Shirlie Alice Montgomery • June 9, 1918 – Nov 5, 2012

Shirlie always had her camera handy.
Shirlie Alice Montgomery was born on Chapman Street in San Jose on June 9, 1918. She was an only child. To her friends and neighbors she was a treasure trove of history. Shirlie remembered it all. She remembered the Great Depression as a child, the Second World War as a young woman, and eventually the transformation of the Santa Clara Valley from a moderately sized agricultural town to the hustle and bustle of modern Silicon Valley. The majority of her memories were supported by the thousands of photographs in her collection.
Young Shirlie Montgomery

Shirlie a few years ago from an article in the Rose Garden Resident.

She was the grandniece of San Jose’s forefather T.S. Montgomery. Shirlie lived a colorful life but professionally she photographed it with a 4X5 Speed Graphic in B&W. She was a celebrated photographer that shot Hollywood stars, U.S. Presidents and pro wrestlers. Although Shirlie did work for the S. F. Examiner and the San Jose Mercury her works remain some of the best representations of pro wrestling from the 40’s thru the 60’s. When asked about her penchant for shooting professional wrestlers she would answer “I always liked the big boys”. Such stories Shirlie had! She passed away quietly on November 5, 2012. She will never be forgotten. God rest her soul.

Obituary written by Shirlie's good friend and neighbor Joe Holt

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

T. S. Montgomery ... a San Jose Legend ... and a Poet

Thomas Seymour Montgomery (1885 - 1944) is frequently called the “father of downtown San Jose” and was a very influential real estate developer, community leader and a visionary. His achievements in San Jose included both the Vendome, Montgomery and St. Claire Hotels, the Naglee Park subdivision in San Jose and La Paloma Terrace neighborhood in Saratoga (where Lillian Fontaine and her two daughters once lived).  It was his vision ... and determination ... that created what is now the modern San Jose footprint back at the turn of the last century.  He was also a director on both the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific Railroads, as well as the chairman of the board of the California Prune and Apricot Growers association.

T. S. Montgomery is a native son of the Santa Clara Valley. At 13 he was a newsboy and at 16 he became entirely self-dependent. His parents settled in Santa Clara County in 1853 ... his father is a Virginian by birth and his mother is a native of Ohio.

His first big home was on North First Street in San Jose in 1887.

San Jose Residence ( Artotype No. 28, with "S. F. News Letter," Sept. 30, 1887)

Later, in 1900 he built a home in Saratoga on the Saratoga-Los Gatos Road (where Fatima Villa is today). The brick wall there is a remnant of his old estate.

Saratoga Residence c1900 (Photo courtesy of the Saratoga Historical Society Newsletter Jan 2013 )

In 1929 he and his wife Louise moved into their mansion on Branciforte Creek in Santa Cruz ... La Casa de Montgomery. 

Gates to the La Casa de Montgomery ... that's Ginger out front.
La Casa de Montgomery aerial view.

Thomas Seymour Montgomery passed away in 1944.
T. S. Montgomery's Obituary as published in the Santa Cruz Sentinal (March 26, 1944)
Thanks to Shirlie, we have quite a bit of historical archives about her grand-uncle Tom. Aside from the photos (two of which are below, other items are in the History San Jose collection), he left behind some writings ... essays and poetry. He was also a scrapbooker!
That's T. S. in the suit along with his wife Louise and Shirlie's parents Rea and Mantie ... and Shirlie on the left.
T. S. with his wife Louise and Shirlie's mom Mantie ... and Shirlie too.

Below is a small self-published booklet of selections about his home on Branciforte Creek and his canine pal "Ginger."

Click on the image to see a larger and more readable copy.

Unless otherwise credited, images and content are from the Bob & Susan Bortfeld Private Collection. Copyright protected.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

De Anza Hotel Armed Forces Identification Menu

Back in the time of the two great wars of the 20th century, Americans took the conflicts as their own ... part of their own lives ... and supported the members of the armed forces and the war effort with their own sacrifices, diligence and lifestyles. We have seen and read of how the American women took to the factories to free their men to go off to fight; of how those who could not fight or were crucial to the war effort in the work they did at home, put the need of America and their fighters ahead of personal gain. How that changed in later conflicts ... the indifference to the Korean "Police Action" and the downright disdain for the Vietnam conflict and the men who fought in it. Thank God that Americans support the military men and women in today's Mid-East warfare.

In WW2 there were reminders of the responsibilities of citizens at home nearly everywhere ... on posters, on notices shown in theaters and books, in books and magazine articles, and even on the menus of diners and cafes.

The De Anza Coffee Shop in downtown San Jose was a good example. The Danzabar upstairs, where Shirlie worked her photographic magic and befriended soldiers and sailors who spent time there, did many things to honor the military. The coffee shop downstairs used this special menu to honor the military. It featured a pictorial guide for the Identification of the United States Armed Forces.

