By Linda Emley
(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a three-part series Linda Emley’s providing on photographer Orvil Hixon. The first two sections – the first story was printed here Dec. 27 – were published previously in the Richmond News. Linda is working on a third installment that will include new information, including what she learns in a telephone conversation with a relative of the photographer’s.)
I wanted to share some stories about Orvil 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. Orvil 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 when he moved to Kansas City in 1903. Orvil 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 Orval’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 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 “Charles” Richmonites 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 to live with his sister, Emma Hixon Gish.
I had several people ask me why Orvil’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 that were scattered across three states.
Orvil’s father, Charles Sr., was living in Richmond at the County Home but Orvil’s mother was listed as living in Kansas City. His brother Delbert was also living in Kansas City. Orvil had two sisters living in Kansas City, one in Springfield and one in Wisconsin.
Jean Hamacher is the only person that I found that 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 for Orval Hixon on page 121. The ad read, “NATURAL POSES PLEASING EXPRESSION INTERESTING LIGHTING and FINISHING.
“These are but a few of the things that make my photographs so outstanding. Phone VI3 9358 for an early appointment.”
In his ad, Orval continued with some very detailed directions.
“19th Street from corner of 19th and Massachusetts streets, go East one mile to Harper Street, turn to the right and go about 1/4 mile to Orval Hixon’s Camera Room on the right hand side of the road.”
He added one more detail, that his studio was located “across from the 4-H Fair Grounds.”
I am happy to see that Orvil remembered what fellow Richmondite Jewell Mayes once told him about the need to advertise.
If you know more about Orval Hixon or happen to have one of his photos – or know someone who does – make sure to contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her in person at Ray County Museum, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.