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

Friday, December 2, 2016

University of Santa Clara ROTC 1937-38

Shirlie had this awesome scrapbook of photos she rescued from the San Jose News morgue ... all of college kids and sports from 1937-1938. These photos are about the Reserve Officer's Training Corp at SCU. Back then, right up through the 1970s or so, ROTC was required for all frosh and sophomore men. (Of course "men" as SCU was a men's only college back then.) 

I remember the Wednesday march in review events very well from my days at SCU (Class of 1966). The old woolen uniforms. The spit polished shoes. The bright, shiny brass buttons. The classes in military history, tactics and strategies, rules and regulations. We even had to carry rifles (NOT "guns") but they were disabled. ROTC is a thing of the past for most Bay Area colleges and high schools ... not politically correct. Too bad.

This photo album was donated to the SCU Library Archives by Shirlie quite a few years ago.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shirlie's Teddy Bear

Shirlie's Teddy Bear was very well-loved for ninety years! I showed you a photo of her with her Teddy a couple of days ago. Here is that photo again, plus one of her Teddy today. We donated her Teddy ... which she kept forever ... to the HSJ Shirley Montgomery Collection.

Shirlie with her Teddy Bear c1921

 Photo from our private Collection

Shirlie's Teddy which currently resides in the Shirlie Montgomery Collection at HSJ

  (Image from the 
Bob and Susan Bortfeld, Shirlie Montgomery Collection
 at History San Jose. Used with permission.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Shirlie Childhood Photos

Shirlie's friend Kirk once said ... and I am in firm agreement ... tha "the only thing Shirlie liked better than taking photos was having her photo taken!" So true. Even as a child, Shirlie liked to be in front of the camera. I put together a series of snapshots of young Shirlie from age one or so (1919) to age twelve (1931). See what you think.

These not only show Shirlie growing up, but give a glimpse into living in San Jose as a middle class family in the 1920s.

Kinda looks like the other famous "Shirley"

Miss Toddler Shirlie

Great hair Shirlie!

She loved to pose for the camera

Shirlie told me that the only place she loved as much as San Francisco was the beach at Santa Cruz ... she started early

Posing with a hoop

Shirlie absolutely LOVED her Teddy Bear ... She kept it all her life and it now resides with her collection at History San Jose

In her white bloomers

Back at the beach

Studio photo of Shirlie with a toy rabbit

Must have been the same day
Shirlie with her new friend

The spaniel has grown up ... Shirlie just a little bit

Shirlie in her "all together" ... hand-colored by Shirlie later

Shirlie being coy

Ahhh ... the actress in Shirlie is showing!

Blossom Festival in 1929

Shirlie (in the middle right) and friends

School play ... Shirlie on right

Shirlie loved the sailors in the 1940s ... looks like she liked the "look" c1930

Shirlie nearly a teenager at twelve in 1931
All photos are from our Private Collection

Monday, September 12, 2016

Boy's Wails Vie with King Lear's

“Oh, mamma, mamma, I'm dying, I'm dying. Take me out of here."

Those were the cries of little Montgomery Reynolds during a performance of King Lear at the Van Ness Theater in 1908.  What!? It happened and was reported in the San Francisco Call on Wednesday, May 20th 1908.

Here's the story. Shirlie's grand-uncle was T. S. Montgomery. His daughter Coralie Montgomery Reynolds was visiting the City that May of 1908. She and her four year old son Montgomery went to the Van Ness Theater to see a performance of Shakespeare's King Lear ... Taking a four year old to see King Lear has to be a questionable choice! ... The youngster was apparently not impressed.

Here's the story, as reported in The Call:


“Oh, mamma, mamma, I'm dying, I'm dying. Take me out of here."

The audience at the Van Ness theater started in its seats last night when these shrill cries resounded through the orchestra. Robert Mantell, as sad old, mad old King Lear, was just in the act of bemoaning “how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child" when the outcry came. Mantell paused in the midst of his simulated misery and the audience craned its neck.

