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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dough Girls at the Germania Masquerade Ball 1938

Shirlie Montgomery and Harriette Moulton (Saunders) were bosom buddies from an early age. We see her in so many of Shirlie's early photo albums ... on the beach, with the boys, at the dance. This party was the second annual Germania Masquerade Ball held at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. It was Feb 6th, 1938, and the girls were both 19 years old. Shirlie and Harriette dressed up as the Dough Girls! Even these "crazy" dough girls disguises could not hide the attractiveness of this duo.

(L) Harriette • (C) Gov. Merriam • (R) Shirlie

The Mercury Herald referred to them as the "Beauty and the Beast." The "Beast" was then Governor of California, Frank Merriam! Pretty good company, I would say, as he was the guest of honor at the ball. Shirlie remembered the party well. She told me that they really had a good time that night.

She wrote about it in her diary:

Dear Diary --
The week has been full of thrilling things, and here I am just writing about them now! … Saturday was the big German Brawl – whoops – I mean Ball. Some fun! Larry Stringari was there, also hundreds of others. I had so much fun! 

This photograph is from the Mercury Herald archives. Shirlie rescued it from the "morgue" when she was first working there, along with a bunch of other photos of Santa Clara University and San Jose State College sports and entertainment events. Those photos are now in the SCU archives.
Submitted by Bob Bortfeld

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shirlie Remembered

Remembrances of Shirlie from her Friends (from the Legacy site Guest Book):

November 16, 2012
Shirlie was a Great photographer and she touched a lot of people with her photography! Shirlie was the 1st woman photographer in the early years of the wrestling world. She was a good friend of the Glen D. Neece family in San Jose. Shirlie thank you for all your beautiful photographs! We miss YOU!
Shirley Neece, Antioch, California

November 17, 2012
Shirlie was the matriarch of our street, every evening sitting on her front porch imbibing in a cocktail or two, conversing with anyone that struck her fancy. She was a San Jose treasure. The stories she could tell! She will be missed.
Joe, California

November 18, 2012
Shirlie was a friend of mine. It started out in 1960 when my mother, a news reporter, had Shirlie do a formal portrait in her studio of me. Shirlie was a powerful woman when women had to be powerful to succeed at any work career. I sure miss talking with you Shirlie.
Kirk McClelland, San Jose, California

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holiday from Shirlie

If you were one of Shirlie's friends back in the fifties, you might have received one of these Holiday postcards from her.

This double good card is from 1950
While undated, I think this is from the late 1950s
Submitted by Bob Bortfeld

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Taxi Number 88

While Shirlie lived by taking photos of celebrities and disasters, along with portraits and corporate promos, she took pictures of just about anything that fascinated her. Like this taxi cab. Mission Taxi Co. of San Jose was around in the 1950s, just like this picture. Joe Holt resurrected this from an old negative.
To Quote Joe: This fella might have been the only cab driver in town but I doubt it.  Cab number 88. (Shirlie Montgomery)
Submitted by Bob Bortfeld & Joe Holt

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Shirlie in Santa Cruz 1939

Shirlie loved Santa Cruz ... loved the beach, loved the "hunks" and loved getting her picture taken in a bathing suit. These photos (pictures, she liked to call them) are from a 1939 album of Shirlie's. It starts at the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island and goes on to a lot of fun things she did that year. I focused here on Santa Cruz.

One thing I learned from seeing Shirlie's albums was that she was not just a photographer, but an artist! Take a look at some of her illustrations and graphic layout in these pages. Pretty neat!

Great sources for old photographs and historical information about Santa Clara Valley are the websites The Valley of Heart's Delight and The Society of California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.

I found this great video titled Trips to Santa Cruz, 1937 and 1938 on the Pioneer website. 
Submitted by Bob Bortfeld