By Anita Garner
My family arrived in Southern California from the Deep South in 1957, part of a migration of Southern gospel singers and musicians. We didn’t own much more than the contents of the trailer we pulled on Route 66 from Louisiana to my grandmother’s house in Glendale. I was a sophomore at Herbert Hoover High School, working after school and weekends at Webb’s, the major department store on Brand Boulevard.
On certain Saturdays, some of us walked through the store modeling different ensembles which we changed several times a day. We carried cards that described our outfits and answered questions about what we were wearing and where to find it in the store.
This sweater in the picture was my first encounter with cashmere. It was a lovely shade of chocolate brown and the skirt was authentic Pendleton in a cashmere and wool blend. In those days, a sweater like that required hand washing in Woolite and that skirt would go to a dry cleaner who charged by the pleat. Not exactly practical for high school, right? But many girls at Hoover wore outfits like that every day and they arrived in the student parking lot driving their own cars, many of them fancier than the vehicles owned by our teachers.
My other job at Webb’s, which I loved, was running the elevator. During my training I learned an elevator still has a lot of glide in it once you release the handle, especially when it’s carrying the maximum number of shoppers allowed, so bringing that machine to a stop exactly even with the floor every time became a point of pride.
I was paid $1.00 an hour and the guys in luggage (on the mezzanine) gave me coffee for free. In spite of being surrounded by elegantly dressed girls at high school, every time I got a paycheck, instead of saving for cashmere, I bought a record album.