Up and out ran aisle ran a frightened woman, leading by the hand a small boy in a Buster Brown suit. Outside the wails of the "dying" boy attracted Patrolman Frederickson."^' An automobile was at the curb. The officer seized the all but moribund youth and tossed him into the big machine. In hopped the woman and down the streets they went whizzing to the central emergency hospital.

The boy was Master Montgomery Reynolds, aged 12 (
actually age 4). The woman was his mother (Coralie Montgomery Reynolds). They live in southern California, but are visiting at 1235 Laguna street.

At the hospital Dr. Pinkham informed Master Montgomery that he was suffering from a neuralgic attack of the muscles of his juvenile chest. He advised Mrs. Reynolds to place a hot water bag upon the offending muscles at bedtime, and mother and son hiked back to the Van Ness and the woes of Lear.

Forty-five minutes later Master Montgomery emitted another yelp of agony and mother and son again sought the central emergency.

Dr. Pinkham gazed feelingly upon Master Montgomery and advised his mother to resort to the ancient cure of "the laying on of hands," specifying the portion of the boyish anatomy most likely to be affected beneficially. Then mother and son walked out into the night, but not back to the Van Ness.

I do like the second prescription ordered by the wise doctor ... 

Here is a copy of the actual article:


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

T. S. Montgomery ... a San Jose Legend ... and a Poet

Thomas Seymour Montgomery (1885 - 1944) is frequently called the “father of downtown San Jose” and was a very influential real estate developer, community leader and a visionary. His achievements in San Jose included both the Vendome, Montgomery and St. Claire Hotels, the Naglee Park subdivision in San Jose and La Paloma Terrace neighborhood in Saratoga (where Lillian Fontaine and her two daughters once lived).  It was his vision ... and determination ... that created what is now the modern San Jose footprint back at the turn of the last century.  He was also a director on both the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific Railroads, as well as the chairman of the board of the California Prune and Apricot Growers association.

T. S. Montgomery is a native son of the Santa Clara Valley. At 13 he was a newsboy and at 16 he became entirely self-dependent. His parents settled in Santa Clara County in 1853 ... his father is a Virginian by birth and his mother is a native of Ohio.

His first big home was on North First Street in San Jose in 1887.

San Jose Residence ( Artotype No. 28, with "S. F. News Letter," Sept. 30, 1887)

Later, in 1900 he built a home in Saratoga on the Saratoga-Los Gatos Road (where Fatima Villa is today). The brick wall there is a remnant of his old estate.

Saratoga Residence c1900 (Photo courtesy of the Saratoga Historical Society Newsletter Jan 2013 )

In 1929 he and his wife Louise moved into their mansion on Branciforte Creek in Santa Cruz ... La Casa de Montgomery. 

Gates to the La Casa de Montgomery ... that's Ginger out front.
La Casa de Montgomery aerial view.

Thomas Seymour Montgomery passed away in 1944.
T. S. Montgomery's Obituary as published in the Santa Cruz Sentinal (March 26, 1944)
Thanks to Shirlie, we have quite a bit of historical archives about her grand-uncle Tom. Aside from the photos (two of which are below, other items are in the History San Jose collection), he left behind some writings ... essays and poetry. He was also a scrapbooker!
That's T. S. in the suit along with his wife Louise and Shirlie's parents Rea and Mantie ... and Shirlie on the left.
T. S. with his wife Louise and Shirlie's mom Mantie ... and Shirlie too.

Below is a small self-published booklet of selections about his home on Branciforte Creek and his canine pal "Ginger."

Click on the image to see a larger and more readable copy.

Unless otherwise credited, images and content are from the Bob & Susan Bortfeld Private Collection. Copyright protected.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

De Anza Hotel Armed Forces Identification Menu

Back in the time of the two great wars of the 20th century, Americans took the conflicts as their own ... part of their own lives ... and supported the members of the armed forces and the war effort with their own sacrifices, diligence and lifestyles. We have seen and read of how the American women took to the factories to free their men to go off to fight; of how those who could not fight or were crucial to the war effort in the work they did at home, put the need of America and their fighters ahead of personal gain. How that changed in later conflicts ... the indifference to the Korean "Police Action" and the downright disdain for the Vietnam conflict and the men who fought in it. Thank God that Americans support the military men and women in today's Mid-East warfare.

