Winnie Boothby, a special Grandmother

When I first became involved with my then young husband, he often mentioned his “other grandmother” meaning the one that I could never meet, because she had already died. He told me stories about her, how she liked to go camping, how she treated him like he was special.
His favorite story about her was about the apples. When my husband was a little boy, his family were getting ready to move from the Dalles to Cannon Beach and grandma Winnie offered to watch the kids for a day so the parents could pack and prepare to move without having to deal with five children. She took them to a campground called 15 mile creek where she and her husband used to go camping. They had a picnic, played in the water, and found a tree loaded with ripe apples. They picked a car trunk full of apples; and then brought them home to their mother who had to stay up all night making applesauce before they could move.
Of course I wasn’t there but I try to imagine the scenario;
“Hi mom, we’re home! We picked apples for you!”
and there’s Evie (mom) trying not to roll her eyes but she still acts like the good little daughter in law, and then there’s Win (dad) and I can’t even imagine what HE’s saying, but HE didn’t stay up all night making that apple sauce, did he?
But then there’s Granny out there with the trunk of her 1950 Ford open and full of apples. I wonder, did she keep any of those apples herself? Was she smiling like she was doing them a favor? or did she act like the kids were unstoppable apple picking fiends and was helpless to stop them, coyly twinkling her eyes at the bedlam before her?
About 20 years ago, Donald’s mother gave me a box full of photographic negatives since I am the family historian. The trouble was that these negatives were almost all non-standard sizes which would have cost thousands of dollars to print at a special lab… I love old photographs and we didn’t have scanners yet, so I joined a photography club and used their darkroom to make a print from every single negative that had a discernible image on it. Since the negatives were non-standard sizes, I also had to make the negative carriers by hand before I could make any prints.
And the result? I found Winnie. Again and again and again. Her husband, Tom Boothby, Sr obviously adored her because he constantly took her picture, and he did it with many different cameras. Starting from when they were first wed, when she had round cheeks and rosebud lips, and newborn babies, countless camping trips and family visits and finally ending with photos of a wizened old lady with tiny grandchildren. Tom died in 1953, and that’s where the photos of Winnie stop. As I got to know Donald’s sisters and cousins, I heard more about Winnie. They all loved her. I knew that I was going to have to pull her out of one of the scratchy blurry black and white negatives to put new light on that spunky and sweet grandmother. And here she is, with her second grand daughter Cathy.


6 responses to “Winnie Boothby, a special Grandmother”

  1. it is hard to write on a face if you never saw it. it is hard to find perry mason on there or how she looked when the goldfish almost went down the sink or the look of the gooseberries and the puckery way her eyebrows did when one was sour–or the sweetness in a backward way when we went downtown and i didn’t have a handkie with me so we went to the 5 and dime to buy me a new one. i can still smell that store and the muttery way she talked kind of to herself about i never saw the like and you never think to bring a hankerchief. she didn’t think young ladies should be caught without and have to sniffle. she was a true gramma-sweet but tart also and not gushy about love but when you heard the rough part that was also love.

  2. Oh, Mimi, you do poetic justice to this woman I loved. I always felt I was her favorite; she made each of us feel that way, I’m certain. She had a ready laugh, loved raw green onions and picnics, gave lovely presents, and I adored her. Thank you for the honor of paiting this picture of me with her!!!

  3. Somewhere in heaven, Grandma Winnie’s wings have just had an extra puff of earthly air to lift her above the other angels.
    What an absolutely beautiful portrait.

  4. The more I think about this, the more I think it was when we were moving TO The Dalles from Portland. I was only about 8 years old at the time. I remember Grandma telling Chris to watch us for a minute because she needed to go check the plumbing. I offered to go along and help. She thought that was really funny and teased me about it for a long time.

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