Whew. I like to write a post or two per week, but it’s been a busy several weeks since my last post. My time has been stretched really thin over these past weeks, primarily between travel, family, a bad cold, and writing a $500k NSF grant. I’ll do my best to get back on the family history blogging rails. Towards that end, I’ll see if I can get a few posts written this weekend to get some momentum built up again.
For my first post today, I present this charming souvenir photo I found recently while continuing to organize my grandmother’s photos.
The enclosed photo is a glossy black-and-white print, a little larger than 4½ by 6 inches. The subjects of the photo are my great-grandmother, Gertrude “Gert” (Scott) Askew (center), and two of her daughters: my grandmother, Harriet (Askew) Prettyman (left), and her oldest sister, Beulah “Bonnie” (Askew) Montgomery (right). The photo is strangely creased and wrinkled, given the pristine condition of the enclosing souvenir folder, so I imagine the photo was removed from the folder for some time in the past.
There’s no date on the photo or souvenir folder, and no photographer or studio information on the back of the photo. The folder, however, is a dead ringer for a photo dated circa 1945 on this Chinatown Flickr site. So far, I’ve only been able to find a single, small photo of the exterior of the club from that period:
From what I’ve been able to tell, Andy Wong’s club (“Chinatown’s Smartest Supper Club Featuring Andy Wong’s All-Star Chinese Revue”) was the first Chinese American nightclub in San Francisco’s Chinatown proper, and it was one of the first Chinese American nightclubs in all of San Francisco (see this article in Gastronomica, Trina Robbin’s book, or Andy Wong’s 2005 obituary).
My grandmother Harriet moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1941 (specifically, to Oakland) with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Howie Flaten, and my great-grandparents, Gert and Clyde Askew, moved from Wadena, MN, to Oakland, CA, shortly afterwards in that same year. I don’t yet know when Bonnie and her husband Lawrence “Monty” Montgomery moved out (please leave a comment below if you know), but their eldest son was born in Minneapolis, MN, in January, 1943, so I would guess it wasn’t until a year or two later. Thus, all three Askew women would have been local residents at the time (albeit across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland), and probably just came into San Francisco for the day. They may have been driven across on the fairly recently built Bay Bridge, but I don’t believe any of them knew how to drive a car at this point, so they probably came over on a ferry or on the Key Route train that ran on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge at the time. They would have then walked or taken a cable car or trolley car to Chinatown, just a few blocks north of downtown San Francisco.
Here are a couple of additional photos of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1945: