While there are so many more photographs that I have yet to identify in the mystery box from Bill Bean and his sister, Leona Bean Grant, I think it is time to move on and delve into the stories of the previous generation.
You’ve already met their mother, Ella Shields Bean, in past posts, but let’s re-acquaint ourselves with the woman we’ll focus on in the next few days as we push the timeline back from the mid 1900s to the previous century.
Ella Bean may have sensed that she was not photogenic—or perhaps cared little for such “new-fangled” contraptions as Bill’s Polaroid cameras. She did, however, have a persistent son who loved to tinker with machines and see what they could do to make life easier or more enjoyable.
I imagine Bill—who, as an adult, lived for much of his younger married life as his mother’s next door neighbor—would often stop by his mom’s place, pop his head in the door, and call out, “Hey, mom, come look at this!”
Why do I imagine that?
Because I have a number of photographs of the aging Ella Bean, sitting at that very same front entryway to her home, putting up with Bill’s photographic experiments.
One—thankfully labeled on the reverse, “Mother + Chang, 1940”—even bears the imprint of someone’s misplaced fingerprints. I imagine those prints belong to Bill…in more ways than one.
Ella, who for several years also provided housing for her other son—Sam, Bill’s blind and deaf twin brother—was live-in grandmother to two active boys as well. Chang may well have provided some canine companionship not only for Ella, but for her young charges as well.
By 1940, the date of this photograph, Ella would have been seventy five years of age. She most likely had been living in that same home in Alameda, California, for over twenty years—a story we’ll take a closer look at in the next few days.
More likely, it was her son, once again saying, “Come on out in the sunlight and let me take your picture.”
By the time Ella reached that age, it would have been 1947—less than two years before her passing. And yet, she still retained that strong, no-nonsense appearance of several years prior. I often wonder how similar she might have been, at that age, to the way I remember her daughter Leona being in her older years. After all, in their younger years, Leona took after her mother so much.
Though there are very few treasures in Bill Bean’s mystery box of photographs that reveal the younger Ella Shields Bean, I have been able to retrace Ella’s steps and connect with her family stories through research I did years ago at the California State Library. Long before the advent of personal computers—and certainly before the age of the Internet—I was still able to ferret out gems regarding Ella May’s early years of marriage to Leon Samuel Bean, and even stories from her family after they settled in Fresno, California.
In the upcoming week, I’ll share some of those details as we turn our attention to what can be discovered about a much younger Ella Shields Bean.
That is interesting how Bill would take the pictures at the front entryway to Ella's home. I need to look at some of my old pictures and try to imagine what was going on when the pictures were taken. I noticed you mentioned Fresno. I am writing up a story that includes some distantly related ancestors buried in Fresno. It took a lot of research to track down their story.
Grant, I've read that earlier photography issues were such that outdoor pictures either were necessary (no flash capabilities?) or fared better. Perhaps that was the case with Ella's photos.Delete
I have been following your story on your blog, and am not surprised that Fresno would be mentioned. You are turning up some unexpected leads in your research!
What? A picture with a name AND a date on the back? Who ever heard of such a thing! Takes all the fun out of head-scratching 75 years hence.ReplyDelete
I'm looking forward to meeting the younger Ella and seeing her personality come to life under your able hand.
I know, Wendy--what's up with that?! I suspect the label was courtesy of Leona, trying to do penance, in her later years, to some kind of imagined photography cops. She did try.Delete
I do have some tales about Ella...but as comprehensive as online newspaper archive resources are these days, I have not been able to find repeats of the details I remember from that old research. Here's hoping I can get my hands on those original notes! I'm sure I wouldn't be able to put it quite like those original newspaper reports had it.
So many photos were taken outside on the front steps..just as these were. Photos turned out better in natural light. I am not sure when Flash Photography became popular..then you had to have bulbs enough to match the photos you were taking indoors. It was just easier weather permitting to line everyone up out of doors:)ReplyDelete
I thought I remembered you mentioning that in one of your blogs, Far Side. Thanks for verifying that!Delete
I love old photos. The faces and locations tell you so much about life. I'm betting Ella spent a lot of time on that stoop! Now I need to go back and read more of the story! :)ReplyDelete
So nice to have you stop by, Peggy! I enjoyed reading your blog yesterday! Hope you enjoy the rest of the story here. :)Delete
Well thank goodness Ella was cooperative and allowed him to take her picture! I have a few in my family that are not so cooperative even now and are quick to turn away from attempts to capture their picture for future generations!ReplyDelete
Once again, a good read Jacqi. I enjoyed it very much.
Tell me about it, Michelle! My own daughter won't even let me take a picture of her. I keep telling her, "What will you do when your grandchildren want to see a picture of you as a teenager?!" She's still a college student, so that's not really a motivator...but I can try! :)Delete
Hi Jacqi, I just found this other post about Ella that I must have missed while I was writing my last post, I guess. I enjoyed reading it, and adding it to what else I knew about Ella. The dog Chang looks handsome in his photograph! And Ella certainly does have a no-nonsense appearance. I wouldn't want to get on her bad side!ReplyDelete
Yes, you are right, Mariann: don't get on Ella's bad side! You will see a bit more about that soon.Delete