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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shirlie's First Flight

Shirlie loved to tell the story of her first trip up in an airplane. Shirlie had never before been airbound when she was offered an opportunity to go up high and take some aerial photographs of downtown San Jose. This was about 1938 and flying in such a small plane was not common. But she was a trooper and got into an open cabin single engine plane to take some photos. The pilot apparently had a sense of humor about this whole thing ... Shirlie held on for her life! When up over the targets he tilted the plane so Shirlie could get a good shot as she hung over the side with her trusty Speed Graphic camera. She did it and was ever so happy to get back to solid ground.
Shirlie getting ready for her first flight ... all smiles and butterflies!
The old City Hall, which is shown in the aerial photo below, was in the center of the Central Plaza of San Jose (now named Plaza de Cesar Cavez) on South Market Street where it was bisected by Park Avenue. The park area itself dates back to about 1797 when the city government moved its operations to what was then the "new downtown". California's first state capital was located here from 1849 to 1851. The City Hall in this photo was built in 1887. Other prominent buildings in the photos are the San Jose Civic Auditorium and Montgomery Theater built in 1936 (bottom center of top photo and top left in the other) and Sainte Claire Hotel built in 1926 (right in top and top left in bottom photo). The Hotel Montgomery built in 1911 is nearby just beyond the left in the top photo. All of these buildings were built by (or financed by) by Shirlie's Grand-Uncle T. S. Montgomery.
Shirlie's aerial photo of the Central Plaza and the old City Hall (Shirlie Montgomery)
Shirlie's aerial photo of the Central Plaza Market & San Carlos (Shirlie Montgomery)
City Hall c1890, designed by Theodore Lenzen, was built in 1887 at a cost of $150,000 (San Jose Public Library)
Overview of Central Plaza c1910 from atop City Hall, showing St. Joseph's Church, the Post Office (now the San Jose Art Museum) and the Electric Tower, whose main sponsor was J.J. Owen, publisher of the San Jose Mercury. (C.C. Pierce)


Shirlie's photos from Joe Holt, 
who restored the aerial photos from deteriorating negatives.
Text contributed by Bob Bortfeld.

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