Picture postcards have been used by localities and businesses as advertising tools and souvenirs since the late 19th Century, and that includes cemeteries. Vintage cards also serve as terrific historical research materials for grave hunters.
Since most old cemetery postcards that I've seen don't have copyright years printed on the back, they're difficult to date unless they were mailed and therefore have a postmark. One way to figure out a time frame is to do a "then and now" comparison.
Below is an undated, real photo card featuring the Sanctuary of Hope at Inglewood Memorial Park's Mausoleum of the Golden West. On a visit there last Sunday with graving friends, we located the exact hallway (thanks, eagle-eyed Jayne!) and took photos (thanks, Steve, for standing in as the potted plant!)
The potted plant was no longer there but signs of its one-time existence were clearly evident by the stains and impression on the marble floor in front of the crypt of Bessie B. Creswell (1880-1958) as seen in this next photo.
As you can see in the postcard, none of the crypts in the column in front of the planter were marked at the time that photo was taken. Now, all but one are.
Rather than write down the information, I took quick snaps of the markers in that column to look at later and use the dates of death to determine some kind of time line for the postcard.
Unlike most all other areas of the mausoleum, these markers and crypt fronts have not aged well, and are very dark. It turned out that none of my photos were readable, except for Bessie's marker.
Here's where the story takes a strange twist.
Searching the historical Los Angeles Times archive for Bessie's obituary, I discovered that she was an alternate juror in a landmark child molestor/murder case which went to trial here in 1950.
Back in the day, papers published personal information about jurors, including their address, occupation and photos. Here's a cropped image of Bessie, a retired sales woman who lived at 630 N. Commonwealth Ave., seated in the jury box:
I've yet to find her obituary, so this is all we know of her right now. However, the case she was seated on was that of Fred Stroble who was ultimately convicted of the horrendous molestation and murder of 6-year-old Linda Joyce Glucoft.
This case made headlines in Los Angeles from 1949-1952, covering the murder to the police investigation right on through to Stroble's execution at San Quentin. It was the catalyst for the implementation of California's earliest laws surrounding the punishment of crimes against children.
This is a perfect example of why I call it "Adventures in Grave Hunting." A postcard blog post idea turns into an entirely different story, one worth further research and posts, so that folks today will remember important human stories from the past.
I often truly wonder if we are actually hunting graves, or if the ghosts of those we do visit send us to where we need to go next.
Little Linda's parents were so grief-strickened that they were unable to attend her funeral and entombment at the Home of Peace mausoleum. I checked for her crypt information on the most extensive cemetery resource online, Findagrave.com, and found that she wasn't listed.
Next stop, Home of Peace, to remedy that situation ~ courtesy of an old postcard, vintage news clippings and one Miss Bessie B. Creswell.
Stay tuned.Update 7/31/2009: Fifi and I visited little Linda today and she now has a Findagrave.com memorial page started. Thank you Luis for calling ahead to get her exact location from the office! :)