JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Noel, Iola: 1944

Noel, Iola: 1944

On this Christmas Eve eve, we travel back 76 years for a visit with the First Lady of Shorpy, Iola Swinnerton. Some two decades after her bathing-pageant days, she is still radiating beauty and cheer. Scroll down to the comments for more of Iola's life story. View full size.


        CHICAGO (Dec. 23, 1944) -- Mrs. Iola Swinnerton Warren, who suffered the illness known as myositis ossificans after inoculation for typhoid following a Florida hurricane, watches her husband Theron V. Warren and little nephew Herbert Taylor trim Christmas tree. (Acme Newspictures photo.)


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

It’s a small world

I’ve been a long-time Shorpy lurker, and have many of the wonderful images saved as desktop wallpaper.

I had to comment on this picture - the Eugene H. Daniels mentioned as the officiant in the newspaper article was my great-grandfather! By the time I knew him, he was just “Grandpa Dan”; it’s neat to be able to read about Iola and Theron some 78 years later.

Merry Christmas to all!

Three cheers for King Cotton

The pants of the kid look as if they are scratchy. Ask me how I know.

Story of Two Families

Luckily, I accepted an invitation to the Swinnertons' Christmas party before the invitation to the Dickeys' Christmas party arrived.



Here's a few more details regarding Iola.

The New York Times, while reporting her wedding, stated that she was earning her living as a seamstress. The paper also said, "She was stricken by the baffling disease after the Florida Hurricane of 1926. At that time she lived in a Miami Beach cottage, the wife of Gerald Swinnerton, whom she divorced in April, charging desertion."

In the 1940 U.S. Census Gerald Swinnerton is claiming to have been widowed. He was a camera designer and repairman, as well as a World War I veteran, and he was also known as George Simons. He died in 1961.

Regarding her wedding, the Chicago Tribune of December 24, 1942 published the following story.

"Smiling from her wheelchair, in a moire taffeta wedding dress and a shoulder length tulle veil, Iona Swinnerton, 40 years old, was married last night to Theron Victor Warren, 42, a shipyard worker and organist in the Wentworth Baptist church. The bride is suffering from a rare disease characterized by hardening of the muscles.

"About 100 relatives and friends were present as the Rev. Eugene H. Daniels read the marriage ceremony. L. Duke Taylor, 1918 Cleveland avenue, her brother, gave the bride away. Donald McGowan, 1954 Henderson street, was the best man.

"Miss Swinnerton, who lives at 4044 Wentworth avenue, has been suffering from the malady since 1926. She teaches a Bible class at the church, and met Warren while attending the services there."

An article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette in December 1945 indicated that she had spent six years at the Cook County Hospital for treatment of her condition. She was refinishing furniture and canning fruit in addition to writing songs. "Theron proposed not very long after I cooked him a duck dinner," she confided.

In 1949 Iola won fourth place in a nationwide Army songwriting contest, which earned her a $50 savings bond. The title of the tune was "Three Cheers For the Army." She died five years later, in 1954. Her obituary from the Chicago Tribune is below.

"Iola N. Warren, 2642 Barry avenue, June 13, 1954, beloved wife of Theron V. Warren, dear sister of Louis Duke Taylor, dear aunt to Herbert Taylor. At chapel, 316 W. 63d street, at Harvard avenue, where services will be held Thursday, June 17, at 1 p.m. Cremation Oak Woods."

Theron Warren died on May 3, 1976.

The image below is from the January 4, 1937 issue of the Wilson (N.C.) Daily Times.

Stiff Man’s Syndrome

Iola may have had what is now called Stiff Person’s Syndrome. It was first diagnosed in 1956.

A friend had it.

The story that keeps on giving

Another amazing feature of this website. Over the course of eleven and a half years (dating back to April of 2007) we are treated to a series of photos of Iola Swinnerton from a very specific two-year period (1921-1922) in a very specific context (bathing suit beauty contest). No sense of limitation or lack of variety, and every new photo was a delight.

Flash forward suddenly 22 years to 1944 and to a whole new context. We find Iola in a wheelchair with a strange and rare disease, and yet she is happy, recently married to a benevolent-looking church organist, and she and her husband have adopted her nephew. The husband "wasn’t discouraged because the pretty invalid was confined to a wheelchair," and she is able to report that her "condition has steadily improved" since they got married.

The crowning glory of her positivity: "My dreams during so many years in hospitals have come true." (She writes songs which are published!) "I only hope someone else can take hope from my happiness." This is one of the most truly marvelous stories I've ever come across.

Carpentry and Tweed

Notice the nicely done rest for her feet that does not appear to be part of the original wheelchair--not the easiest thing to put together if you're doing it with nails instead of wood screws, which may be the case here. Also, I love the nephew's tweed slacks--sadly, winter weight slacks seem to be a thing of the past, even up north here in Minnesota. They're keeping him so warm, he doesn't need to keep his shirt tucked in.

Iola in 1947

Here is part of article from the Waterloo Sunday Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) of March 9, 1947. The Warrens adopted Herbert Taylor (Iola's nephew). Herbert was 13 in 1947.


I am sure that Herbie really enjoyed being characterized in the newspaper as her "little" nephew.

Hope his friends didn't see the story!

[He looks like Larry Mondello. - Dave]

Licensed to Marry.

From the Washington Post of August 4, 1918:

"Gerald Swinnerton, 31, of Williamston, Michigan, and Iola Taylor, 18, of Rockford, Illinois."

Not just Christmas celebrations

This is also the occasion of their second wedding anniversary - I found the announcement from the Suburbanite Economist (Chicago) of December 23, 1942. It sounds like she had a terrible time with this illness -- it started in 1926 and she spent nine years in the hospital! I'm glad she seems to have found happiness with Theron.

Based on what I read about myositis ossificans, it seems unlikely that this is what she had. It is normally caused by an injury to a muscle, and from what I can tell, stays within that muscle -- it doesn't spread to other areas of the body. It's probably more likely that she had heterotopic ossification, possibly caused by central nervous system injury or an underlying genetic disorder.

Forever Young

It would seem, from an earlier comment, that she was born in 1902, so she would have been 19 or 20 in those earlier photos from 1921 and 1922, and 42 here. She has lovely, youthful skin and a radiant smile.

[If she was 18 when married in 1918, she'd have been born in 1899 or 1900. - Dave]

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.