Monday, May 25, 2015

1908, Montana Schoolmarm Finds Romance

My sweet little wife Joyce spent over thirty years teaching English in Los Angeles schools, so when this photo was taken in a Wyoming photography studio I affectionately called it "Cowboy and Schoolmarm."  

What could be more romantic I thought.  But, then I recently discovered a real tale about a schoolmarm and her real old West romance.

Stella May Brown, my grandmother's older sister, was born 3 Dec 1888 in Roswell, Miner County, South Dakota during one of her family's forays into the West seeking the perfect homestead location.  The photo above was taken about 1980, in Missouri as the search for a perfect home continued.

Eventually Stella's parents -- Abraham Lincoln Brown and Neva Plympton Brown found their way to Creston, Montana where they would spend the rest of their days.

After finishing her own schooling -- at Cayuse Prairie school in Creston, Montana -- Stella became the teacher at another nearly Montana school.  The school house was a log cabin that had been constructed by two young brothers Ray and Len Schlyer.

Apparently Len Schlyer was swept off his feet by the lovely young schoolmarm, and the two were wed in December of 1908.

I believe the photo above was their home in the early 1920s.

Len built a sawmill in nearby Kalispell, Montana, but fires caused by spontaneous combustion of sawdust piles became a problem, so the family moved to New York state about 1929.  

Len passed away in 1940, and Stella lived until 1971, but never remarried.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thank Goodness For Traveling Photographers

Having your Photograph taken became popular during the Civil War when many young men marched off to war with a brand new photo of their sweetheart or mother in their vest pocket.  Photographing the war made it necessary for photographers to outfit a wagon that could carry their cameras and double as a darkroom.  Thus the idea of a traveling photographer was born.

Following the war from -- especially during the 1880s and 1890s -- many photographers took their craft on the road…

Traveling photographers with railroad photo cars 

I have this mental image of great grandma in her sod house out on the Nebraska prairie -- her first baby is about six-months old now, but she knows there's no way she can afford to go visit her family and friends in the east.

Then someone tells her a train with a photographer is coming to town, and that's only two hours away with a horse and wagon.  When she got to the railroad station she most likely found the Hutchings Railroad Photo Car sitting on a siding and open for business for the next week or so.

The Hutchings Railroad Photo Car was a train car set up as a traveling photography studio.  They worked along the railroads of Kansas and Nebraska.  Hutchings Railroad photographers advertised in local papers announcing the date of their arrival.  Sometimes they also pass out handbills and put up posters after they arrived.

A visit of the Hutchings Railroad Photo Car was a treat not soon forgotten, and left you with a treasure to always be remembered.

Traveling photographers with horse-drawn vans and wagons

Picture great granddad working on his new barn in rural Montana when a stranger in a horse-drawn wagon comes up the road and pulls into the driveway.  

The stranger's helper unloads a camera on a tripod and points it in the direction of the barn. Wanting to know what he's doing granddad climbs off the barn asks about his intentions.  

The stranger explains to grandpa that his barn has been selected to be photographed, and that if he'll get the family together they can be included in the photograph -- for the price of $2.50 -- and they'll have a professional photograph, that will impress the neighbors, or can be made into a postcard to mail to kin folks.

At that point grandpa had two choices: 1. Grab your pitchfork and run the stranger off the place or, 2. Call mother, the children and get the new buggy out front and pose.

Apparently Abraham Brown decided $2.50 was worth the price of a nice photo of his Creston, Montana homestead.

Thank goodness for those early traveling photographers because I've got cigar box full of pictures that are a family treasure to be handed down to future generations.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reel Annie Oakleys in the Santa Susanas

The real Annie Oakley (1860 – 1926), was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter.  Annie Oakley's astonishing shooting talent eventually led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. 

Her rise to fame in the late 19th century caused her to become one of the first American women to become a "superstar".

She was also was known as "Miss Annie Oakley", "Little Sure Shot", and "Little Miss Sure Shot"

Like Buffalo Bill -- Annie Oakley's fame led to several movies and television shows about her life (both real and mythical).

Reel Annie Oakley titles fllmed in the Santa Susanas include:

Annie Oakley (1935) starring Barbara Stanwyck as Annie Oakley, Preston Foster and Melvyn Douglas (Iverson Ranch) RKO

"Annie Oakley" (1954) TV Series -- Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (81 episodes, 1954-1957)

Alias Jesse James (1959) starring Bob Hope, Rhonda Fleming, Wendell Corey and Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (Iverson Ranch) United Artists

Other roles loosely based on Annie Oakley's life include:

Oklahoma Annie (1952) starring Judy Canova, John Russell, Grant Withers (Chatsworth) Republic

Lay That Rifle Down (1955) starring Judy Canova, Robert Lowery, Jil Jarmyn (Iverson Ranch) Republic