J. W. Freeston and a California Shoe Company Outing?

Update: First Posted April 2014

CVA 1504-10 - [An unidentified shoe company's annual family outing] ca1920 J W Freeston

CVA 1504-10 – An unidentified shoe company’s annual family outing. ca1920. J W Freeston, photo.

The panorama image shown above was made by B.C. professional photographer, John W. Freeston, sometime in the 1920s or perhaps earlier. I’m not certain where it was made, but there is some evidence to conclude it was somewhere in California.

From what I’ve been able to determine¹, Freeston had a brief and unhappy life. There is some evidence to indicate that he lived in California; one account maintains he had an early marriage that ended in divorce in that state. He seems to have been married to Florence circa 1906 (although there is no evidence of a B.C. marriage certificate). He and Florence had three daughters.

Early in May, 1923, Freeston was admitted to the New Westminster Hospital for the Insane (known by locals today by the shorthand, Woodlands).  He was diagnosed pretty quickly with General Paresis. He slept poorly throughout his stay at Woodlands and rest was possible primarily through medication. Although his physical condition was considered good when he was admitted, scarcely two months later, it had deteriorated significantly. By the afternoon of July 30th, 1923, he was dead. He was 39 years old. Cause of death was recorded as “Exhaustion of General Paresis”.

The City of Vancouver Archives (CVA) has identified those in the image as employees of “an unidentified shoe company”. There are two placards in the image above, but unfortunately attendees blocked the parts of the signs identifying the group. There are two US flags hanging in the vehicle visible in the panorama image. That, together with what appears to be a California license plate and the large number of employees makes me wonder whether this was a California-based shoe firm. There is a sign behind the group (which is just detectable at the left of the panorama) which also makes me wonder whether the image was taken in a southwestern state: “Scenic Drive Through Beautiful … (Word(s) obscured) … Mesa Country”. In addition, the background of the image doesn’t appear to resemble the “wet coast” of Vancouver (nor the landscape of much of Washington state). The image is made in front of a Texaco gas station, adding more weight to my suspicion that it is shot in the U.S. somewhere. In the Lower Mainland, at this time, it was very unusual (unheard of?) to encounter a Texaco station; it was far more likely that one would see a Home Oil or Imperial Oil service station.


¹I’m indebted to David Mattison of Camera Workers for his generous help with primary research into the life of J. W. Freeston.


This entry was posted in J. W. Freeston, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to J. W. Freeston and a California Shoe Company Outing?

  1. Sheila says:

    Great stuff, M. Wonder how they won the ribbons pined on their lapels?

  2. lhhouben says:

    I love the panoramic photo! It’s so interesting to zoom in on all those fashions. What a mystery. I had to look of the word Paresis on Google. The things I don’t know would fill volumes, but that’s why I enjoy reading your most interesting posts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s