Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Great Grandfather was a foreman at Woolwich Dockyard


Stephen Head -- my 2x great grandfather -- was born 29 Jul 1817 in Plumstead, Kent, England; and died 28 Dec 1881 in Plumstead, Kent, England 

According to a Kentish Independent newspaper account of the September 10th, 1910 funeral for Mrs Stephen Head (Margaret Wilkie), at Plumstead Churchyard, Mr Head, her late husband, had at one time been a foreman at Woolwich Dockyard.

The Woolwich Dockyard was an English naval dockyard originally built in 1514 by Henry VIII for the construction of his famous ship 'Harry Grace a Dieu'. 

Royal Navy vessels were built at the yard until its closure in 1869.  The area around the dockyard was known as the Warren and consisted of workshops, warehouses, timber yards, barracks, foundries and the nearby Royal Arsenal.


During the time Stephen would have been foreman at the dockyard he very likely would have been involved with loading and outfitting ships for the Royal Artillery including the loading of shot, shell (above) and horses (below).


During the time that Stephen was at the dockyard shipbuilders had intensified the development of marine steam engineering and a growing number of steam vessels entered naval service, so Woolwich became the principal naval yard for fitting out and maintaining the Navy’s steam fleet.


There is very little gleaned from the historical record for Stephen's life, but we do know he was the son of a Royal Artillery soldier who had served in the West Indies during the late 1790s.

And, Stephen's son, and namesake, Stephen John Head was employed at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal as assistant foreman of its carriage department for 42 years, so there is an association with the Royal Artillery for three generations in this family.


While not well to do by any means Stephen and Margaret managed to prosper and raise ten child in Woolwich.  At one time they lived in an area known as the Sprays Buildings on Hog Lane in Plumstead.


My own experience in a dockyard was in the late summer 1968 when I worked as a shipwright apprentice at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.  The dockyard was one of the dirtiest and most dangerous places I've ever worked.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Philip Carey


Philip Carey (1925 - 2009) was an American born film and television actor.  He is probably best known for his roles in Westerns as well as his starring role in the NBC television series "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers."

Philip Carey's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:


The Man Behind the Gun (1953) starring Randolph Scott, Patrice Wymore and Dick Wesson (Bell Ranch)(Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros.


The Nebraskan (1953) starring Philip Carey, Roberta Haynes, Wallace Ford and Richard Webb (Corriganville)(Burro Flats) Columbia


Wyoming Renegades (1954) starring Philip Carey, Gene Evans and Martha Hyer (Iverson Ranch) Columbia


They Rode West (1954) starring Robert Francis, Donna Reed and May Wynn (Burro Flats)(Iverson Ranch) Columbia


Massacre Canyon (1954) starring Philip Carey, Audrey Totter and Douglas Kennedy (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Columbia


The Outlaw Stallion (1954) starring Philip Carey, Dorothy Patrick and Billy Gray (Corriganville)(Chatsworth Reservoir)(Bell Ranch) Columbia


Return to Warbow (1958) starring Philip Carey, Catherine McLeod and Andrew Duggan (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Columbia


"Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" TV Series (1956) starring Philip Carey as Lieutenant Michael Rhodes (26 episodes, 1956-1957)

Over the next five decades Carey made appearances in a plethora of other TV Westerns and dramas.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- John Carroll


John Carroll (1906 - 1979) was a American born actor and singer.  He appeared in several Western films in the 1930s and 1940s, and is probably best known for his role as Zorro in Zorro Rides Again in 1937.

