The Notebooms’ legacy in the ‘23 Club may be best captured by colorful flowers.
Velma “Vel” Noteboom spent 25 years crafting floral arrangements for the club’s meetings, using dahlias raised by her husband, Bill. Her work earned a “Distinguished Service Award” in 2006, the same year her husband and her daughter, Margie Botten, joined the club, which celebrates Longview’s history. Vel passed away almost eight years ago, but Margie has continued the tradition of filling the room with blossoms in her mother’s honor.
“She was always such a giving person,” Bill, 88, said of his late wife. Last year, he said he was surprised when he received the “Distinguished Service Award” himself. “I blame it all on my wife’s generosity.”
Although Bill didn’t grow up in Longview, he spent most of his adult life here while he and Vel raised five children. His coaching and teaching career followed the growth of Longview schools in the 1950s and 1960s. Botten has continued the family’s involvement in education as a volunteer at local schools.
Bill and Vel met at Washington State College (now Washington State University) in Pullman in the late 1940s. They married after graduation in 1948.
Her parents had died of cancer when she was young, so most of the planning and wedding decoration fell to Vel and her sister, Nadine Starr. Vel handmade her own wedding gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses.
Velma and Nadine “put on a wedding fit for a king,” Bill said. The couple then returned to Bill’s hometown of Lynden, Wash., near Canada. There Bill worked as a coach and sixth grade P.E. and health instructor.
When visiting Vel’s family, ministers at Longview Community Church kept encouraging Bill to apply for a teaching position in the area. In 1951, he landed a job teaching general science at Kessler School.
In 1952, all of the seventh, eight and ninth graders moved to the new Monticello Junior High School, which quickly became crowded as Longview’s population climbed.
“I taught mostly boys’ health classes in a girls’ homemaking room filled with cupboards and stoves,” he recalled. During his years at Monticello, he also coached track and eighth grade basketball.
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“Looking back I don’t know how I did it, coaching 40 to 50 kids at different events,” he said. He carried his passion for coaching with him as worked his way through new schools established during his career, including Mark Morris High School, built in 1957, and Cascade Junior High, established in 1963.
After Title IX education reforms were passed in 1972, Bill helped start the girls basketball team at Cascade Junior High. The team had a winning record for his four years as a coach. He retired in 1979.
Botten, 62, said that growing up on the Old West Side in Longview in the mid-century was reminiscent of the 1950s iconic television show “Leave it to Beaver.”
Students would walk home for lunch under the massive trees near the home. (Many of those trees were lost in the 1962 Columbus Day windstorm). Botten spend summers watching Fourth of July fireworks at Lake Sacajawea and attending programs with her father, who worked as the summer recreational director for City of Longview.
“The days were simple. Mom and dad were both at home,” Botten said. “Now both parents work and kids spend all their time in sports, gymnastics or on electronics.”
Botten attributes many of Longview’s social problems to broken families, with parents who can’t be a persistent presence for children.
Following her mother’s example, Botten was a homemaker who raised her children in Longview. Her husband, Russell, worked at International Paper Co. and now works at Norpac. Botten devoted her time to volunteering as president of the Mint Valley Elementary School P.T.O. and Cascade Middle School P.T.A. She still volunteers for Columbia Heights Elementary School and spends time with her three grandchildren.
Botten’s mother had roots in the area dating back to the 1920s. Velma Noteboom’s grandfather Stanley Arnold operated tugboats on the Columbia River.He moved logs, ships and occasionally youth groups back and forth between Rainier and Longview. Eventually, Arnold and his wife, Ruth, purchased a home on 22nd Street in Longview. Years later Vel and Bill would buy a house across the alley from her childhood home.
Vel didn’t have her driver’s licenses until her children were born, and Botten said she cherished walking everywhere in Longview.
“You could walk to the Post Office, to the lake, to church, downtown, all of it was walkable,” Botten explained. “Walking was very much a part of her life. Plus, she would say the trees and the flowers in this area are spectacular. ...The beauty of this town is something she felt you couldn’t get anywhere else.”