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Photographer Orval Hixon’s early life remains a mystery

Orval Hixon’s photo of Jean Hamacher, taken at Kansas University.

If Postcards Could Talk/By Linda Emley

 

I wanted to share some stories about Orval Hixon’s early days in Richmond, but I haven’t been able to find much about his private life while in Richmond or after he moved to Kansas City. There are a few interesting facts I was able to piece together. Orval was 12 years old when he got his first camera in 1896. Since he was color blind, he was lucky that all early pictures were black and white or his career might have ended before it ever really started.

He was only 19 years old when he moved to Kansas City in 1903. Orval was 45 when he married his wife Gladys. So he was either a very busy man or took his time finding the right girl. He mentioned going out for drinks after shooting sessions with the stars, so it does not sound like he was in a big hurry to settle down.

One clue I did find about the Hixon family was a copy of an ad out of a Richmond newspaper for a Jeweler in Richmond named C.S. Hixon Jr., who ran a jewelry store on the west side of the square. Orval’s father was Charles Hixon, but the jeweler was Orvil’s brother Charles Jr.

In 1920 Charles Jr. was living with an elderly couple as a boarder. Charles Moyer, who was the Ray County Circuit Clerk, was also a boarder in the same home on Main Street. Charles Hixon was 32 and Charles Moyer was 31, so it makes you wonder what these two young Richmondites did for excitement on a Saturday night.

Since one ran a jewelry store and the other one was a politician, they had to at least try and stay out of trouble. Charles Hixon’s career in Richmond ended when he suffered a stroke in 1924 and moved to Kansas City and lived with his sister, Emma Hixon Gish.

I had several people ask me why Orval’s father lived at the Ray County Home, also known as the “Poor Farm’’. This question came up again when I found out that when Charles Hixon Jr. died in 1932, his obituary told a tale of Hixons who were scattered across three states.

Orval’s father Charles Sr. was living in Richmond at the County Home, but his mother was listed as living in Kansas City. His brother Delbert was also living in Kansas City. Orval had two sisters living in Kansas City, one in Springfield, Mo. and one in Wisconsin.

Richmond resident Jean Hamacher is the only person that I found who had actually ever met Orval Hixon. She and her sister had their pictures taken by him at Kansas University.

The 1964 Jayhawker yearbook has an ad from Orval Hixon on page 121. The ad read, “NATURAL POSES PLEASING EXPRESSION INTERESTING LIGHTING and FINISHING.”

The ad even includes directions to Orval Hixon’s Camera Room. I am happy to see that he remembered what Jewell Mayes told him about the benefits of advertising.

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