Friday, February 1, 2013

Inside the Polaroid Land Camera Box

Since I mentioned Bill Bean’s wife Ellen yesterday, I may as well take the time now to share what little I know about her. At least I have pictures, even if I don’t have any more information.

Ellen seems to be a cornerstone upon which the identity of several mystery photographs hinges. I’ve mentioned before that I received all these family photos, jumbled up in one big heap, kept in a box labeled “Polaroid Land Camera, Model 95.”

Admittedly, the box—sturdy enough, I’ll grant you—may have made a handy make-shift storage container at the beginning. But after a lifetime, one would think a family could come up with a better storage solution.

And, of course, since that storage box ended up not only retaining the photo memories of Bill and his wife’s families, it also eventually got augmented by the photos that Bill’s sister Leona left behind at her passing in 1977.

It’s those photos from Ellen’s family that leave me clueless. How can I connect to a family for whom I have no surname?

Try as I can, I have not been able to find any record online of Bill’s marriage to Ellen. Since I don’t know which county Ellen came from, attempting to search each county’s records would be impractical—even if I did have the date of their marriage. And that I don’t have. I’m not likely to discover it, either, as Ellen passed away long before Bill did, and there’s no one left in the family to help me on this one.

Unless, of course, one of the many online genealogical resources just happens to add more data on California marriages that would include their information. I’d even take a newspaper announcement—if I could find one online!

At this point, I’m left with only those photographic hints left behind—surviving a second marriage, in fact—in Bill’s Polaroid box.

I mentioned before that Bill certainly liked having his picture taken besides some of his favorite cars. Well, that goes for his wife, too. I told you before that some of the Bean family women also sported some stylin’ wheels.

Take this example: Ellen in a photo dated December, 1957. When it comes to identifying makes and models, I’m no expert, but I’m sure someone in the Bean family favored this one.


One of the earliest photographs I have of Ellen is undated, but if you look closely at the background in this snapshot, you can see a car which might give an idea of the date of the picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scene of the picture was the Beanery in Alameda, which evidently was a duplex that Bill and Ellen split with Bill’s mother, Ella Shields Bean.

snapshot in front of their home

Judging from the many outdoor photographs in Bill’s collection, the couple enjoyed traveling, and seemed to favor the rugged grandeur of locations like Yosemite. While I can’t be certain of the location of this final photograph that I’ll share of Ellen, it certainly appeared to be a mountain getaway.

winter in mountain getaway

Along with Ellen and Bill Bean, I believe the woman to the left of Bill was his sister, Leona. A fourth person—the woman standing next to Ellen—is someone I can’t identify.


Which reminds me again of how much easier this whole task of sorting out the Polaroid box contents might have been if someone had taken the time, back then, to label those photos. But when we take photos for our own benefit, why would we think of who else might be interested, later, in knowing?


  1. Oh I like the car photo and the traveling those camping/hiking clothes:)

  2. It occurred to me, with that first picture of the '57 Chrysler - I believe; that the license plate is clear enough to read. I wonder if the State of California would provide information on the owners of old cars in pictures by the license plate numbers? Might be worth checking.

    1. That plate does look almost readable, doesn't it. Good thinking...just have to find the way to do it! However, I tend to think this would be Ellen's car after marrying Bill, so no maiden name on any car registration, I'm guessing. It's her maiden name I'm after.

  3. I like Ellen's style. The plum-colored sweater. The layered skirt -- snazzy. And then . . . I almost forgot that folks used to call those "pedal pushers." She looks like quite a personality. How very frustrating to have these photos of someone without a surname.

    I know virtually nothing about "message boards," but I don't suppose they have something like that for California marriages . . . ? Or something on Ancestry? Maybe someone else descended from Ellen remembers Bill Bean? And I like the license plate suggestion, too.

    1. Now that is a thought, Mariann. I haven't yet been desperate enough to post my quandary on the message boards and forums. I might just try that.

      I also reviewed my notes on this family, and realized that the bulk of my research was done pre-computers at the state library, which isn't far from here. I checked their current website and it looks like they have copies of all marriage licenses. Might be worth the 45 minute drive to check it out there!

  4. The car is most likely a 1957 Desoto...I had my husband look at could be a 1958 model too..if the dealers got them early:)

    1. DeSoto...that would make sense. After all, Ellen's husband was a dealer. And he just could have swung that 1958 deal, too :)

  5. Looks like you have your work cut off for you in figuring this out. I love the pictures.

    1. Glad you like them! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Nice to have the feedback.

      Actually, it's pathetic that I can't find more information on Ellen. When Far Side mentioned in her comment above that the car was at least an 1957 model, I made the mental note, "Well, at least Ellen didn't die before 1957." That's how little I know about her.

  6. That very car might be listed here: (page 2)


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