Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cars: Not Just For the Guys

Throughout the history of automobiles in this country, the plethora of car photographs may have led some to believe this was just the focus of the male of the species. Not so. The women—at least in the Bean family—liked to have their picture taken with their favorite vehicle, too.

Dressed for the occasion, two women and an unidentified man pose in front of their car in an undisclosed location. Why is that location undisclosed? Heaven knows—although if either Bill or his sister Leona would have thought to tag the back of the snapshot, I’d be telling you about it today.

Wherever this photo was taken, I can only suppose the man might be Bill Bean. The woman next to him might be his sister Leona. Or not. And I have no clue who the thin lady completing the trio might be.

The cafĂ© they are standing in front of has a southwestern feel, but I can’t say for sure. All I can figure from the photo is that it is three doors down from the post office. Which post office, I don’t know.

A photograph of a woman in an old car parked in an untilled field next to a two story house does have a label, thankfully. It is dated 1935, but the names provided tell me absolutely nothing. First, in a penciled hand much different from any in this Bean family, a name is written: Martha Darneal. Then, underneath—whether to contradict the earlier information, I can’t tell—the name Leona Grant is penned in, in a handwriting that I recognize as Leona’s own.

woman in car 1935
Enlarging the photo sufficiently to discern details on the woman’s face doesn’t help much. I can only imagine that it doesn’t seem to resemble Leona. Perhaps it is Martha sitting in that contraption, after all.

I take to the usual genealogy websites to see if I can find anything on Martha Darneal. Unfortunately, while there are several Darnells and Darnalls, there are precious few Darneals listed with the first name Martha. I do find some entries in city directories for Bakersfield, California—explaining the dry and barren look of the land—in the mid 1950s. Some of the entries mention that her husband’s name is Earl.

Eventually, I locate Martha’s data in the 1940 U.S. census. There she is, with husband Earl, son Robert and daughter Jerry—not in Bakersfield, but in Hobbs, New Mexico.

However, since the photograph was labeled for 1935, not 1940, I take a look at where the census handily lists Martha’s residence for that earlier date. In 1935, she was a resident of Fullerton in Orange County, California.

Another thing about Martha. The 1940 census shows her age as twenty. That means in 1935, she would have only been fifteen years of age.

The more I look at the details, the more I wonder if either the photograph was mislabeled, or this census entry is for the wrong person.

Thinking this Martha Darneal would be more likely a friend than a relative, I decide to set the whole mystery aside and let it simmer for another day’s attempt at resolution. Maybe sometime later, I’ll run across that name again, and I can then connect the dots.

Leona Grant Alameda California
For the third photograph, though, I have little doubt as to the subject’s identity. The only writing on the back of the snapshot is the date: 1950. Standing in front of what must have been—for the time, at least—an impressive automobile was Leona Bean Grant, herself. The car might have been her brother Bill’s latest wheels, or perhaps the pride of her husband, Bob Grant.

However, knowing Leona and her independent ways, I kind of think this one’s her own.


  1. I have a picture of my husband, young and in a Navy uniform circa 1964. He is standing beside a Corvette, I asked him what happened to the car and he said it was not his but he wanted his picture taken beside it. Guess I should write that on the back of the picture. LOL

    1. Too funny, Claudia! But something to definitely keep in mind as I'm looking over all these photos with cars in my own family. And yes, make a note of it on the back of the picture, for your own descendants' sake.

      Regardless of whoever actually owned the vehicle, your husband did have an eye for primo cars!

  2. Are you thinking the thin woman in #1 is the woman driving the car in #2?

    1. I'm not sure, Wendy. That's why I wish I knew enough about cars to determine the dates better.

      I was thinking the thin woman might have been Bill's wife, but I can't enlarge the picture enough to see the details on her face. It could also have been another of Leona's friends--of which I do have more pictures, though in later years, so again, no help for matching faces.

      I'm learning, though, that being patient and waiting sometimes is a strategy that helps. I've found so much more on this second go-round than I would have dreamed of, the last time I took these pictures out of their hiding place.

  3. Replies
    1. I imagine she was proud to have that beauty pull up in her driveway, no matter who the owner was.


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