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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Charming Business Girls #2

The Charming Business Girl contest resulted in many, many photo sessions in Central Illinois. The next six women I am researching were from towns around Bloomington-Normal. This grouping had only one half orphan, one college graduate and two married women. There were two telephone operators, a bookkeeper, a saleslady, a hairdresser and a photo-colorist! Two were photographed in their place of work.

Ola Garst was from Mackinaw. In 1937 she was 32 years old and unmarried, so she was a "girl." Her father, Clinton Garst, was a farmer, and died when she was 15 years old. Her mother's occupation in 1930 was "cream buyer," and her two offspring living at home were both working as salespeople in a general store. Ola worked at the Grover C. Helm store in Mackinaw. The Grover C. Helm store in Mackinaw was not a mom and pop grocery. Helm was a banker in Bloomington and owned a wholesale distributorship for groceries. Ola married four years after this photo was taken. She married Paul Carey, a local man, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1941. The Careys operated a hardware store in Mackinaw called Carey Hardware until 1971. They had just one daughter and Ola died in 1981 at the age of 77.

Mrs. Kathryn Brown is something of a mystery. A year after she was featured in the Charming Contest, she moved to Chico, California. No mention was made of a Mr. Brown, but other announcements indicate that she had two children, Marjorie and Nelson. She was a hair dresser at the Adams Beauty Shop in Chatsworth, IL.

Lucille Shoemaker worked as a telephone operator in Gridley in 1937 and married in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois. Her husband was Joseph Alltop and they lived in Livingston County where he worked first as a deputy sheriff and then as sheriff of Livingston County. After their marriage they lived with Lucille's parents, and in 1941, both couples moved away from Gridley when Mr. Shoemaker lost the lease on the farm he was farming. Joseph and Lucille had two daughters. The only notices of Lucille Alltop in the newspapers were of hospitalizations (no club memberships or other parties or gatherings). Lucille died in 1979.

Ruth Bliss was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Bliss, owners of the Bliss Studio in Lincoln, Illinois. Ruth was a color specialist at the studio. Color photography was not common during the 1930s, although the technology did exist. More commonly, color would be added to photos by hand, with paints. These were luxury items that passed from favor during the Depression for obvious reasons. Hand coloring had been an art form in China prior to the turn of the century and came into vogue here after the turn of the century. Ruth's father, Archibald Bliss, was the son of a pioneer Southwestern photographer, William Penn Bliss. Archibald Bliss established photography studios in Mt. Pulaski and Lincoln and had also had a studio in Washington DC where he worked in the Department of Agriculture. Almost nothing is available about A B Bliss in the newspapers, except that he was involved in developing a coal mine in Lincoln throughout the 30s. Ruth Bliss attended school in Lincoln and graduated from Lincoln College. In 1938 Ruth married a biology professor from Lincoln College -- Emil Kruschke. They moved to Milwaukee, where he had accepted a position with the Milwaukee Public Museum and became a famous botanist there. In Milwaukee Ruth was known as a prizewinning photo-colorist and a contract bridge instructor.

Marion Moneymaker was a bookkeeper at the Ewert and Zimmerman Garage in Heyworth when she was nineteen years old. Both her parents were living in 1937. Four years later she married local man, Elmer Davis in Palmyra, Missouri. When they married a party was thrown for them at the Pleasant Valley school house by the Pleasant Valley Social Club. The next day a charivari was thrown for them by the Empire Club in Leroy. Elmer was a farmer and Marion a farmer's wife in Heyworth the remainder of their lives. Marion died April 30, 2010 at 6:45 am at the McLean County Nursing Home. Elmer died at Funk's Grove at 11:50 am the same day in Funk's Grove. There was no automobile or other accident, the two simply died on the same day. I'm not sure I would have given up the euphonious name of "Marion Moneymaker" for "Mrs. Elmer Davis," but I'll bet Marion was happy to do so.

Mrs. Nellie Harkrader was chief operator and cashier of the Atlanta Telephone Company in 1937. She was born Nellie May Crutchley and grew up in Logan County where her father was a farmer. She married Robert Harkrader in 1926 and continued working as a telephone operator for many years in Atlanta, Decatur and Lincoln. She died in 1956 at the age of 58 in Atlanta. (Her father died just two years before she did.) Robert and Nellie had no children.

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