John Carroll's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:


Zorro Rides Again (1937) [serial] starring John Carroll, Helen Christian and Reed Howes (Iverson Ranch) Republic


Fabulous Texan, The (1947) starring Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic


Wyoming (1947) starring Bill Elliott, Vera Ralston and John Carroll - Republic


Angel in Exile (1948) starring John Carroll, Adele Mara and Thomas Gomez (Corriganville) Republic


Old Los Angeles (1948) starring Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic


Old Los Angeles (1948) starring Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic


Monday, May 25, 2015

1908, Montana Schoolmarm Finds Romance


My sweet little wife Joyce spent over thirty years teaching English in Los Angeles schools, so when this photo was taken in a Wyoming photography studio I affectionately called it "Cowboy and Schoolmarm."  

What could be more romantic I thought.  But, then I recently discovered a real tale about a schoolmarm and her real old West romance.


Stella May Brown, my grandmother's older sister, was born 3 Dec 1888 in Roswell, Miner County, South Dakota during one of her family's forays into the West seeking the perfect homestead location.  The photo above was taken about 1980, in Missouri as the search for a perfect home continued.


Eventually Stella's parents -- Abraham Lincoln Brown and Neva Plympton Brown found their way to Creston, Montana where they would spend the rest of their days.


After finishing her own schooling -- at Cayuse Prairie school in Creston, Montana -- Stella became the teacher at another nearly Montana school.  The school house was a log cabin that had been constructed by two young brothers Ray and Len Schlyer.


Apparently Len Schlyer was swept off his feet by the lovely young schoolmarm, and the two were wed in December of 1908.


I believe the photo above was their home in the early 1920s.


Len built a sawmill in nearby Kalispell, Montana, but fires caused by spontaneous combustion of sawdust piles became a problem, so the family moved to New York state about 1929.  

Len passed away in 1940, and Stella lived until 1971, but never remarried.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Thank Goodness For Traveling Photographers


Having your Photograph taken became popular during the Civil War when many young men marched off to war with a brand new photo of their sweetheart or mother in their vest pocket.  Photographing the war made it necessary for photographers to outfit a wagon that could carry their cameras and double as a darkroom.  Thus the idea of a traveling photographer was born.

Following the war from -- especially during the 1880s and 1890s -- many photographers took their craft on the road…

Traveling photographers with railroad photo cars 

I have this mental image of great grandma in her sod house out on the Nebraska prairie -- her first baby is about six-months old now, but she knows there's no way she can afford to go visit her family and friends in the east.

Then someone tells her a train with a photographer is coming to town, and that's only two hours away with a horse and wagon.  When she got to the railroad station she most likely found the Hutchings Railroad Photo Car sitting on a siding and open for business for the next week or so.


The Hutchings Railroad Photo Car was a train car set up as a traveling photography studio.  They worked along the railroads of Kansas and Nebraska.  Hutchings Railroad photographers advertised in local papers announcing the date of their arrival.  Sometimes they also pass out handbills and put up posters after they arrived.


A visit of the Hutchings Railroad Photo Car was a treat not soon forgotten, and left you with a treasure to always be remembered.

Traveling photographers with horse-drawn vans and wagons


Picture great granddad working on his new barn in rural Montana when a stranger in a horse-drawn wagon comes up the road and pulls into the driveway.  

The stranger's helper unloads a camera on a tripod and points it in the direction of the barn. Wanting to know what he's doing granddad climbs off the barn asks about his intentions.  

The stranger explains to grandpa that his barn has been selected to be photographed, and that if he'll get the family together they can be included in the photograph -- for the price of $2.50 -- and they'll have a professional photograph, that will impress the neighbors, or can be made into a postcard to mail to kin folks.

At that point grandpa had two choices: 1. Grab your pitchfork and run the stranger off the place or, 2. Call mother, the children and get the new buggy out front and pose.


Apparently Abraham Brown decided $2.50 was worth the price of a nice photo of his Creston, Montana homestead.


Thank goodness for those early traveling photographers because I've got cigar box full of pictures that are a family treasure to be handed down to future generations.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reel Annie Oakleys in the Santa Susanas


The real Annie Oakley (1860 – 1926), was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter.  Annie Oakley's astonishing shooting talent eventually led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. 

