built by these incredible veterans, who are to be saluted and remembered during this 75th anniversary celebration. Thank you, Ralph.
Find more U-Haul veteran tributes in the History and Culture section of myuhaulstory.com.
* Featured image is of Shivers’ ship, the USS Craven, during WWII.