Tag Archives: Richmond VA

After A FASHION

As I am photographing this for the blog I suddenly realize that I have an Eleanor Link piece of art. Sadly not original, but still a cherished treasure, she was such an icon.

“Jett, see what you can do with this.” My boss Gene South, or Geno as we all call him, has thrust a layout assignment into my hands. It’s my first week on the job. I have no idea what I’m doing but a quick study, I am rapidly learning the ropes. My two colleagues, Mark Burnett, Kay Wyland and I design print ad layouts for Miller & Rhoads Department Store in Richmond, Virginia. We work in a shared cubicle, one of many, on the seventh floor of the department store. Next week we’ll be moving down to the third floor because our department’s floor space is needed for the store’s new main frame computers, so everyone has told me not to get too settled.

The day is not over, I’ve finished my assignments so Geno grabs an upcoming but not immediate ad to keep me busy. Still so green but not wanting to show my ignorance, I forge ahead and create something I really like using the sparse instructions, showcase the store using a classic suit. Apparently Geno likes what I’ve done too because he tells me that he is going to use it and puts it into production a few days later. Eleanor Link, head fashion artist illustrates my design. I have landed on the back cover of the Richmond Symphony program! Later Geno even steps into my cubicle to show me the finished work. Praise from the normally taciturn boss. I’m legal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how I got this job. The year is 1966. I am graduating from Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Per mom’s suggestion I have completed courses in teaching, but as much as I love kids, my still fresh student teaching experience has left me with little interest in the field.

And so I try several advertising agencies that have posted on the bulletin board of the graphic arts department, an off limits territory for fine arts students. The unwritten rule is that art students bond with their kind and never cross the invisible barrier. When I attended our college reunion two years ago the drama students that were entertaining us told me that they had a curiosity question and then asked me if students between the disciplines mixed when we were in school.  I laughed and assured them that apparently some things never change.

So I ignore the unspoken ban because I love Richard Carlyon and sign up for one of his commercial art lectures. I don’t care, I’m a rebel. I barely manage a C in his class but who cares I’m walking the walk and loving it.

None of the jobs are panning out. It’s evident that I know nothing about commercial art design. I cannot even get a job with Richmond newspapers through Chick Lawson, a good friend of my grandfather’s. And he’s pretty high up in the pecking order. I move on. Miller & Rhoads is a thought. Mom worked in Junior Colony as a young bride and mother. Surely there’ll be some job opening. At this point anything will do. I’m graduating. I need a job. But HR has nothing to offer.

Then a dorm mate tells me about an opening she has heard about in the Advertising Department of Miller & Rhoads. She’s in fashion illustration. I like the idea although I know nothing really about advertising. But that’s not going to stop me. In my mind’s eye I determine that I need to be dressed to impress. Really dressed to impress.

I decide that I need a hat, modest heels, gloves, a subdued sheath, pearls, a handbag, and matching hose. (Forget pantyhose, they are not yet on the horizon.)  I borrow most. I’m an art student, this type of outfit is not in my wardrobe. I take the bus downtown to the store. I get dressed in my borrowed finery in the ladies room and head up to the seventh floor where the advertising offices are located.

I have no appointment. I open the door to the department and practically fall into the receptionist’s desk which is right inside the door jammed into a tiny hallway and bumped up against a cubicle. There are no offices. Everyone has a minute cubicle with half walls so that they can shout changes to each other rather than waste time walking. Well, the director, Ashton Mitchell, does have an office but only he. I swoon. It’s an art world made for me. I announce that I am here about the job. In one telling look the receptionist, Cabell Bricker, sizes up both me and my outfit. I immediately realize that I’m on shaky ground.

This outfit which seemed like such a great idea is clearly so far over the top that it’s absurd. But I don’t back down. I look her in the eye, pleading. To her credit she does not blink an eyelash or worse, send me packing. I actually think that I recognize her and she me from campus parties, but we don’t run in the same circles, so neither of us goes there. Still it’s a small notch in my belt.

