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, May 16, 2013

Politicians • Eleanor Roosevelt and Richard Nixon

Shirlie was pretty much apolitical ... she either liked the person or didn't. Period. She figured that she couldn't really influence the politicos and that most of them were crooks anyway! When it came to taking photographs, she just did her job ... and did it well.

A story she told me, several times, was when she photographed ex-actor, then US Senator from California, George Murphy. This was in the mid-1960s. Murphy was holding a cigar (or cigarette) when she was ready to take the photo. Shirlie was adament that he should snuff out the smoke for the photo. At first he declined, but she persisted. He had the photo taken sans cigar! She met with him a few years later and he remembered her as "that persistent photographer." (Murphy was diagnosed with throat cancer a few years later and had half of his larynx removed!) I wish I had that photograph.

While I do not have that photo, I do have, in Shirlie's collection, several photos of politicians from both ends of the ideological spectrum -- Eleanor Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.

Mrs. Roosevelt visited San Jose in 1947 as a guest of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee. A reception in her honor was held at the De Anza Hotel, where Shirlie took these photographs.
Eleanor Roosevelt at the reception held at the De Anza Hotel 1947 (Shirlie Montgomery)
Mrs. Roosevelt and local politicos 1947 (Shirlie Montgomery)
The top photo is featured in the book Reflections of the Past: An Anthology of San Jose (p.176). It is credited "Courtesy: Tom McEnery." Shirlie actually took the photo ... and still has the negative. John McEnery, Tom McEnery's father, commissioned Shirlie to take photos at the reception, but, even though he received and kept the photographs, never paid Shirlie ... and she never forgot that slight right to the end!

In 1960 then Vice-President Richard Nixon ran for US President against John "JFK" Kennedy. Two years after his loss to Kennedy, he ran for governor of California (which he also lost). Shirlie was called on to photograph Mr. Nixon while he was in San Jose.
Richard Nixon making the rounds in 1962 (Shirlie Montgomery)
Great shot of Nixon 1962 (Shirlie Montgomery)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

1961 Cosmetology Convention at Rickey's

I am not sure who any of these folks are, but it looks like they were having fun!

Shirlie took on all kinds of photo assignments. Conventions were one of her favorites -- well, not like the wrestlers were, but she loved to have fun and conventions gave her the opportunity to both have some fun and photograph people having fun.

See anyone you know? Let me know, I would love to i.d. them.

These folks look like they got carried away with the makeovers!
These shots are from the gathering of cosmetologists at Rickey's on the El Camino Real in Palo Alto back in 1961. The signs they are carrying read: San Jose Invites YOU in '61. Why a San Jose theme in Palo Alto? I don't know, except that San Jose was woefully short on great gathering places in the early 1960s.