Part VI of our tale of the Milottes will focus on the half of the team that wanted to be an artist and a traveler - Alfred’s early years.
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 11:00 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.
The following has been provided by GBLHS member and author of “Bonney Lake’s Plateau”, Winona Jacobsen:
“Appleton, Wisconsin, may have been the birthplace of Al Milotte in 1904, but his family moved to Minot, ND, five years later and went into the restaurant business. One would think that a career in food preparation might have been in his future, but Al’s uncle owned a successful and well established photography studio that provided a major influence on the young boy. It was magic to see how his uncle could use painted backdrops, change the lighting, add props, pull strings, twist knobs, and finally squeeze the bulb to create an image. In the darkroom, the artistry continued with the ultimate product being the proofs. Al witnessed his uncle turning portraits of ordinary people into beautiful or sometimes fanciful works of art.
The Sunday comic section of the local paper advertised a movie projector plus film for selling fifty full color religious pictures. Al persuaded his mother to send for the supplies, and he embarked on his first door to door selling job, which for a young boy, centered on his family and neighbors. He eventually reached his goal and earned his first machine. “It was a carbide job with hand crank and jerky film with center perforations.”
The death of Alfred’s father left his mother Ivy to provide for her young children. It was a difficult time with the restrictions of”meatless, eatless” days during World War I, so Ivy decided to move to Seattle with Al’s youger sister. She left fourteen year old Alfred ensconced in a small housekeeping room so he could complete his second year of high school He acknowledged that this experience only provide that he was the world’s worst housekeeper.
To supplement the money his mother had left him, he took an after school job at the grocery store. He had plenty of food and could prepare it on the hotplate in his little room, but he failed to clean up or throw anything out. As a result, he had lots of company. Mice began to help themselves to his mess, but they didn’t stop at just the food. They began to make a home in his clothes. On a trip to the library one day, he felt a twitching on his arm. Trying to be very unobtrusive, he grabbed the little rascal and held it close against his shoulder. Waiting until no one was around, he tried shaking the little beast out, but no such luck. It had gotten into the lining of his jacket. In the library, Al cut a small hole in the lining of his coat and then removed the lifeless little rodent and hid him under the table.
It may only have been six months before school was out and his mother sent him a train ticket for Seattle, but Al’s time was packed with a number of adventures. Once reunited with the family, he enrolled in Franklin High School and finished his courses for graduation. His first job in Seattle was at a hotel on Sixth Avenue. He learned the business from the bottom up, and told many stories of some of the nightly high jinks. From business men to tennis stars, carnival people, and bandits to prostitutes who made more in one night than he did in an entire month, Al had experiences that were both educational and sometimes frightening.
Throughout this period, Al’s artistic career was suffering. He had entered the University of Washington and taken some courses at the Cornish School, but working nights at the hotel was eroding his stamina. A change was needed if he was to pursue his dream. After some research on the great art centers of the country, he decided to enroll in the prestigious Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. His first art job was with an engraving plant designing labels, cartons, and doing some photo retouching. Although his art was still far from ideal, he continued to learn new techniques and methods in drawing, lettering, and mounting pictures.
Like many men of the time, Al lost his job because of the economic crisis of the Great Depression in 1929-31.”
There’s more to tell about Al and we’ll talk about that in our next blog before we move on to talk about Al & Elma and their adventures.
Most of the information included in this blog is being gleaned from notes provided by Al & Elma Milotte during their lifetime. It’s just 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, August 20th 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.
To find out more about the Milotte Wildlife Film Festival go to www.MWLFF.org. While on our site you’ll be able to read about some of the work that’s going on, you’ll find a question that if you can answer, you’ll win a 2013 GBLHS Milotte Calendar which has just come off the press. There is also the opportunity for you to sponsor our festival at one of our levels ranging from Actor @ $50 to Executive Producer @ $1000. We’d really love to hear from you.
Thanks for your time and thanks for reading the blog. Your comments are always appreciated.