Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Booths Move to Downey Avenue

Dr. John H. Booth, a rising star within the Disciples of Christ's Board of Church Extension arrived in Irvington in 1928. He had already been named as the Executive Secretary for that organization as a young man and came to the neighborhood from St. Louis because the Extension moved into the Missions Building at 222 South Downey Avenue.

John Booth was born on a farm near Wichita, Kansas in 1880. His family moved around a lot so his education was intermittent. He was a determined young man, however, and managed to finished high school in his twenties. He matriculated to Drake University where he met Corinne Schultz. They married in 1907 and had six children. As a young man, he became a preacher for the Disciples of Christ.

In 1911, he joined the Board of Church Extension, an organization for the Disciples of Christ, that raised money and administered loans for congregations seeking to build churches or Sunday Schools. His job was a busy one and kept him away from his family for much of the year. Mrs. Booth, a classically trained pianist, kept the home fires burning in all of the places where the Booths lived. The couple moved into 280 South Downey Avenue in 1928 and remained in the lovely home for most of the rest of their lives.

One of his grandsons, Mac Fife, remembers Dr. Booth as a confident person with a booming voice. Mr. Fife noted that his grandfather was a man of conviction who was devoted to the church.  Another grandson, John Charles Booth, recalled sitting next to his grandfather as they listened to a radio newscast hosted by Gabrielle Heatter during World War II.  Dr. Booth frequently became emotional and angry upon hearing the casualty reports from the fronts. He also recalled that his grandfather smoked a cigar and that each time he smells one today he thinks of him.

The Booths frequently hosted missionaries from all over the world in their home. Mrs. Booth was a nurturing person who was very involved in Irvington organizations like the Chautauqua Club, the Tuesday Club, and many church groups. Beginning in 1938, Mrs. Booth began to document the family in her journals.  Dr. Booth led the Board of Church Extension through both the Great Depression and World War II. He retired in 1948 leaving the finances in healthy shape for the next generation.

Although he stepped down in 1948, Dr. Booth was still very active in the church for the remainder of his life.  He lived long enough to help dedicate the new Board of Church Extension building in the round at 110 South Downey Avenue in 1958. He died in 1960 of heart failure. Mrs. Booth passed away in 1971 and the beautiful home on Downey Avenue was sold to another family.

Dr. John H. and Corinne Booth posed in their home at 280 South Downey Avenue on Christmas Day, 1948. They had already dwelled in the lovely home for twenty years.

280 South Downey Avenue in 2018

Dr. John H. Booth and his son, George, listened to the radio in their home at 280 South Downey Avenue c1935.

Bill Watkins (on the right) and an unidentified friend visited the Booths at 280 South Downey Avenue sometime in the mid-1930s. Mr. Watkins had come to visit Marjorie Booth, a daughter of Dr. John and Corinne Booth. Bill and Marjorie later married. You can see the rear of 270 (at the left) and 280 South Downey Avenue in this historic image. The home at the far right sat at 287 South Downey Avenue. It was later demolished. 

Dr. John and Corinne Booth stood on their front porch at 280 South Downey Avenue in 1954.

Dr. John Booth and his wife Corinne Schultz Booth celebrated 50 years of marriage in 1957. Behind them, you can see a "money tree" in their home at 280 South Downey Avenue.
Corinne Schultz Booth wrote in her diary nearly every day of her life beginning in 1938. In this photo, she posed at her writing desk in her home at 280 South Downey Avenue c1960.  

Stories and photos for this post are courtesy of Mac Fife and John Booth, the grandsons of Dr. John and Corinne Booth.

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