Her rise to fame in the late 19th century caused her to become one of the first American women to become a "superstar".

She was also was known as "Miss Annie Oakley", "Little Sure Shot", and "Little Miss Sure Shot"

Like Buffalo Bill -- Annie Oakley's fame led to several movies and television shows about her life (both real and mythical).

Reel Annie Oakley titles fllmed in the Santa Susanas include:


Annie Oakley (1935) starring Barbara Stanwyck as Annie Oakley, Preston Foster and Melvyn Douglas (Iverson Ranch) RKO


"Annie Oakley" (1954) TV Series -- Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (81 episodes, 1954-1957)

Alias Jesse James (1959) starring Bob Hope, Rhonda Fleming, Wendell Corey and Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (Iverson Ranch) United Artists

Other roles loosely based on Annie Oakley's life include:


Oklahoma Annie (1952) starring Judy Canova, John Russell, Grant Withers (Chatsworth) Republic


Lay That Rifle Down (1955) starring Judy Canova, Robert Lowery, Jil Jarmyn (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reel Buffalo Bills in the Santa Susanas


The real William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846 - 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman.  Col. William Frederick Cody got his nickname "Buffalo Bill" after the American Civil War when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat.  Cody is purported to have killed 4,282 American bison (commonly known as buffalo) in eighteen months, (1867–1868).

As one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars.  He founded his Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours throughout the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and Europe.

Because Cody became an American folk hero it was natural for Hollywood to make dozens of movies and TV episodes based on his life's adventures.

Reel Buffalo Bill movies filmed in the Santa Susanas include


Iron Horse, The (1924) starring George O'Brien, Madge Bellamy, Charles Edward Bull and George Waggner as Buffalo Bill (Iverson Ranch) Fox Film Corp


Annie Oakley (1935) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Melvyn Douglas and Moroni Olsen as William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody (Iverson Ranch) RKO

Miracle Rider, The (1935) [serial] starring Tom Mix, Joan Gale, Charles Middleton and Tex Cooper as Buffalo Bill (Iverson Ranch) Mascot


Custer's Last Stand (1936) [serial] starring Rex Lease, Lona Andre, William Farnum and Ted Adams as Buffalo Bill Chapters 6 & 7 (Iverson Ranch) Stage & Screen


Plainsman, The (1936) starring Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Ellison as Buffalo Bill (Iverson Ranch) Paramount


Outlaw Express (1938) starring Bob Baker, Cecilia Callejo, Don Barclay and Carlyle Moore Jr. as Bill Cody - Universal


Young Buffalo Bill (1940) starring Roy Rogers as Buffalo Bill, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Pauline Moore (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Pony Express Days (1940) starring George Reeves as William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, David Bruce, Frank Wilcox (Burro Flats) Warner Bros.


Days of Buffalo Bill (1946) starring Sunset Carson, Peggy Stewart, Tom London (Iverson Ranch) Republic


Buffalo Bill Rides Again (1947) starring Richard Arlen as Buffalo Bill, Jennifer Holt, Lee Shumway (Iverson Ranch) Jack Schwarz


Law of the Golden West (1949) starring Monte Hale as Bill Cody, Paul Hurst, Gail Davis (Iverson Ranch) Republic


King of the Bullwhip (1950) starring Lash La Rue, Al St. John, Jack Holt and Tex Cooper as Buffalo Bill (Iverson Ranch) Western Adventures


Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory (1952) starring Clayton Moore as Buffalo Bill, Slim Andrews, Charles Harvey, Rodd Redwing (Corriganville) United Artists


Riding with Buffalo Bill (1954) [serial] starring Marshall Reed as Bill Cody, Rick Vallin, Joanne Rio, Shirley Whitney (Iverson Ranch) Columbia


Badman's Country (1958) starring George Montgomery, Neville Brand, Buster Crabbe and Malcolm Atterbury as Buffalo Bill (Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros.