Gert Askew and daughters in S.F. Chinatown

1945 Chinese Skyroom p1Whew. 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.

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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 GastronomicaTrina 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:

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7 thoughts on “Gert Askew and daughters in S.F. Chinatown

  1. Judging by the back where the corners of the photo are coming thru it looks like the original photo was larger? The photo doesn’t cover up all of the non-faded area.

    • Good call. I wonder if this is a slightly reduced-size copy, or whether another photo lived in the folder for a good long time. Or this photo was trimmed down from its original size to fit into another frame at some point. That would help explain the non-standard dimensions of the photo.

  2. My wife just pointed out the ring on Harriet’s finger. If that’s an engagement ring, it puts the photo a pre-June-1945. If it’s her wedding ring, then sometime after her June 12, 1945 wedding to Bill Prettyman.

  3. Okay the ring on Mom’s finger is her high school ring. Mom and I came on the train with Boo and Bob when I was 2 yrs old. Dad and her had a argument and moved out later. But I know I was 2. So this was maybe just a visit? Or did she take her ring off?

    • This is a part of her history I don’t fully understand. I know she moved out in 1941 with Mary, and she and Bill got married in Oakland in 1945. Clearly they moved back to Minnesota, as you were born there in 1947. Was their moving back to Minnesota related somehow to Bill’s mother’s death in September, 1945?

      And then when you and Harriet and Boo and Bob came [back] out in 1949, it sounds like Harriet and Bill separated and Bill stayed back in Minnesota until they reconciled. Were Boo and Bob coming out from California to support Harriet, or did Boo and Bob not move to the Bay Area until 1949? If the latter, where was Monty when you all came to California?

      • I do believe that the moving back was due to Dad’s mother’s accident. When the four of us came out it was a move out here with Boo and Bob. Monty came a little later I believe. He was selling a house etc.

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