A Short Story about Betty
Artist Betty Chilstrom painted the City of Portland's architecture and neighborhoods for half of the 20th century.
Born in Wyoming from Oregon Pioneer stock, Betty grew up traveling the Great American West with her mother and older sister Jean during the 1930's. Her parents separated with the loss of their farm and the girls moved from place to place with their mother, who worked seasonally as a camp cook at WPA (Depression era Works Progress Administration) sites, and at harvesting crops. By the time the girls were 11 and 12, they worked in the fields and in packing houses, moving seasonally, and often missing months of school.
Betty moved to Portland in 1942, got her high school degree, and went to work in the Kaiser shipyards in 1943. Self-taught, she always carried a sketch pad and pencil in her pocket or purse and, with fierce determination, developed skills as a portraitist and painter, drawing everything that she saw. Betty painted the Architectural legacy of Portland from 1955-1995, documenting historic homes, buildings, and the greater city, including transportation and industrial scenes.
She lived in the same Buckman Neighborhood home for 70 years, raising a family and tending her garden, until her death in 2014 at the age of 90.
A 2018 book about her life and work, "Through Her Eyes," is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores and (in November 2018) at Portland Bookstores.