Take a look at the menu. "Coffee with an oomph -- see it made in our thermostatically controlled urn." Coffee was a dime ... so was Jello! Entrees ran from 70c for Atlantic Coast Scallops, Fried in Egg Batter and Tarter Sauce to $1.50 for a Broiled Tenderloin Steak with Mushroom Sauce. Entrees came with vegetables and potatoes.
This menu is dated Sunday November 15, 1942.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lord James Tally-Ho Blears dies in Hawaii

Lord James "Tally-Ho" Blears (1924-2016)
 To Shirlie the World's Finest Photographer ... from the World's Finest Wrestler
 1955 ... Lord Jim Blears 

Shirlie Montgomery loved the "sport" of wrestling. In her role as a wrestling photographer, she had some favorites ... Leo Nomelini (local SF 49ers football star turned wrestler), the Sharpe Brothers (who used to hang around with Shirlie in San Jose), Enrique Torres (she thought he was "Oh So Handsome!"), Vince Lopez (would be lover) and both Gorgeous George and Lord "Tally-Ho" Blears (she thought their showmanship was what made wrestling fun.) Well, most of the stars of wrestling from her era have passed to the great ring in the sky ... and now we have lost Jan Blears, aka Lord James Blears, aka Lord "Tally-Ho."

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser March 8th:

James Blears, a legendary wrestling champion, local promoter and World War II survivor who was nearly killed by his Japanese captors, has died. Blears died of natural causes Thursday night at Kuakini Medical Center, his son Clinton Blears said. He was 92. “He lived a good life,” Clinton Blears said. “He always told jokes. He gave us the gift of being able to tell stories because he was a story- and a joke teller.”

Blears, a professional wrestler known as Lord “Tally-Ho” Blears, told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2001 that he would eat a can of peaches every March 29 in homage to his fellow captives who perished and to remind himself of the preciousness of life and resilience. He said he ate peaches because it was the first food sailors gave him after they plucked him from the Indian Ocean, following his escape from his Japanese captors in 1944.

Blears was a 21-year-old radio officer on a Dutch merchant ship that had been sunk by a Japanese submarine near the end of World War II. The Japanese brought aboard the survivors and were shooting or decapitating many on the foredeck. Blears said he escaped by kicking a Japanese officer and pulling his hand out of a rope, then jumping overboard.

In Hawaii, Blears was an announcer for multiple sporting competitions including the Waikiki Rough Water Swim and the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave surf contest. He was also a skilled waterman, surfer and canoe paddler. He is the father of former professional surfer Laura Blears.

Shirlie photographed Blears many times. The iconic shot of Blears nearly falling out of the ring atop Shirlie (taken by a fellow reporter from the newspaper in San Jose) in 1958 is a real classic.

The rest of these photos are from are by Shirlie from her archives, some of which are available for sale at Vintages' Sports Collectibles site
Blears loved to have fun with his image as an English Aristocrat turned wrestler
Shirlie captured his antics well
This "cartoon" by Shirlie is pretty cute!
So is this follow-on photo
This is a letter from Blears asking Shirlie for some copies of a photo
These are images taken from negatives Shirlie had.

 Lord Blears ... RIP ... and say "Hi" to Shirlie from all of us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Letter from Harry Truman

Shirlie had a friend who was a Rennaissance man of sorts ... an author, a photographer, an inventor, a book publisher and a dabbler in politics. Hal Stewart. This is a letter from ex-President harry Truman in Dec 1956 responding to a request ... or inquiry ... from Mr. Stewart. (At the time, I believe, Stewart was pursuing with the military an invention of his for an early warning air raid detection system/alarm.)

What makes this letter interesting is that ... one, it does appear to be Truman's actual signature, and two, his lament that he is no longer insider. (The image is poor, as I scanned this years ago when memory was precious.) The letter reads:

Dear Mr. Stewart:

In reply to your letter of the 14th, I am sorry I am not in a position to give you any information on this subject. I have been a complete outsider since January 20, 1953.

It seems to me that the best approach would be to contact the ?? Research Institute yourself and tell them what you want.

It is a great institution and has made many very valuable contributions to the welfare of this country.

Sincerely yours,
Harry Truman

This letter is in a private collection.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sandor Szabo & Lee Henning ... The Suplex Body Press

I was searching through some newspapers online for information on a cousin ... family history stuff ... and Lo & Behold! I found one of Shirlie's wrestling photos in a New Mexico newspaper in 1949! This is a photograph of Sandor Szabo applying his famous "front suplex drop" on a helpless Lee Henning. OUCH! This body press move was his patented maneuver. 

Sandor Szabo was one of the wrestlers we used to root for back in the 1950s. One of the "good" guys! This photo is not credited to Shirlie, but it is one of hers ... for sure. It was carried in the Deming Headlight from Deming, NM, August 26th 1949.

These are some other photos of Szabo ... and Henning too. All of these are from Shirlie's archives (now in a private collection).  

Sandor Szabo wearing his Championship Belt
Sandor Szabo and Ronnie Etchison ... West Coast Tag Team Champs

Henning saying "Enough" as Szabo has him in a choke hold

Szabo taking advantage

Szabo on top
Lee Henning ... always the culprit

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bon Anee 1943

Simple, clear and heartwarming ... this little New Years' Greeting sent to Shirlie on Christmas Day 1942 wishing her Bon Anee for 1943. Notice the interesting postmark from U. S. Army Postal Service A.P.O., the censorship stamp and tape.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Christmas and New Year - All Well and Safe 1943

Leonard Farmer was off in the military "somewhere" on November 14th 1943 when he sent Shirlie this Western Union telegram greeting ... the equivalent of an email today! His message is rather poignant.


I guess you could not ask for a happier message ... considering the circumstances of a world at war! "all well and safe" ... praise to the Lord.

Merry Christmas from Shirlie and her Friends