Dad (Lloyd Wright) estimated the date of this studio portrait of his brother Earl as 1937 or 1938. I’m a little skeptical, but let’s try to put together a chronology of this period of Uncle Earl’s life.
To take a run at this chronology, I think we need to go all the way back to 1929, when Uncle Earl and all of his older siblings moved to California. They didn’t all arrive at the same time, but from late fall 1929 until May 1930 they all lived together in a house in Richmond, California. At least that’s how I understood things. Turns out that was an oversimplification. You may recall that in this earlier post I mentioned that, curiously, Earl does not appear with his siblings in the 1930 census. I even speculated about why that might have been (incorrectly, as it happens).
Sometimes the best way to find something is not to look for it (because otherwise you’d be looking in the wrong place). It turns out Earl does appear in the 1930 census, just not in Richmond. I had not understood that his job at Hills Brothers Coffee was not in Richmond or anywhere close to it. It was in San Francisco. There were no east-west bridges across San Francisco Bay in 1930. The only way to get from Richmond to San Francisco was via ferries, possibly multiple ferries in a one-way trip. So it wasn’t really practical for Earl to live in Richmond with his siblings and commute to a job in San Francisco. It may also be that Earl was the first one of the group to move to the Bay Area and get a job. So by the time the others came down and were living and working in Richmond, he was already well established in San Francisco.
Whatever the case, at the time of the 1930 census, Earl was living in a boarding house at 1390 California Street—on the corner of California and Hyde, right on the cable car line, so perfect for getting to work. The building still stands at that location. At least it looks like it.
It may well be that Earl spent weekends in Richmond with his siblings. At least we have a photo of him in the house (which was in this earlier post).
Earl and Lloyd decided to return to Oregon in May 1930, as we see in this photo (which was in this earlier post). The others (Irvine, Ann, Ed) seem to have followed soon after.
I don’t know for certain, but Earl seems to have spent several years in Oregon after he returned with Dad in May 1930. I don’t know where he lived or what employment he may have found. We do have this photo from about 1934 as evidence that he was in Oregon then (which was in this earlier post).
If that is close to accurate, Earl apparently moved to Long Beach, California not long after the above photo was taken. There he met Edna Farrah. They eloped to Yuma, Arizona and were married October 19, 1935 (as mentioned in this recent post). They had a son, Earl Lee Wright (known in the family as “Earl Jr.”) in, I think, 1937. (If I’m off on the year here, all the following years will be off by a similar amount.)
To put it mildly, Earl’s marriage to Edna was falling apart (or perhaps had already fallen apart) by 1942. At that time, Grandma Minnie Wright took the train to Southern California to get Earl Jr. and bring him back to Jefferson. He lived with his grandparents until eighth grade (about 1951). The elder Earl remained in Southern California until about 1949, when he moved back to Oregon.
Uncle Earl and Uncle Harold (the latter must have gotten out of the Navy not long before—see this post) lived together, “batching it” (as they called it) for a couple of years. I don’t know where they lived.
About 1951 or 1952, Uncle Earl bought a house outside Oregon City and the younger Earl joined him there during his high school years. (I realize I’ve skipped some of the chronology of Earl Jr. in this. I will come to that in another post at some point.)
Besides trying to establish a chronology of Uncle Earl’s life from 1929 until 1951 or so, I set out to guess when the above portrait might have been taken. I don’t know whether the portrait was taken in Oregon or California. If Oregon, it was most likely taken before 1934. If California, it probably was not taken during the first few years of his marriage to Edna, and probably not until it fell apart. So that means it wasn’t taken until the early 1940s. Either way, I think 1937 or 1938 is fairly unlikely. I could be way wrong, but I’m inclined to guess it was taken in the early or middle 1940s. (OK, you can throw tomatoes now. But seriously, any corrections or even alternate guesses are welcome.)