Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Rollicking Good Time

Frankly, I have to say Leona keeps me guessing. I can’t ever be sure whether to search for “Leona Bean” or “Leona Grant” in the various databases designed to help us piece together our family history. She’s led me on a merry chase, home in Alameda, California, with mom—that’s Ella Shields Bean—as a single student in 1916, then home again with mom by 1934 as a “Mrs.” Somewhere in between (mostly in the 1920s), she shows up in city directories in San Francisco, listed by the surname Grant, but with no husband in sight, and with her own occupation listed as “trained nurse.”

Whatever Leona was, whether married or not, she was an independent woman.

Perhaps the marked absence of any photos of Mr. Grant—whoever he might have been—is telling in its own right.

Leona Grant
In his place, though, are a few photographs of Leona with friends. In one sedate pose with two other women, the vignette is captured in what appears to be a forest-like setting, and yet, each of the women seems dressed for an occasion that doesn’t quite fit the surroundings.

Thankfully, Leona saw fit to mark the photograph with some names—although which name belongs to which woman, I can’t tell. I do know for sure that Leona was in the center of this threesome. But I can’t guarantee that she didn’t get struck with a stubborn streak at that very moment of inscribing the names. Is it left to right—Hazel, Leona, Nibs—or could it have been right to left?

Whichever of the three was pictured on the right, she has a memorable face that shows up in a delightful group photograph, possibly taken at that same woodland retreat. Does that mean that she is Hazel? That name shows up in both photos, but would mean the first snapshot was not labeled in the traditional left-to-right format. And who is Nibs? What would Nibs be the nickname for?

When I see that picture, I wonder if it had been taken during a break in a work convention of some sort. The names on the back of this photo are not of Bean family surnames, making me wonder if they are coworkers. Unfortunately, again, there seems to be no order in the labeling of the photo. Actually, several faces go nameless—but which ones? Perhaps the ones with only first names listed are either really good friends, sure to never be forgotten like Hazel, or people who have just been met at the event, for whom full names were not obtained at such short notice.

Whoever they were, Leona wanted to remember: Hazel, Nel Gates, Edna Swaney (or Sweeney?), Judy, Viola, and Ann Hughes.

Listing her own name last does not guarantee that Leona is the last in the lineup, however.

Come to think of it, I can’t even find Leona’s face anywhere. Is she the photographer this time? Or just laughing so hard, she doesn’t even look like her familiar self?

Whoever they all are, they each are having just the most wonderful time.

possible northern California work meeting Leona Grant


  1. I have those mysteries too since inheriting my great aunt's old photo album. I always make sure to label mine since discovering how frustrating it is to wonder who is peeking out from those photos. Leona sounds like a very interesting woman.

    1. Ellie, when I first met Leona, it was in her later years. At that point, I didn't exactly think of her as interesting...eccentric would be more the word I had in mind then.

      Now that I've been delving into her history--what I can find of it, that is, since she has been so elusive--I certainly recant my former position. The more I know about her, the more she does seem to have an interesting past. Perhaps it was just because she lived during an era when women were still pretty invisible to outside eyes, but there doesn't seem to be much I can find online to explain her personal history. I can't even find her in some census records!

      As for your own great-aunt, be encouraged and keep at it. Don't hesitate to take a break and come back to the task in a few years--at least if there is no one else to question about the subjects' identity. Sometimes fresh eyes--and a whole lot more online records accessibility--can make all the difference.

      And yes! We all need to label our own photos!

  2. Logic would argue that if Leona were merely trying to name the 3 people in #1, she wouldn't have named herself second. But when have our ancestors ever conformed to logic?

    The one woman is definitely identifiable in both pictures, arguing that she is Hazel. Unless Nibs is a quirky nickname for Nel or Edna, I would say Nibs is not in the other photo. She certainly doesn't look like anybody there.

    1. Wendy, thanks for that second set of eyes to confirm that those two pictures were of the same woman. And I'll buy your reasoning for her name being Hazel.

      After posting today's photos, I went through the box again. Believe me, there are more photos in there than I care to think about, so things do get lost in the shuffle. But it's like studying for an exam: the more you read over the subject material, the more familiar you get with it.

      Would you believe I found another photo of the same place--with an explanation about it? I'll post that tomorrow. It's nice to find some answers, even if they are little ones, blurry, and with ink smeared all over them! It's a wonder I hadn't already thrown that one away!

  3. That last photo is interesting..they were all having fun! I am not sure how one gets a nickname..especially like Nibs..:(

    1. Far Side, I've wondered about that nickname, too. Bite her fingernails to the nibs??? No, that's not quite right, that would be nubs. Calligraphy fanatic? Maybe...

      I just Googled "nibs" and evidently the British use that as a slang term for someone who is full of himself. However, I don't see someone calling a friend "Miss Nibs" or "her Nibs." Or maybe these are just friends who are used to giving each other a hard time...


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