Marcella Crump, a photographer who documented Ajijic life in the 1950s and 1960s
Marcella Crump (ca 1926-2017) was a photographer born in Estonia who emigrated to the U.S. and was active in Ajijic in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her story is similar in some ways to that of Beverly Johnson who arrived slightly later.
Crump’s husband – Capt. David O. Crump, a B-47 pilot with the Air Force Strategic Air Command and stationed for a while at Lake Charles, Louisiana – was killed in January 1955 when two B-47s collided during refueling, leaving her to bring up their six young children. Marcella later took the family to Mexico and settled in Ajijic. In her limited spare time, she painted and, after a couple of years in Mexico, sent a selection of her completed works for exhibition in Lake Charles.
Crump initially rented Zara’s “beach house”, a small cottage positioned on the lakefront a couple of blocks west of the pier. This cottage had some very interesting renters over the years, including Lona Isoard, Mimi Fariña (the younger sister of singer Joan Baez), and Iona Kupiec, drama teacher and world traveler.
Later, the Crump family remodeled a home (see painting above by Gustel Foust) near the church with the assistance of architect Jack Bateman.
This photograph is of Raymond’s younger sister Hilda and other children, with the obligatory piñata, enjoying a posada, sponsored by the church, at the Escuela Marcos Castellanos (a Primary School for girls) in Ajijic.
Raymond Crump remembers many of the people who were living in Ajijic during his childhood and adolescence, including Curtis Foust (son of Gustel Foust), Alice Bateman (eldest daughter of Laura and Jack Bateman), John Bruce, Eugene Quesada, and Alice Sendis and her two children: Gustavo and Milagros.
Ajijic has quite a long tradition of holding an annual globo (balloon) competition in which contestants vie to make a balloon that flies the furthest. Watching the event in about 1962 (below) were (left to right): Laura Bateman, Neill James, unknown, Alicia Sendis and Hilda Crump.
The balloon made by the Bateman family dwarfed all others in this particular year, with the author-artist Jack Bateman proving his abilities in terms of design and construction.
As one example of the many photographs that Marcella Crump took of the village of Ajijic, here is one of what was then Serna’s store, near the plaza, in the early 1960s.
When some of Crump’s children returned to the U.S. to attend school in California, Marcella herself started taking courses at Costa Mesa Community College and became an archaeologist. She later worked for the Forestry Service and on digs in Costa Rica (in 1976) and Panama.
- My sincere thanks to Raymond and Hilda Crump for graciously sharing information about their mother and the family’s life in Mexico.
- Kudos to Julie Griffith (see comments) for identifying Suzanne Abrams in the photograph of four women (and child) watching the event.
Want to learn more? (Sources):
- Lake Chapala Society Oral History Project: Marcella Crump.
- The B-47 Stratojet Association. Webpage [29 July 2017].
- Lake Charles American Press (Lake Charles, Louisiana). 1955. “Four Crewmen Still Missing after 2 Stratojets Collide”. Lake Charles American Press, 6 January 1955, p 1. [and succeeding days]
Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
Thank You , Thank You , Thank You , Love the Rendention you Honored My Mother with , You did fantastic work !! Bless You Tony Burton !! Malle’s Son Raymond Crump
Greetings – re the photo by Marcella Crump with 4 women, “Watching Globos,” I can identify the blonde with glasses between Laura & Neill – that’s Suzanne Abrams, who was married to Lee (Leon) Abrams, a Hollywood screenwriter & director. Suzanne was a French model & then a decorator in Hollywood before they moved to Ajijic.
I lived with my family in Ajijic for a year in 1970-1971.
Hi Julie, THANK YOU so much for identifying Suzanne Abrams. I’ve added Suzanne and her husband to my research list. If you are willing to share, I’d love to learn more about your time in Ajijic, and the characters you remember. Click here if you want to email me, Warm regards, Tony Burton.