ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS, PART V
‘Thanks for the haircut’ meant free
by Susie Sansom-Piper
Rockdale Reporter - March 5, 2009
The earliest known beautician in early Rockdale was Viola Mary Stovall Mitchell, also
affectionately known as “Mama Viola.”
She was the fourth child of the late George and Mary Stovall and was born in the New
Baden community of Robertson County in 1881. At age nine she moved with her parents to
Mama Viola is credited with being Rockdale’s first beautician of her race. She served her
community for more than 20 years and lived to more than 100.
During those early years beauticians used the oil lamp, oil stove and wood stove to heat
their straightening combs, manual curling irons and marcel irons to perform unique
A popular style was the croquinoile curl and marcel waves. No chemicals were used and
most beauticians could make or create their oil for use.
Another bootleg hairdresser during the late 30s was Susie E. Moultry. She became adept at
dressing the seniors’ hair of the community.
In the late 40s and 50s, as a result of the inventions of Madam C. W. Walker, new
licensed beauticians and new methods began to evolve.
They operated their shops as businesses, namely Olivia’s Shop (Olivia Mullins), Tindle’s
Shop (Myrtle M. Tindle), Emma’s Beauty Shop (Emma C. Metcalf), Gene’s Beauty Shop
(Imogene Gray), Gussie’s Shop and more.
Attending beauty school became a way of life for many future graduates.
Present day beauticians include Lynn’s Beauty shop and Doris Freeman’s Beauty Shop.
Heated irons are almost obsolete and much of hairdressing resorts to chemicals that are
specially made for hair.
Many modern day beauticians operated multi-racial shops.
In the days when electric clippers were unheard of, barbering was a profi table business
Even then the city could proudly boast of licensed barbers.
Frank “Doc” Cummings operated a barbershop for blacks at a location on what is now Plum
Henry Mosely and Hamitt “Bogus” Miller had a three-chair barbershop “uptown” in the
former Ballard Furniture Store. These two operated a unique shop, for their only
clientele consisted of white customers.
However, there were many who could not afford the fee of a licensed barber so there were
“back yard” and “front porch” barbers.
They included S. T. Benson, Tom Fair, Eddie Maloy, Andrew Walton and E. J. Sansom.
Their only permanent equipment was a cane-bottomed chair or stool, and a non-fancy neck
rag, perhaps fashioned from a discarded garment or sheet.
Haircut prices ranged from “thank you for the haircut” (free) to 25 or 50 cents.
After World War II, and on into the 60s, barber shops were operated by licensed barbers,
Lois Dykes, Marion T. Benson and Leroy Phillips.
These shops were located on Third, Plum and Rice streets.
Cafes, ice cream
“Uptown” cafes were not directly open to blacks in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
If a meal was purchased in an uptown cafe it could only be eaten in a reserved space in
An early well-known cook in the Mrosko Cafe downtown was Cleo Burley Moultry. She was
well known for her famous chili and hamburgers.
Frank “Doc” Cummings had a first-class ice cream parlor on Third Street and also served
some short orders.
Jack Wratt and his wife provided short orders and a dancing place where teenagers would
Two doors from his place, Fred Foster operated an eatery and small store.
Ruby Ledbetter served hamburgers, chili, hot dogs and chicken and provided a place for
teenagers to have entertainments. Lucy Brooks’ eateries served food with sodas, Kool-Aid
or red water.
This also became a favorite place for teenagers to hang out on Friday nights and lured
teens from Rockdale throughout the county
Author Susie Piper and grandson Jerome
Hebert visit former site of Lucy Brooks
cafe, which drew teenagers from all
around Rockdale area on Friday nights