Nothing special, just 'the greatest'
A long-planned trip means I won’t be at Saturday afternoon’s celebration of life for Saima Vinton. I know, in advance, that I’ll be missing some old-time McMinnville stories.
And I do mean old-time. Saima Pekkola’s family moved in 1920 from North Dakota to Carlton, where she graduated from Carlton High School in 1926. She married Gale Vinton in 1937 and, a year later, moved into that wonderful Vinton family home at the south end of Yamhill Street.
Over 10 years, their three children joined Gale’s daughter, Jane, from a previous marriage. Gale co-founded the Vinton-Larsen auto dealership; Saima filled several satisfying positions as a local bookkeeper; and they became highly respected members of a broad, middle-class leadership group that laid much of the foundation for McMinnville’s civic, social and economic strength.
Daughter Mary, crowned Miss Oregon soon after her high school graduation in 1958, went on to found the illustrious Jefferson Dancers, among other pursuits. Daughter Alice opted for a life in Hawaii as a successful real estate agent. Son Will — whom I called “Billy” as a same-age kid from the other end of Yamhill Street — won an Academy Award for his early Claymation film and continued a career of artistry in animation, motion picture and other pursuits.
For me, one nice memory from recent years was squiring a carful of ladies from that old-town McMinnville neighborhood to Saima’s 100th birthday party at Rose Villa in Milwaukie. That was in 2008, two years after Saima left McMinnville to be closer to her children.
The group included Margaret Reavis and Mae Butler, both of whom died in 2010. There was my mother (Meg) and Eleanor Macy, both now residents at Hillside Communities, and Betty Engle, who still lives in the house at 16th and Elm streets that used to be very near the edge of town.
There was plenty of talk about the 1940s and 1950s, including a few things they didn’t tell us kids back then. And everyone enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Saima and her family, and a room full of people who shared some great memories of that small, mid-century McMinnville.
What was it like back then? I sometimes call it “Dennis the Menace meets Donna Reed” — you can guess who played which roles.
Inexorably, we are losing what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.” Like so many others of that age, Saima Vinton didn’t really consider herself as someone special.
Maybe it explains why they were exactly that.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.