This Judy Collins song inspired me to make this video because she said perfectly how I felt about my grandmother’s house.
My first video version of this was done in the early 1980’s using VHS tape editing but thirty years later the old video tape did not transfer well to the digital format. With Sunnyshore Studio’s publication of the new book “Queen Of Montana Beach” by Toni McCarty, I was encouraged to create a new digital revised version using the same great Judy Collins song.
My grandmother and grandfather, Fanny Y. Cory Cooney and Fred Cooney were known to their family as “Meetsy” and “Popsy”.
The video opens with Meetsy and Popsy greeting us as we arrived at their Montana ranch on Lake Sewell from our home which was then in Utah. The Cooney ranch had no running water or plumbing and the only electricity was from batteries and a little gas generator to charge them. However to us kids this was the best place on earth. From 1940 to about 1951, my Dad, Dr. Thomas Dodgson, took the old movies of our visits there with a hand-wound, spring-powered, Bell and Howell 8 mm movie camera.
You can see how much fun the lake was. There was also horseback riding, camping, shooting practice, story reading, story telling and cousins to play with. All the while that we kids were having the times of our lives, Meetsy still had to keep producing to deadline her weekly cartoon strips “Sonnysayings” and “Little Miss Muffett” for King Features Syndicate. She was a world famous cartoonist and illustrator but we knew her as a loving grandmother and the best storyteller ever with the most dynamic readings of classic books like Ivanhoe, David Copperfield and Tarzan.
Sadly, in 1952 that wonderful ranch was flooded to expand the Canyon Ferry Dam. All that was left of the ranch was Meetsy’s log studio, the old bunkhouse and the windmill that had been moved up to higher ground, and left standing like an abandoned sentinel on the hill, still bravely fighting the ravages of time.
The white picket gate at the head of the gravel driveway leads down through the evergreen trees to the summer house that Meetsy bought on Camano Island in 1947 and which she made her permanent home in 1952 after her ranch was flooded. This little 630 square foot cottage was on the bluff overlooking the Saratoga Passage. It was on 2-1/2 acres and included 100 front feet of private beach. Meetsy named her new home “Montana Beach” and it was there that she rebuilt her life and continued her cartooning until she retired at 79 years of age in 1956. On Camano, Meetsy continued having outdoor picnics and parties and enjoying the beaches and company of many new friends on the Island as well as old Montana friends who came to visit. I was raised across the street from Montana Beach on my parents’ farm. Meetsy was and still is the most inspirational person I have ever known.
This video provides a glimpse into my life during childhood with Meetsy and Popsy and visits at the ranch with my young parents and my siblings. It includes my Uncle Bob Cooney and his wife Carol and their kids. The video then transitions to Camano Island, WA, with Meetsy at her new home where she lived for another twenty years. After she died in 1972, my wife Sandy and I had the opportunity to buy Montana Beach, remodel the house and raise our two girls there where they interacted with their nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Bob and Carol Cooney and my Mom and my Dad, who were then the grandparent generation are shown visiting us, the young parents, at Montana Beach.
The circle of life goes on. Once a small child at my Grandmother’s house in Montana, today I am a 75-year old grandparent myself. Through the generations, all who entered Meetsy’s door were fed, entertained, inspired and enriched by their time spent at my grandmother’s house.