She’s intrigued enough that she yells for the art director. He appears, takes one look at me, inhales and glances at Cabell. She’s stifling a laugh. He looks me up and down. I hold my breath. He makes his decision and invites me to step into his cubicle. I breath a sigh of relief and quickly follow, not daring to look at Cabell lest she burst out laughing and break the spell. Geno browses through my portfolio. It’s all fine art work; etchings, lithographs, drawings. There are no designs, no advertising, no fashion illustrations. Expecting a rejection, I am elated when he tells me to go home, design six full page fashion spreads and bring them in for him to review.

I practically dance my way back to the dorm. And then panic hits. I don’t know anything useful for this assignment. I draft Gail, the friend who told me about the job. She’s as clueless as I am. She’s in illustration not advertising layout. I plunge ahead, borrow some swipes (fashion art by other artists to be used as prompts or figure placement when creating) from Gail and create my designs. I have actually taken a night school course in advertising but the most I learn from that is that our professor drives his Aston Martin to school and is willing to break for beer at Andy’s to end class early.

I turn in the completed designs to Cabell. This time I am dressed more like my real self. She’s says they’ll be in touch. Days go by. I hear nothing. I’m getting worried. We, the twentysome girls that I live with, share a common phone. Anyone within range answers it and takes a message if need be. I pester everyone. Maybe I got a call and the message did not get logged into the book. I want this job. I need this job. It’s mine. I draw up another series of ads and take them in. I explain to Geno that I redo the work because I figure that I can do better than the first set and hand him the papers. These are big 18×24 sketches. He rifles through them and probably figures that he is never going to get rid of me. He gives me the job.

A gift box with illustrations. Pat can do this in a heartbeat but she acknowledges that it is before her time. We decide that it is one of Bertha’s masterpieces.

Epilogue: Miller & Rhoads Advertising Roll Call 60’s Era

Ashton Mitchell “Mitch”, director. Hard to find a nicer guy. And the staff party he and his lovely wife threw every year at their waterfront home in Powhatan was not to be missed.

Gene “Geno” South, art director. A talented man and could carry a joke but you best toe the line on the clock.

My later immediate boss when I became the solo regional ad layout department, Jasper, or Jack to us, Horne, regional director.

Cabell Bricker, receptionist. She later becomes a great friend.

Mark Burnett, Kay Wyland, Eileen Talley (replaced me when I became regional staff of one layout artist), Bobbie Hicks (brought on when they needed even more staff) layout artists. Grouped as one because unlike everyone else who had their own, save production, we shared a cubicle. I did get my own cubicle when I was shifted to regional ads.

Pat Cully, illustrator. Our cubicles were next to each other, across the arms length hallway. I bought my first car from Pat & her husband Don (that’s a future blog post).

Sandy Crews (Rhodes), illustrator. I introduce her to Hank and they later marry. Hank and I date briefly but, as nice as he is, the vibes aren’t there. So one Saturday when he shows up at my apartment unannounced to encourage me to go on a day outing to Williamsburg I defer. But rather than send him off dejected I suggest that he take Sandy, who lives nearby.  I call her and she agrees. They hit it off and become a couple. I’m a matchmaker.

Eleanor Link, high fashion illustrator. She would get sent by train to NYC at the store’s expense, probably for fashion week. As beautiful and timeless as her illustrations were you will never see a navel on an exposed abdomen. Not allowed. I asked her about that once. She told me that the edict came from the 6th floor executive offices.

Bertha Morrissey, fashion illustrator.

Charlotte Saunders, head copywriter and a brilliant woman.

Sarah Gayle Hunter, copy writer who was fuller than life, you always heard her coming.

Bobbie Lynch, copywriter.

Betsy Drake (Allred), copy writer and good friend who matched up with a Latter Day Saints missionary from out west and followed him home to become his wife.

Tuppy Giasi, copywriter. Hank Rhodes was in the army with her husband Billy. I was Hank’s first blind date in our crowd.

Lester Woody, copywriter.

Jackie Blair, regional copy writer either St Catherine’s or St Mary’s background.

Lynn Weakley and Len White, production.

Sherrie Edwards Oliva, proof runner. I got her this job when prior runner, Becky, got married. Sherrie and I share many live adventure stories including the wedding dress one. It was always exciting to tag along with Sherrie to the executive offices. They were so solemn looking and we never saw anyone around.