In WW2 there were reminders of the responsibilities of citizens at home nearly everywhere ... on posters, on notices shown in theaters and books, in books and magazine articles, and even on the menus of diners and cafes.

The De Anza Coffee Shop in downtown San Jose was a good example. The Danzabar upstairs, where Shirlie worked her photographic magic and befriended soldiers and sailors who spent time there, did many things to honor the military. The coffee shop downstairs used this special menu to honor the military. It featured a pictorial guide for the Identification of the United States Armed Forces.

Take a look at the menu. "Coffee with an oomph -- see it made in our thermostatically controlled urn." Coffee was a dime ... so was Jello! Entrees ran from 70c for Atlantic Coast Scallops, Fried in Egg Batter and Tarter Sauce to $1.50 for a Broiled Tenderloin Steak with Mushroom Sauce. Entrees came with vegetables and potatoes.
This menu is dated Sunday November 15, 1942.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lord James Tally-Ho Blears dies in Hawaii

Lord James "Tally-Ho" Blears (1924-2016)
 To Shirlie the World's Finest Photographer ... from the World's Finest Wrestler
 1955 ... Lord Jim Blears 

Shirlie Montgomery loved the "sport" of wrestling. In her role as a wrestling photographer, she had some favorites ... Leo Nomelini (local SF 49ers football star turned wrestler), the Sharpe Brothers (who used to hang around with Shirlie in San Jose), Enrique Torres (she thought he was "Oh So Handsome!"), Vince Lopez (would be lover) and both Gorgeous George and Lord "Tally-Ho" Blears (she thought their showmanship was what made wrestling fun.) Well, most of the stars of wrestling from her era have passed to the great ring in the sky ... and now we have lost Jan Blears, aka Lord James Blears, aka Lord "Tally-Ho."

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser March 8th:

James Blears, a legendary wrestling champion, local promoter and World War II survivor who was nearly killed by his Japanese captors, has died. Blears died of natural causes Thursday night at Kuakini Medical Center, his son Clinton Blears said. He was 92. “He lived a good life,” Clinton Blears said. “He always told jokes. He gave us the gift of being able to tell stories because he was a story- and a joke teller.”

Blears, a professional wrestler known as Lord “Tally-Ho” Blears, told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2001 that he would eat a can of peaches every March 29 in homage to his fellow captives who perished and to remind himself of the preciousness of life and resilience. He said he ate peaches because it was the first food sailors gave him after they plucked him from the Indian Ocean, following his escape from his Japanese captors in 1944.

Blears was a 21-year-old radio officer on a Dutch merchant ship that had been sunk by a Japanese submarine near the end of World War II. The Japanese brought aboard the survivors and were shooting or decapitating many on the foredeck. Blears said he escaped by kicking a Japanese officer and pulling his hand out of a rope, then jumping overboard.

In Hawaii, Blears was an announcer for multiple sporting competitions including the Waikiki Rough Water Swim and the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave surf contest. He was also a skilled waterman, surfer and canoe paddler. He is the father of former professional surfer Laura Blears.

Shirlie photographed Blears many times. The iconic shot of Blears nearly falling out of the ring atop Shirlie (taken by a fellow reporter from the newspaper in San Jose) in 1958 is a real classic.

The rest of these photos are from are by Shirlie from her archives, some of which are available for sale at Vintages' Sports Collectibles site
Blears loved to have fun with his image as an English Aristocrat turned wrestler
Shirlie captured his antics well
This "cartoon" by Shirlie is pretty cute!
So is this follow-on photo
This is a letter from Blears asking Shirlie for some copies of a photo
These are images taken from negatives Shirlie had.

 Lord Blears ... RIP ... and say "Hi" to Shirlie from all of us.