Monday, April 6, 2020

Photographer Fredda C. Carr - "The most famous person in the valley that nobody knew."

Fredda Carlisle Carr Collection,
San Lorenzo Valley Museum,
Fredda was born on May 28, 1903 in Lynn, Massachusetts to Melville Carr and Nettie Carlisle. The family moved to Tuolumne County, California around 1910.

Fredda relocated to San Francisco in the 1930s where she worked in various occupations, including creating advertising “showcards,” until the mid-1940s. It was here she met James [Jim] Heath. Jim, who also had an artistic flair, worked as a "card writer."  He would become a close friend and companion.

Fredda moved to Boulder Creek around 1949 where she ran a photography studio on South Street. Jim visited often and attended local functions with Fredda, including the Ben Lomond Fire Department's Halloween costume party.

In 1954, she moved to Ben Lomond and opened a portrait studio in the old telephone exchange on the corner of Mill Street in Ben Lomond (now Sew Rose), where she ran her business until 1985. Jim painted the business sign. Fredda recalled the flood of '55, which flooded Mill Street, destroyed her garage, and claimed her Dodge automobile: "It's strange the things you will do. My garbage can was beginning to float away and I went into the yard to save it. A ladder was floating in the water and I remember it nearly took me downstream with it. Come to think of it, I risked my life to save my garbage can." 

Fredda, who had a reputation as an “eccentric,” captured life in the Valley, staged and spontaneous, poised and irreverent, mundane and exceptional, through her photojournalism and portraiture. The San Lorenzo Valley Museum not only has a large collection of her Valley photographs, primarily portraiture, but also many personal photographs of Fredda with Jim, her pets, and her friends.

Fredda was a long time member of the Order of the Amaranth, a social, fraternal, and charitable organization whose membership is open to both men and women with a Masonic affiliation and the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic fraternal organization open to both men and women, both organizations having chapters in the Valley.

In her later years she was affected by dementia and in 1990, suffered a debilitating stroke. When she died on November 23, 1992, at the age of 89, she was described as "reclusive and a loner" by those who knew her.  "The most famous person in the valley that nobody knew."