 

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Well Deserved Mr Tambourine Man

2015-03-13-1426269049-6907066-bob_dylanthe_mosquesmall

I was there. He mesmerized me. I’d even say it changed my life. I could do anything. Be anything that I wanted to be. It was liberating.

Today my man Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for literature. Well deserved Mr Tambourine Man, well deserved. I never met Dylan. But I still have an awesome story about how we came to ride the winds of time together.

The year is 1966. I am just into my last semester as a fine arts student at what was then RPI, now VCU, located in Richmond, Virginia. A division of William & Mary, RPI was a campus cobbled together in the fan district, the part of town where streets fanned out from the centrally located departments stores and town churches to meet the suburbs. School was composed of maybe four actual classroom buildings to include a three story gym with the art department being housed on the third floor. All other classes were held where ever a spot could be found. Mostly carriage houses or old homes.

Campus population was roughly half day students and half boarding, save a separate count of night school students who were mostly professionals adding onto their degrees. Those of us that lived on campus, found ourselves housed in former richly appointed homes. My dorm was the Bocock House on Franklin Street. I was one of its first inhabitants. Mrs Bocock had just opened the second floor of the front half of the house to the college. There were thirteen of us. By the time I graduated our numbers had increased to about twice that size since third floor rooms were added to the mix.

My first room was a corner room (they were huge) and overlooked the formal garden. My second room had hand painted French wall paper that used to drive us insane after a night of drinking. Red, white & blue plumes that danced freely for you. This room was in the middle of the second floor rooms (all the rest were corner rooms) and was actually a sitting room and thus very small compared to the others. Each room had its own bathroom complete with European water closet and claw footed bathtub. We had walk in, and walk through to the adjoining room, closets. Our room had its own small balcony, very Juliet like.

All of this narrative is to set the scene for RPI stories to follow in various posts. It was the sixties, women had curfews and were not allowed to wear pants on campus. I had to wear a raincoat over my bibs to and from art classes to avoid a call to the dean of women’s office. I later got one but that is another story and for another reason.

The day of the Dylan concert I was hanging out at Andy’s on Grace Street, the favored watering hole of business students. I was told recently by a fellow student that art students just did not go to Andy’s. I really was not aware of this pecking order at the time. He explained that art students were not cool enough, or maybe too cool, but they gathered elsewhere. Since my roomie was a retailing major and I dated among her crowd I had a free pass to be among the elite. It was there that my drinking buddy (his gal pal was at home in Georgia birthing their college romance son, no pregnant gals allowed on campus in the sixties) said he had free tickets compliments of a friend that worked in the box office of the Mosque to a nifty concert and would I like to go. He promised it would rock my world. The Mosque was close to campus and appears as it sounds, very big, very ornate and very impressive. All campus dances were held in the lower level ballroom. Another story.

I accept his proposal and we part to prep for our date. When he picked me up, he tells me we can get better tickets than the balcony ones he has. We stop at the box office and trade our second balcony tickets in for front row, first balcony. He explains who I am about to see. I know a little about Dylan. A dorm mate had some of his albums, I thought them rough. The house is not packed and at that it is mostly older folks, I did not see anyone from campus. What kind of concert is this going to be?

Then this skinny guy walks out on the stage of this massive place with its elegant side box seats, ornately domed ceiling and layers of velvet curtains. He sits down in a straight back chair set center stage. That’s it. Well, okay a mic, on a stand. But nothing else on that huge stage. Just the man, the guitar, the chair and the mic. He warms up for a minute, probably even smoking a cigarette. And then it begins. I fall in love, He is mesmerizing. A moment in time to treasure. I am a lucky gal.

 

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When Worlds Collide

“I’ll go if you’re going.”

“Well I’ll go if you’re going.”

