106-Year-Old Stylist Recalls Business, Rose Parade Work

center: Lottie Davison at Frarentha with her three operators (left) and the state inspectors (right).

*State AP Wire

QUITMAN – Lottie Davison sat in her wheelchair, guarding the doorway in her dimly lit room.

Her white hair was neatly set, and specks of gloss highlighted the creases in her lips where a swipe of red lipstick lingered from the morning. Mrs. Davison, 106, was expecting company.

Fifteen minutes before her appointment, she said she did not feel well. But the staff at Wesley House Assisted Living in Quitman knew her feeling was just nerves.

As a hairdresser for the Texas Rose Parade, Mrs. Davison never spent much time in the spotlight; her clients and their daughters were the stars.

Even so, Mrs. Davison has a contagious sense of humor and a dash of “spizzerinctum.”

The first time Mrs. Davison heard the word from a World War II captain, she thought she was diseased.

“You’ve got spizzerinctum,” he told her.

She lay down on the bare front porch of her father’s house in Golden, dramatically mourning her plight.

The compliment long since surfaced, and nearly a century later, Mrs. Davison has not lost it.

She is up and going, spunky and bright. She attends all the activities at Wesley House, where she has lived for the past five years. She gives the residents pet names and helps decorate for holidays.

Although she spent nearly half her life at her beauty shop, Jane Bardwell, activities director at Wesley House, said Mrs. Davison does not talk much about “Frarentha.”

Back in 1931, Mrs. Davison opened the beauty shop at 722 1/2 Bois D’Arc Ave., in the shopping center between Rusk and West Phillips streets.

Sam Kidd, of the Smith County Historical Society, said the shop was listed in several years of business directories at 1511 S. Augusta Ave. At one point, the salon was called Parakeet Beauty Shop, Kidd said.

Mrs. Davison said she paid someone $25 to come up with the shop’s unique, indefinable name “Frarentha.” The name borrowed letters from the three original operators: Frankie Thomas, Etheline Thomas and Avis Patterson.

A shampoo and set cost $1.50; permanents ranged from $15 to $50.

Mrs. Davison’s beauty shop was known throughout Tyler in the 1930s on into the 1970s for its high-profile clientele and contributions to the Texas Rose Parade.

“I did all the Queens,” Mrs. Davison said. “They were always very sweet.”

Carolyn Riviere McArthur, Rose Queen of 1947, was the first queen to reign over the Texas Rose Festival after World War II and the 10th in parade history. She stuck out in Mrs. Davison’s mind.

“We did all types of work,” Mrs. Davison said. “We would work nearly 24 hours a day during the Rose Parade.”

Mrs. Davison’s hairdos are immortalized in photographs at the Tyler Rose Museum.

Although food and gas were rationed during the war, as far as personal effects go, Mrs. Davison said the war took away her husband, but her clients kept coming to Frarentha.

“They were all going to get their hair done and take care of what they got,” Mrs. Davison said.

Some came weekly for shampoos, sets and manicures, others ordered facials to go with their beauty regimen.

Mrs. McArthur, the former Rose Queen who now lives in Tulsa, remembered her mother, Dollie Riviere, was a regular at Frarentha.

As for the Rose Parade, Mrs. McArthur’s memories are sparse.

“The main thing I remember is, I was riding along and I had an uncle who had cancer and they had him at the parade,” Mrs. McArthur said. “I remember waving and blowing a kiss to him.”

Metal, fabrics and decorations were scarce after the war. Her dressmaker ordered the fabric from New York.

“It was the first one after the war, and we couldn’t get pretty things,” Mrs. McArthur said. “All the beading and all that stuff … I remember all that, they made the crown (from the dress material), just a plain old, little thing that’s way out of date.”

Newspaper articles from 1947 comment on her blue eyes and shoulder-length, brown tresses worn with loose curls on the ends and flawlessly pinned by Mrs. Davison.

“Then, everyone wore their hair the same way,” Mrs. Davison said. “Those bobby-pins saved our lives.”

When she bought the salon in 1931, “everything was perfect,” she said.

Each of her operators had her booth with shampoo bowl and blinds between the booths for privacy.

The exact cost of the store is lost from her memory, but Mrs. Davison remembers paying $45 a month until the bill was paid off.

One day, a regular came to the beauty shop wanting her young niece to get beautiful curls from a permanent.

“She felt the heat on her head and thought it would burn her,” Mrs. Davison said. “She started screaming and we liked to never got that equipment off her head.”

Despite the burden many businesswomen carried in that decade, Mrs. Davison said she “didn’t have any trouble at all.”

“I had the business of Tyler,” she said. “I had the wealth of Tyler.”

While she certainly stayed busy at the shop, she took off about every three months to travel abroad to visit her husband, George, who worked in the oil industry in Saudi Arabia.

“She saw most of the world; every time she went, she took a different route,” Ms. Bardwell said.

She moved from Golden to Tyler in 1921 and married George, in 1924, when she was 23 years old. He died in 1972.

“Everybody thought I was an old maid,” Mrs. Davison said. “I didn’t want to leave my daddy.”

Growing up, it was just her, her siblings and her father together in Golden. When she was 5 years old, her mother died.

She said her favorite memory is “picking geese” with her father.

From the evolution of hairstyles to the changes in transportation, technology and society, through war and deaths of her friends and family, Mrs. Davison lives an active life.

In 1971, after 40 years of business, Mrs. Davison sold the shop to her chief operator, Mrs. Patterson.

“Two years ago, I talked to (Avis’) husband and she had Alzheimer’s,” Mrs. Davison said. “I hadn’t heard from him since.”

Published March 14
Tyler Morning Telegraph

Published by Melissa Crowe

I’m Melissa: an adventure-seeking, story-telling, internet-loving journalist. I work in Seattle. You can find my work in the Puget Sound Business Journal where I use data to tell stories about the people, businesses and industries driving Washington state’s economy.

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