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Part V: Elma Jolly Milotte - half of the celebrated Milotte wildlife photography team.

Greater Bonney Lake Historical is hosting the Alfred & Elma Milotte Wildlife Film Festival on Saturday, October 20th at the Justice Center.

This is a reminder that the purpose of this blog is to inform and interest you in attending the Milotte Wildlife Film Festival which will be held on Saturday, October 20th between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm in Bonney Lake’s Justice Center, 9002 Main Street. Remember this festival is FREE; however, we will gladly accept donations and are diligently looking for sponsors to help us defray the expense of the festival and to help preserve the Alfred & Elma Milotte collection acquired earlier this year.

The festival will be showing three Academy Award winning wildlife films shot by the team of Alfred and Elma Milotte. As previously stated Al & Elma lived in Bonney Lake for 30 years from 1959 until they passed in 1989.

Part V of our tale of the Milottes will focus on the half of the team that must have wanted to be an accountant, was always well organized and extremely thorough in everything she undertook. She was also the letter writer and appears to have been the primary negotiator for the team. We’re talking about Elma Jolly Milotte. The following has been provided by GBLHS member and author of “Bonney Lake’s Plateau”, Winona Jacobsen:

Elma Jolly grew up in Seattle and developed a keen pleasure in all outdoor activities. It was her father who taught his children to appreciate our natural environment. Little did she know that her camping trips with her family or the summers spent at the Camp Fire Girls’ Camp Sealth on Vashon Island would serve as preparation and training as part of a world renowned wild life photography team.

While attending the University of Washington, Elma fell in love with the theater. She tried out for every play and when accepted, she was thrilled. Having grown up with a beautiful older sister, Elma always felt like the proverbial ugly duckling, so she never believed she could ever be a leading lady. She was quite satisfied just to be a member of the chorus, and she took great pride in her voiceless acting.  It’s rather ironic that a couple of decades later, that it was Elma who would go down in cinematic history winning six academy awards for her work as part of the Milotte photography team.

Following her graduation from the University, Elma found employment as a teacher in the small town of Orting, nestled in the valley at the foot of the majestic Mount Rainier. When not teaching, she lived with her mother in Seattle and had an old Essex automobile for transportation.

It was during this time in 1931 that a friend urged her to join their church group on an outing to the YMCA swimming pool. Elma was reluctant, but finally agreed to go. It turned out to be far more enjoyable than expected. She had the best time with a dark haired young stranger that she had never seen at church. The party was soon over, and after everyone had changed, she hoped to see him again. But alas, she did not see him, nor had they exchanged names!

About six weeks later Elma attended another party with her church group at a lodge at Redondo Beach, driving her old Essex. The party was well under way when the handsome stranger entered … with a girl on his arm! Elma’s heart did a few flip-flops, but before the party was over, the young man asked if he could drive her home.

Elma eagerly said yes, but then what was she to do about the car she had driven? Fortunately, there was a former boyfriend present at the party, and she asked him if he would drive her car home. He was more than happy to help out. He had come with a group, and now he would be able to take his girlfriend home alone.

The next question was, which of the two girls would he take home first? As they drove into Seattle, Elma’s home was the closest, but much to her delight, he took the other girl home first. There was no lingering at the door when he finally got to Elma’s house, but he said he would call the next day, and he did. And Al Milotte called every day after that. Many of their dates were with Elma’s church group of friends. A 1933 pack trip into the Hoh River wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula would be an indication of the kind of life that lay in store for the young couple.

 In 1934, Al saw an advertisement for a photography studio in Ketchikan, Alaska. The owner was ready to sell and move to warmer, sunnier climes. That same day, Al went to Elma, showed her the ad, and proposed marriage. The owner was wired and an offer to buy was made. Al Milotte and Elma Jolly pooled their funds, and then Al boarded a boat to Ketchikan to buy the studio, store, Kodak finishing equipment, furniture and laboratory for the whopping sum of $2200, with $100 down and $75 per month for the next 28 months.

When the deal was done, Elma moved to Ketchikan, and married her handsome young man. It was the beginning of a new and exciting adventure that would take them into the wilds and around the world. They would go down in film making history as pioneers in the creation of wildlife documentaries.

In the next blog we’ll talk about the other half of this great team, Alfred Milotte, and in future blogs we’ll take the team of Alfred and Elma forward on some of their adventures.

In case you wonder where we’re getting this information, it’s part of the material that the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society (GBLHS) received in March of this year and are in process of trying to inventory and catalog. If you’d like to know more, please join us at our next meeting, Monday, July 30th at 7:00 pm at the Bonney Lake Library. Our meetings are always open to the public and we welcome anyone interested in learning more about the history of Bonney Lake.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Winona Jacobsen July 29, 2012 at 03:11 PM
From all accounts, Elma was a very sweet, unassuming woman, often labeled as the "camera caddy" part of the Milotte film team. She was much more than that as her achievements would show.
Fred Jacobsen July 29, 2012 at 04:54 PM
In talking to long time residents of Bonney Lake we have yet to encounter anyone that's had a bad thing to say about either of them. In fact the descriptions rarely get beyond "they were the nicest people I've ever met".
Laurie Carter July 29, 2012 at 05:49 PM
What a beautiful love story. And to think that all the documents donated hold this story in boxes. What other treasures will be found? What other items do you already have that tell other stories? We need a museum to display this collection and other artifacts and history about the greater Bonney Lake area. I am looking forward to the film festival and seeing you at the historical society meeting July 30.
Lillian McGinnis August 04, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Yes, looking forward to the Milotte Wildlife Film Festival. We are also searching for sponsors. Interested? Contact a Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society member.

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