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

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.