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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bon Anee 1943

Simple, clear and heartwarming ... this little New Years' Greeting sent to Shirlie on Christmas Day 1942 wishing her Bon Anee for 1943. Notice the interesting postmark from U. S. Army Postal Service A.P.O., the censorship stamp and tape.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Christmas and New Year - All Well and Safe 1943

Leonard Farmer was off in the military "somewhere" on November 14th 1943 when he sent Shirlie this Western Union telegram greeting ... the equivalent of an email today! His message is rather poignant.


I guess you could not ask for a happier message ... considering the circumstances of a world at war! "all well and safe" ... praise to the Lord.

Merry Christmas from Shirlie and her Friends

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas from a South Sea Coral Isle 1943

Shirlie's friends were in far off places during WWII. Among her letters I found this fantastic Christmas Card from "A South Sea Coral Isle." Whimsical graphics and poem. Love Santa in his flack helmet singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" as he trudges up the sand to the palm tree lined shore.

The sailor's lament about Christmas ... missing the comraderie at the bar and good beer. His close is super ... "I hope we were Home & Free in '43 or jump and jive in '44, Out of the sticks in '45, Golden Gate in '48. 'Amen.'" (I think his years were off in the rhyme, but it doesn't matter, does it?)

The letter was mailed Dec 4, 1943 through US Navy mail and had to pass through the Naval Censor.

Monday, December 14, 2015

San Jose's Electric Light Tower

A Century Ago San Jose's Famous Electric Tower Collapsed!

In May of 1881 J. J. Owen, editor of the San José Mercury, suggested a project to light up the city of San Jose and surrounding areas with lights attached to a gigantic 237-foot tower. On Dec 13th he saw the culmination of his bright idea with the lighting of the tower in the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Streets. While interesting and visually spectacular, the tower was a bust as far as illuminating the valley. But the tower was a landmark and brought folks into the little country town south of The City ... San Francisco. Unfortunately, the tower was damaged in an August storm in 1915 and collapsed in another storm on December 3rd 1915. Fortunately no-one was hurt ... except for some egos!

Here are a couple of postcards we have from 1911 with the famous San Jose Electric Tower on them. One of them has a message to Shirlie's mom ... Mantie Beuck ... when she was living in San Francisco before she married Rea.

For more about the story of San Jose's Electric Light Tower see these two sites:
History San Jose
The Soft Underbelly of San Jose

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The World's Biggest Kangaroo!

Found this photo in Shirlie's archive. 

Love the note: Speaking to the Biggest Cangaroo in the world in Australia. March 12/1925. To Blonde from Carr Lynn ... with love to a clever girl.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Shirlie at San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition 1939-1940

Like virtually everyone in the Bay Area ... and across the nation ... Shirlie went up to San Francisco's Treasure Island for the Golden Gate Expo ... i.e., World's Fair. Treasure Island is a man-made island in the middle of San Francisco Bay next to Yerba Buena Island. It was specifically built for the expo of 1939 ... something that would not happen today.

Treasure Island included a landing area in Clipper Cove for the famous Pan Am Clipper ships ... large spectacular seaplanes that went from San Francisco to Hawaii and beyond in the late-1930s and into the mid-1940s. It was expected that Treasure Island would become an airport for San Francisco once the world's fair ended. BUT when WW2 started, the US Navy took over the island and did not give it back to the city until recently.

Back to the Golden Gate Expo. Shirlie went up to the fair several times ... with her parents and with friends. She left behind a fantastic album of photographs and comments, which is now in the History San Jose Shirlie Montgomery Collection. I just love the photos of Shirlie and best friend Harriette all dressed up wandering the exhibits and walkways of the expo. No shorts, T-shirts and backpacks. They were dressed to kill in dresses, hats and handbags ... and of course the coat or jacket needed to keep warm in the San Francisco summer!
Hariette (L) and Shirlie (R) at the World's Fair
Below are a selection of photos from Shirlie's album. Enjoy.

Rea & Mantie ... Shirlie's Parents

Shirlie ... Hat & Gloves

Shirlie Again

Statues Galore!

Trapeze Artists Way Up High!

View of Treasure Island and the Expo from the Bay

The above photos from Shirlie's album are from the Bob and Susan Bortfeld, Shirlie Montgomery Collection at History San Jose. Used with permission.