For the Andra Reunion this year, we have been asked to write our memories of my Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra (William Fredrick Andra and Mary Louise Wanner). These are my maternal grandmother’s parents, but we just referred to them as Grandpa and Grandma Andra. For sake of reading, I will call them by their more formal title.
My Grandma (Colleen, their daughter) lived in Paul, Minidoka, Idaho from before I was born. She had grown up in Preston, Franklin, Idaho and her parents still lived there. Therefore, the only time I saw them is when we visited them in Preston or they visited us in Paul. At some point, I will write a more comprehensive history of Bill and Mary Andra, but for now I will only write my personal recollections.
Great Grandpa Andra was born in 1898 and Great Grandma Andra was born in 1901. By the time I was 4 or 5, they were already in their 80’s. Some of my first memories of my Great Grandparents were the Andra Reunions held at Wolcott Park, beside the Minidoka Dam, near Acequia, Minidoka, Idaho. Here is a picture from the reunion in 1984. Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra had 12 children, so our reunions could be quite the crowd of immediate family.
Great Grandpa Andra was pretty ill. Some believed it was Parkinson’s Disease, others just thought it was old age. I do not personally know what it was. I believe the reunion was held at Wolcott Park because Grandpa was staying in the old folks home in Acequia. I remember going there multiple times with Grandma and playing while she attempted to play cribbage with Grandpa. He was pretty shaky, and could not speak in any way that I could understand him. As you can see in the photo, he needed assistance walking by this point and standing.
I remember him at Grandma’s house in Paul one time and we were having dinner. Grandma had to feed him. I do not know exactly what happened, but apparently Grandma became very upset with Grandpa Andra and slapped him over something. I was not present when it happened. I remember Grandma crying and I entered the room hearing her sob and tell Grandpa Andra how very sorry she was for what she had just done. For years afterward, she mentioned how you can spank your children, but you can never slap your Daddy.
Another time we were driving somewhere in Grandma’s 1974 yellow Mercury Cougar. Grandpa Andra was in the car with us and a song came on the radio. The song was “O My Papa” and Grandma sang along with it, apparently to Great Grandpa. Both of them cried. Grandma always sang along with the song, probably in memory of her father. Even today, I hear the song and I think of Grandma singing to her father. Very, very sweet.
Great Grandpa moved back to Preston after probably only a year or two in Acequia. The only times I really saw them then was at the Andra Reunions, now held at Riverdale, Franklin, Idaho. Here is a picture of Great Grandpa in the shade at the Riverdale water park where the reunions were held. I remember he was not very coherent by this point, and family kept herding us away from him so he could have some peace in the shade. I believe this is the last Andra Reunion he attended in 1989.
He passed away during the spring of 1990 and because school was still in, I was not allowed to go down with Grandma to the funeral. I remember wanting to go and sad I could not.
Somewhere before this time, for some unknown reason, we went to visit Great Grandma Andra in Preston. Grandpa was still in the old folks home there because we went to visit him. We actually stayed the night at Great Grandma’s for the only time I ever remember doing so. Grandma left us with Great Grandma for part of the day and she pulled out a big board with holes in it. We played “Aggravation” and it is the only time I think I ever remember playing it. You move marbles around on a board and somehow your marbles were sent back home. I remember enjoying it and Great Grandma getting quite a kick out of Andra’s reaction (I know, confusing, but it is my Sister’s first name…I wonder where my Mom got the name?). She laughed and laughed at one point where Andra was not laughing at all, which only added to Great Grandma’s enjoyment of the situation.
We helped Great Grandma in her massive garden for a good while. I remember the smells of the garden more than anything. She had flowers surrounding the garden and even my young 9-10 year old mind knew it was beautiful. Here is a picture of Great Grandma in 1990 after Great Grandpa Andra passed away.
My last memory of Great Grandma Andra was the day she passed away. She did pretty well getting around and taking care of herself until a stroke hit her a few weeks before she passed away. She went downhill very quickly and I remember there being concerns she would not even live until the Andra Reunion in 1991. The reunion was held and she was in the old folks home in Preston. Everybody knew it was pretty much good-bye at this point. We lingered that Saturday with family and then made our way over to the home to say good-bye to Great Grandma. We all hugged her and gave her kisses. Grandma climbed on the bed and gave Great Grandma a hug. She pretty much was laying on her and sobbing and telling her how much she loved her. Grandma was there too long and we could see that Great Grandma was starting to struggle to breath. Aunt Jackie pulled Grandma off Great Grandma and I still remember the fluffy white hair in the light as we left the room. It was a sweet feeling as we left.
We drove from Preston to Paul. As we walked into the house from the garage, the phone rang. Grandma answered the phone and the person on the other end informed Grandma that Great Grandma had died while we were driving back home. Grandma started crying and went somewhere to be alone. I remember feeling just as sad knowing how much Grandma loved her parents.
I have a very soft spot in my heart for my Great Grandparents because of the love I know my Grandma had for them. I did not get to know them very well. Their memory is still fresh in my mind though. I can still remember both of their smiles, Great Grandma’s laughter, and a sly look Great Grandpa Andra would get in his eye when he would tease me. I can remember looking at his little tattoo that looked like a eggbutt snaffle bit, that was the only thing in my life that I thought it resembled, just above the thumb knuckle. Kinda like an 8 on its side with a line between the loops near the thumb of the hand. I cannot remember if this was the hand he lost his thumb? (I seem to remember being told someone had the thumb in a jar!) I did not get to attend Great Grandma’s funeral either.
Anyhow, in closing, here is a picture of after May Melycher was born. They all drove down to get a 4 generation shot. I assume sometime in 1989.