Shirlie Alice Montgomery (1918 – 2012)

Shirlie Montgomery
Shirlie Montgomery, Rose Garden resident
Earlier this month, our community lost a truly remarkable lady in Shirlie Montgomery who, as a professional photographer, captured in her lens many memorable moments in the Santa Clara Valley as it transformed from an agricultural community to Silicon Valley.

A native and life long resident of San Jose, Montgomery was the grandniece of T. S. Montgomery, an early real estate developer in the local community. She began her career at the De Anza Hotel on Santa Clara Street where she was employed to create photographic gifts for hotel guests.

Eleanor Roosevelt at De Anza Hotel
Eleanor Roosevelt at the De Anza Hotel, 1940 (Shirlie Montgomery Collection, History San Jose)
Later, Montgomery worked for both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. As a newspaper photographer, she became acquainted with many local and national celebrities, some of whom hired her for personal portraits. Additional contacts were made during her freelance time working at Lou’s Village on West San Carlos Street.

In her quest to capture the moment with her 4×5 speed graphic camera, Montgomery was adventurous. In one case, she flew in a private plane to obtain aerial photographs of downtown San Jose in the late 1930s. An assignment at the Civic Auditorium for a professional wresting match would lead to a multi-year relationship with the sport and its participants. She would tell friends that “I always like the big boys!”

History San Jose holds a portion of Montgomery’s broad photographic portfolio, and several of her images have supplemented previous exhibits. Friends of this unique spirited individual have created a web blog in her memory.