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 8, 2014

It was a product of the times ...

Back in 1920 when Shirlie's family moved to a new house on Atlanta Avenue in San Jose, the deed had a couple of codicils that were truly a product of their time. Such conditions are illegal today, but were quite common back then.
The paragraph under the microscope is the last in this image:

"This conveyance is made and accepted upon the express conditions that if a dwelling house be erected upon said premises, the same shall cost not less than $2500.00 and upon the further condition that said property shall not be sold or conveyed to any Italian, Slavonian, Negro or Japanese.”

Now I understand the home value condition ... a bit weird, as why do the sellers care? But the prohibition of a future sale or conveyance to "any Italian, Slavonian, Negro or Japanese" really caught my eye. The Negro I understand due to the race issues of that time. The Japanese ban is equally understandable in relation to the fear of Asians taking over the USA back in those days. BUT why Italians and Slavonians? Especially in San Jose which had a significant population of both ... or maybe it was because of that presence.

History is always interesting, many times it is surprising, and sometimes - like this one - just plain strange.

Shirlie never mentioned this and she certainly did not have a racist bone in her body. I am sure she could have helped me understand it.

Document and image are from the Bob and Susan Bortfeld, Shirlie Montgomery Collection at History San Jose. Used with permission.

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