From Mocksville to Baltimore and back: A legacy of hairdressing on Depot Street

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Alice Garrett Brown

For the Enterprise

If Lottie Everlena Garrett had a dollar for each time she’d said her birth date, she’d have a sizable sum to take to the bank. Many, many thanks to the following for their quick response to a 911 call on Jan. 6, 2023: Justin Baker, Stephen Allred, Auria Flores, Sam Frye and Kevin Hendrix.

Because of their dedication, training and skill in resuscitation, she’s alive and well to still tell people she’ll be 100 in March.

Lottie Everlena, the youngest of three, was born to Jefferson Pleasant Garrett (1889-1976) and Lottie Smoot Garrett (1892-1923). Their marriage was performed and recorded by Rev. James H. Crawford who was the first minister at Mocksville Second Presbyterian Church which was founded by newly freed enslaved members in 1867. She was reared by her aunt Adelaide Smoot Ellis after her mother’s death.

The remains of some of Everlena’s ancestors, her parents and many relatives are in the African American Presbyterian Cemetery, between Mill Street and East Depot St. behind Shiloh Baptist Church, where the first church was located. A memorial headstone bears the Garrett surnames of her parents and paternal grandparents: Calvin Garrett (1835-1900) and Sarah Gaither Garrett (1848-1932).  There are lots of Smoots including her maternal grandparents: Robert Smoot (1842-1918) and Alice Anderson Smoot (1863-1937).

Everlena’s father moved to Baltimore, Md. with the two older siblings (Dorothy and Rufus) and found work there. She visited on vacations and, after graduation from Davie County Training School in 1941, stayed in Baltimore long enough to graduate from Apex Cosmetology School.

She returned to begin a career as a beautician and became a mentor to others in the trade. Her styles ranged from Shirley Temple curls for the little girls, to finger waves for the ladies. Lean, as she came to be called by a host of clients, was the go to hairdresser for curls that would last like no other’s. She went from her back porch to a rented space in the Corinthian Lodge No. 13 Building at East Depot and Pine streets.

On one side of her in the Lodge building, on the lower level, was Tom Gaither’s Grocery Store and on the other were the barbers Duff Peebles and Leroy Dulin.  The other Negro entrepreneurs on East Depot Street were Dewey Parks with his cab and radiator repair businesses, Bill Gaither with his cab stand, Alice Britton with her cafe and Rev. Thomas Stone Holman with his pool room.

Add the other thriving downtown businesses: J.P. Green Milling, Martin Brothers’ General Store, S.W. Brown’s Wholesale, Allen’s Grocery Store, Shoaf’s Concrete, Hanes’ Chair Factory and Heritage Furniture Factory and you had a mini-Wall Street at the bottom of the hill.

It wasn’t all work and no play; for recreation, Lean often said she loved to play cards and dance.

And then there’s the religious side; her family was deeply rooted in the faith and were pillars of the church. She followed in their footsteps. Although Mocksville Second has always been her anchor, as long as her health allowed, the early service there permitted her to frequent Shiloh Baptist and St. John AME Zion churches for their 11 o’clock service.

Retirement, after over 50 years, found Lottie, as she is also called, getting on a YVEDDI van in the morning to head out to the Senior Center. Her bonding with the staff, drivers, and regulars, at the  congregant meals, provided the impetus to stay on the go until COVID-19 hit in March of 2020. To this day, she misses the activities, especially, bingo.

Lottie Everlena’s family, friends and acquaintances are just happy, thanks to the wonderful first responders and paramedics, she has a new lease on life and is still looking forward to that 100th birthday.

Special thanks to: Davie EMS and Davie Rescue Squad, Davie Senior Services, YVEDDI Transit Service, Dr. Joel Edwards, Dr. Gigi Smith and April Shore NP.

Brown, of Mocksville, is writing for the Heritage Alliance Project (HAP) as part of the Telling Our Stories series which was started last year during Black History Month. The mission is to collaborate to facilitate the preservation of history and advocate for beatification and safety in the East Depot/Mill Street Community.