Clayton & Joyce Emry are May Festival Grand Marshals

This year's May Festival Grand Marshals are Joyce  and Clayton Emry.
This year’s May Festival Grand Marshals are Joyce and Clayton Emry.

Connections with ‘May Day’ go way back

OROVILLE – Clayton and Joyce “Boots” Emry have been selected as this year’s May Festival Grand Marshals – a year when Oroville’s special event marks its 80th Anniversary.

Clayton arrived in Oroville in May 1935, just in time for that year’s May Day activities – although he says he didn’t celebrate that year and the next year was when he first got involved. Joyce, or “Boots” to those that use her childhood nickname, wasn’t to arrive in Oroville until 1943.

Clayton’s family followed other relatives who had come out from Allen, Nebraska, about 35 miles from Souix City, Iowa. They came in a 1930 or 1931 Whippet two-door sedan that was pulling a four wheel trailer “with no brakes and no lights” he recalls. Clayton, just eight-years-old, came with his parents, Lloyd and Merna, as well as his older brother Cleland, who was 12 and his younger brother Wayne who was just 18-months-old. They were to be joined in Oroville by a sister, Elaine, in 1937 and brother, Kenneth, in 1939.

“It took us 13 days, we stopped and spent three days at one of my uncle’s in Montana. “Uncle Lester and Aunt Ellen and Gertrude Sawtell came at the same time. We were all from the same area of Nebraska.”

Clayton said he saw an article that said 11 families had moved to Oroville that year, all relatives of his – with names like Lawson, Snyder and Forney.

“We were told that land was pretty cheap and we could set out and orchard and dad could get a job paying 25 cents an hour. That was pretty good at the time, better than at home.”

His dad did go into raising apples and worked for the irrigation district for a number of years “putting in the wooden flumes and the tunnel at Shanker’s Bend.

Boot’s grandparents and uncle proceeded her immediate family to Oroville in 1935.

“Some came on the Balmes-Clark Truck, we came from Warden, Missouri, which is near Springfield. Everybody was poor, I think wages when we came were 35 cents an hour…. That was more than we could make back home. My father was a farmer and many times when it was time to get crops to harvest we would have no rain.”

She said the family was planning on staying a year, but at apple blossom time they fell in love with the area.

“Dad liked the fact you could make it rain whenever you want… through the irrigation ditches. Dad had a job at Blackler and Evans,” she said. “It was quite a job, he ran the ditches, this was before sprinklers, and he had the whole system in his head. Water here on Tuesday, there on Wednesday, and so on.”

While Clayton started at Oroville schools when he was in elementary school, Boots only went here her senior year. She had a job at the Rexall Drug Store, where she would work for 27 years, and he had plans to go to college. He started at WSC (WSU now) and got called up for service and was sent to Occupied Japan.

“So basically our courtship was by mail,” she said.

Clayton returned in November of 1946 and they were married in January 1947. He went to work for his Uncle Lester at the Grubb Ranch where his uncle was manager. After the couple was married his uncle bought his own orchard and Clayton worked for him there. In February 1948 he went to see if he could get a job at the Oroville State Bank, which was located where the Camaray Motel is today. The businesses on that lot included the Atlantic Richfield gas station, the International Harvester Garage and the liquor store. Clayton was a book keeping machine operator and worked his way up to vice president and assistant cashier. He worked for OSB for 27 years, moving to the new bank building (Sterling Savings now) in 1957. That bank was to have several names – National Bank of Commerce, Rainer, Security Pacific, Key and Sterling. He left Rainier in 1976 and went to work for Mid Valley Bank when they opened their branch in Oroville. Later the couple would own and operate a Montgomery Wards Catalogue store. Many of those years Clayton and his family helped his brother Cleland at the Oroville Gazette. Later he was to end up owning the newspaper with his sister-in-law.

He served on the local school board for five years in the late 1950s and seven years on the county school board. He was chamber president four times. He was a Kiwanian and with Boots they spearheaded the project to purchase the baby grand piano for the high school. They both served as presidents of the Oroville Senior Center.

Clayton was in charge of getting the the Oroville community float to various events in Washington and Canada and drove it for many years. He recalled one time in Penticton, BC where the royalty didn’t show up. He said he asked a couple local girls if they would like to ride the float.

“They went home and put on formals and represented Oroville that year,” he said.

The couple has two daughters, Vicki of Oroville and Jeril of Wenatchee and seven grandkids and six great grandkids – including their first great grand daughter who was born this month.

Connections with ‘May Day’ go way backConnections with ‘May Day’ go way back