This is the first of many planned posts of photos taken by former Tahoe City residents C.W. “Bill” Vernon and his wife, Ethel Joslin Vernon. Both were professional photographers, and their surviving body of work, which includes over 500 images, spans the years 1911-1950. Their daughter Lillian, with whom I worked to catalogue the photos, left them to me to share with the world.
I’ll start with the oldest, taken on their 1911 wedding journey by rowboat around Lake Tahoe. I hope Tahoe City Library still has a transcript of the UNR Oral History Program interview C.W. Vernon gave, in which he describes their unusual trip.
In this image the Vernons are the subjects rather than the photographers. Perhaps they took advantage of an encounter with another human being – scarce in the Basin in October 1911 – to capture the moment. They are just south of I.W. Hellman’s vast domain, the shoreline of which is seen behind them.
Tahoe City was one of their overnight stops, and from the bluff overlooking the Tahoe Commons, Ethel snapped this view of waterfront commerce on a breathless day that made the winterized Steamer Tahoe in the distance seem to float on air. Above the inscription “Tahoe City, Cal.” is the broad sloping roof of the Tahoe Mercantile, a Bliss family enterprise later found to be encroaching on the Commons.
The white building with the false front and sloping roof facing the “Merc” at the foot of the pier was the Bliss Brothers’ original general merchandise location, and many another proprietorship before that. In fact, the building dates back to the first few years of the pier’s existence, and was the home of the Tahoe Post Office in 1937 when a fire on the Commons destroyed all the buildings visible in the foreground, and more.
One pleasurable aspect of the Vernons’ stop in Tahoe City was the chance to sleep in a real bed. They had camped when no other lodging was available, but now they took advantage of civilization in the form of Wert Tong’s Tahoe Inn. They had undoubtedly had occasion to meet Tong, who had purchased the Inn two seasons before, because in the several summers previous, Bill and Ethel had both been employees of the Tahoe Tavern, and thus become acquainted with the townsfolk. That’s Ethel lingering in the doorway of their room.
Bill’s account of this adventurous trip must supply any further details, for no other photos of it have been discovered.
Until next time…
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