Saturday, June 7, 2014


Recently I found my grandmother’s Rebekah emblems (pins) amongst family memorabilia and that set me to thinking about her. Grandma, Nina Portfors, left us unexpectedly in May 1955 when I was only five, so I don’t remember her very well – just enough to know she loved me.

My maternal grandparents, Charles O. and Nina Mae Portfors, were married at Melrose, Idaho, in 1906. She was 20; he was 31. Their first child, Francis Albert, was born in 1908. Their second, Murial Dorothy (my mother), was born in 1909. By 1920, the family was well-settled in Orofino where my grandfather owned the Ford garage. He and Grandma lived a comfortable life in a modest house on Brown Avenue.

While Grandpa was the breadwinner, of course, Grandma was the quintessential homemaker and “society woman” of her day. She lent her talents to the church and to lodges, notably Eastern Star and Rebekahs.

In the small towns of that era, the lodge was important for a number of reasons, and women who needed outlets beyond the home found lodge membership meaningful, providing opportunities for personal development and leadership. On the local level, the lodge connected individuals of various faiths and backgrounds. Participation on the state and national level was there for those who desired it.
The work of the lodge, whatever that might be, was seen to be important by the members. However, some organizations took themselves more seriously than others. According to my mother, Grandma once remarked that she didn’t see how the same group of people from Eastern Star could move over to the Odd Fellows Hall on a different night and have so much fun at the Rebekahs meeting.

Yes, Grandma clearly favored Rebekahs. In fact, she was president of the Idaho Rebekah Assembly in 1941, and while I don’t know the specifics of her duties, I’m sure it involved more than one year of dedicated service to the state organization, including travel for meetings. Grandma didn’t drive, but train service linked our Idaho towns in that era. I can just see her in her floor-length lace gown, proudly wearing the emblems awarded her for her membership and service.

But -- organizational protocol regarding these emblems provides that they should be returned to their home chapter, and we’re almost 60 years late doing that. KW

[Photos: The portrait of Nina Portfors was taken to commemorate her office as president of the Idaho Rebekah Assembly, 1941. The picture at the house shows Francis (Uncle Porkie) and Dorothy (my mother) with Grandma in the background. The Rebekah emblems will be returned to the chapter.]                               


Hallie said...

Those are cool pins! I don't think I've ever seen that top photo.

Kathy said...

Yes, and it's possible that the pins were larger and more special in that era than they are today.

This particular copy of the studio portrait of Grandma came my way recently. It's framed, and I'm going to hang it in my town sewing studio.

It's a pity that we didn't share more family history. Perhaps that's just the way it goes. Fortunately, it's not too late.

Chris said...

My Granny belonged to Rebekah I do believe. Wonder what happened to her emblems? If she still had them someplace when she died, I'm sure no one turned them in. Hmmm...