By Brock Hires
Joyce "Boots" Emry knows a thing or two about Oroville.
From the region’s history to social happenings, Emry chronicles a bit of “This & That” in her weekly column (of the same name) in the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune. And she shows no signs of slowing down.
“I don’t feel that old. I just take one day at a time," she said ahead of her 95th birthday party.
To Emry’s nearest guess, she started writing her column in the mid- ‘70s.
“There was a lady here in town, I think she called it ‘About Town,’ or something like that,” she said. “She moved away.”
Filling the void, Emry decided to take on the task.
“I didn’t even have a typewriter. I would just write down notes. People like to read. That’s when I started writing it long hand.”
Through the years her column has covered just about every topic imaginable. From social and civic functions, to updates on local families, community happenings and the occasional funeral announcement.
When asked if she had a favorite topic, Emry said it’s hard to pick one.
“I guess weddings, births, new people in town, especially a new business in town. I like to mention that,” she said. “Another thing that Oroville is really good at is having fundraisers. I’m amazed at the money that is raised for people at functions like that.
“The small town, people are depressed. But money just seems to come from having silent auctions, dinners,” she added. “I know, especially, people that have moved into Oroville are amazed.”
If her weekly column isn’t enough, she’s also penning her second book titled “The Ups and Downs of my Hometown.”
The project will highlight some of the many changes Oroville has seen over the years.
“When I came here, there were approximately 13 apple warehouses. Today, there are none. That’s one of the downs. There were many, many stores that aren’t here now. Of course, there’s a few now that weren’t here then.
“One of the biggest downs for the last couple of years has been the closure of the Canadian border,” she added. “There was a lot of Canadian trade that came down.”
To her recollection were gas stations in the “teens,” along with at least two grocery stores.
In 2020 she wrote a book titled “From Diapers to Depends,” which she shares her family history - from migrating West to her time spent in Oroville.
Emry moved to Oroville from Missouri with her family in 1943.
In 1942 the country was at war and there was not enough people to help with the apple crops in Washington state. Her uncle caught wind of the agricultural opportunities and “he thought he had enough relatives and acquaintances to get the word back there (East) and pay their ways to harvest apples.
“It was mostly single men and one of my uncles came,” she said. “He was so taken with the place. That’s all he could talk about when he returned. He finally talked my father into coming the next year for the apple harvest.
“We came in the spring and were here for the complete season. From blossom to harvest,” Emry said. “My father was so taken with the irrigation project that they had going here. He could make it rain when he needed it.
“We came initially for just a year. Almost 80 years later here I am.”
Emry's grandparents and uncle proceeded her immediate family to Oroville in 1935.
She married Clayton Emry in 1947, who had migrated from Nebraska with his family in the early 1930s. They were married for 70 years - until Clayton’s death in 2017.
Joyce Emry worked at Rexall Drug store for many years. The couple later owned and operate a Montgomery Wards Catalogue store, and helped Clayton’s brother, Cleland, at the Oroville Gazette. Clayton later owned the newspaper with his sister-in-law.
While she’s worked much of her life, she has carved time aside for fun activities with family and friends.
“I never was very sports minded, but when we had a bowling alley, I was an avid bowler,” she said. “I was a Bowler of the Year and have a little clock to prove it.
“I never was much of a joiner of lodges or anything like that, but I did do the host program for quite a few years. I’m really proud of the fact that we kept over a dozen exchange students. That was really an experience for us and them, too.”
She’s also always up for a game of cards or watching a Gonzaga basketball game.
“Anywhere that anyone invited me I usually went,” she said. “Because I like to play cards.”
When asked if she could have anything for her birthday, she replied: “Continued good health.”
Emry said the key to her success has been to “keep busy, stay happy.”
Emry has two daughters, Vicki and Jeril; seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. ♦
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