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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WWII Letter to Shirlie 1943

As I have said, Shirlie made friends with all the military "boys" that she photographed in the Hotel De Anza in the war years. Interestingly, Shirlie destroyed all the photos and negatives she had from the De Anza ... she did not want to cause scandals, as many of the "boys" were with "society girls" and ...

But the soldiers and sailors remembered her, sent her letters, photos and stuff. She wrote back when she could and even sent cookies! Here is a letter from Gene Norman, who was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1943.

Dear Shirlie --

Surprise. I'm still here. I haven't left for school and the way it looks now, I'm doomed to stay in Georgia for the duration.

This army life is pulling me under. The same old stuff day in and day out. We just came back from an over night hike this noon.

One of the fellows that works down in the photo section took a picture of me the other night, -- hope you like it.

Gotta sign off now it's almost time for chow and that's the second most important thing in the army, first, being pay day.

Answer soon Shirlie and make it soon. Love, Gene.

Letters and images from our personal collection.

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