Monday, December 1, 2008
What Used To Be
Evie Slone, a planner with Hill Studio in Roanoke and the former head of the planning department for the city, was walking by our new office the other day and stopped to chat with me. Evie, who seems to know something personal about every old building in the historic district, said her mother, Ann, once worked in our office space.
She worked with Mademoiselle Beauty Salon as a manicurist. She was good enough to get top billing in the display ad for the shop, I'd guess from the Roanoke Times. Looked like a 1950s ad. Evie also sent this photo of the staff, her mom on the left (looks a bit like Evie, both pretty). Again, circa 1950s, probably early '50s from the look of the hairstyles. I'd say Evie likely hadn't been born yet.
When Evie went through the office that day, it was under considerable rehabilitation. The walls had all been moved or added and I'm sure the place looked nothing like it had when Evie visited her mother at work. But I could see a tear in the corner of Evie's eye as she stepped over lumber and covered her mouth against the dust. It was touching. And now the picture, which gives me a sense of what Evie was feeling.
This is from Evie: "My mother was raised in the coalfields of West Virginia and attended a small beauty school in Bluefield. She first practiced as a hairdresser at Hotel Roanoke, where she met my father, a hotel engineer. She opened a hair salon in downtown in the 1950s and I'm told was one of the best in town.
"She was especially talented in hair color, permanents and "up-dos." I remember, as a child, that she was on the edge of fashion in hair and dress and she attended dances, dying her hair to match her dress and accessorizing with unusual rhinestone jewelry. I remember pink hair and dress once and mint green hair and dress another.
"I'm sure a 1950s woman owning and operating her own business outside the home was unusual and I look back and wonder how she did it all. My father was supportive and helped with all three kids (born in 1952, '54 and '56).
"In the 1960s, she moved her salon to Williamson (flight to the 'burbs?) where my father built most of the furniture for it. I still have a 1950s Helene Curtis beehive dryer that works. She retired in the late 1960s and died in 1981."