top of page

My Grandmother's Photographs | 1930s–70s in Morton, WA

Postcard of Main Street, Morton, Washington. c. 1950s

My grandma was born in a little town called Morton, Washington. Her name was Wilma Marie, born February 1940. When she and her younger brother were very little they caught pneumonia and had to go to the hospital–during which time her mother ran off with another man and left the children behind. My great-grandfather worked long and tiresome hours as a logger, so from a very young age my grandma was responsible for caring for her little brother and looking after the family's small farm of cows, goats and chickens.

Coming of age in the 50's when television was constantly advertising for the middle-class American lifestyle, my grandma must have become aware of her family's poor economic situation–having an outhouse rather than a flushing toilet, and not being able to afford the modern household appliances. She never spoke highly of the house or the situation she grew up in (only of her father). I imagine that as a youth she dreamt of being on television like Marilyn Monroe and the other supermodel icons of the time, and maybe even tried to make a go of it during the short time her and my grandfather lived in California before my mom was born and they moved back to Morton. She never achieved that model-stardom lifestyle, but my grandma was the supermodel of tiny little Morton and for that she was famous.

All of these photographs were collected and saved by my grandma, and many of them are photographs she made (or likely directed, in the case of her 'model' photos). She had an excellent eye and natural technique for capturing beautiful, animated and intimate photographs of her life and community as a child and into mid-adulthood, but was never able to develop this talent for fashion and connection, and ultimately stopped documenting her life as time went on.

This selection of images tells the story of my grandma's life in Morton, Washington: from as early as when her parents married in the late 1930s to the moment the whole family (and many other members of the community) began moving away for good. Woven throughout is the story of the logging industry from it's early "glory" days to it's fall, as well as the story of my family's ultimately successful economic struggle over several generations.


James Bennett & Agnes Smith. c. 1938

Family dinner at the farmhouse. c. 1943

Unknown members of the Smith family. c. 1940

James Bennett, Jr. c. 1944 & the family farm dog. c. 1940

James Bennett, Sr. on his farm. c. 1953

Students at the Morton Grade School. c. 1952

My Grandfather Eugene Amburgy. c. 1953 & 1958

Contesters for one of the first Logger's Jubilee Queen's Coronation. c. 1956

After getting married my grandparents moved to California in search of better work. They stayed only a few years before moving back to Morton after my mom was born.

c. 1953. Left: Eureka, California. c. 1950

Are these "good lookin' loads of logs"?

Or "loads of good lookin' logs"?