And so our college reunion weekend begins. Sandra Lee Nash Hamilton from Rockwell NC and I, Sandra Leigh Jett Ball from (then) Rockville MD, roomies for life. Different as day and night on the surface but eternally bonded kindred spirits in the soul where all love lives.

moose and thumperI pick Sandy up at the Richmond airport midday Friday and we proceed to our not to be believed loft apartment for the weekend. It is a dream place for our reuniting. We have not seen each other for over twenty years. We have always kept up with Christmas cards including the requisite family update notes and pictures but that’s all. In trying to locate a place to stay for our last minute decision we find ourselves invited by Outer Banks good friends and neighbors Al, Steve, Wally & Jagger to rest our heads at their Richmond loft apartment in refurbished Lee School. They have decorated the downstairs like a 50’s diner complete with jukebox, pay phone, popcorn machine, menus, a seating booth. And lighting. Ah, the lighting. Stunning. We are immediately time warped back to our college years.

We wrestle Sandy’s big blue suitcase up to the elevator and inside. (I have a small carry on size). She has big blue and a carry on size. In her defense, she is going on to a family funeral after the reunion. Still she would have had more luggage than me in a heart beat.

three beast diner poodle skirt picture ladder photo wall james dean french door copy check outWe semi-unpack. Our loft bedroom is another story. We are in a palace. King size bed, posh pillows, plush throws, rich fabric drapes for closet doors, a loft over our loft (reached via a tiny wooden ladder beside the bed) big enough to sit in and read while looking at street life going by through the huge arch window.

sandy vmfa

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts garden

We change to walking clothes and head to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts just around the corner. We want to check out the restaurant Amuse for lunch potential with the rest of the gals the next day. It looks perfect. We move on to Carytown where we find a plethora of fun restaurants for another lunch option. Funky shops are everywhere. We sip some tea at 10 Italian Cafe and chat. We head back to the loft. It’s time to prep for dinner.

linda and glenn

Linda and Glenn Eure

We have reservations at Millie’s Diner on Main Street in Shockhoe Bottom. Friend Linda Lauby and her husband Paul Keevil own this and others in Richmond. It’s a quick trip and we find a parking place just down the block. It has started to rain. By the time we reach the door we are close to being drenched. But it’s a diner, we are fine. And not too wet to dry off quickly. We are seated in a booth across from a small pre-wedding celebration. The hostess apologizes for the noise. We don’t mind. We try to pick out the bride and groom.

The next day we have time before the rest of our group arrive for lunch. We decide to walk the dozen+ blocks to school down Monument Avenue. Sandy has brought walking clothes. I have brought everything but. I live in running/walking clothes. I pull something together out of sleep wear and get my emergency running shoes from the car. We set off. It’s beautiful. Trees are in full bloom. We happen upon an estate sale. Pause a moment for those who do not know Monument Avenue. It’s a boulevard style street with a huge tree lined grass medium strip in the middle. If you walk on one side you can see the other but it’s pretty much way over there. Back to the narrative. We decide to go inside this happened upon piece of luck. “Maybe we can find a host gift for the guys,” Sandy reasons. We don’t need an excuse to browse but I agree.

close up of estateaddress bottle doorselfie at 2315  ceiling 2315 tapestry IMG_4960 hidden door tapestrydining room fake wallrooftopside yardestate salefrances and gordonmonument ave

We do find something but don’t want to carry it. Besides everything is marked down the next day. We chance it and go on. We do go back on Sunday and get the piece. We are going our separate ways after that. Sandy has a ride to her funeral with the gals. I am headed home. I decide to wander through the sale and impressive house designed (I later read) by William Lawrence Bottomley (sold for 2.2 million in minutes) some more. It is stunning. I take pictures and post one of me on the nude sunbathing roof on Instagram. Friend Linda (Millie’s) sees it and messages me. “Wait. You were at the 2315 Monument estate sale?” I tell her yes. “The son of the owners was at Millie’s Friday night for his pre-wedding party. Paul & I went to their wedding yesterday. We have been to dinner at that house.”

Like the song no one ever wants to hear says, “It’s A Small World.”

 

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Inner Beauty Won’t Get You Free Drinks

beauty 2

SandraBallART on Etsy

The best I do is make a weak effort. And follow the mantra of my grandmother. She’d powder her nose, put a dab of lavender water behind each ear, eye herself in the mirror and declare, “That’ll have to do. I’ll just rely on my charm to get me through.” Nothing wrong with that.

And then I meet Sandy. Diametrically opposed best describes my college roommate and me. She is a real southern beauty. She spends time on perfecting perfection. It works. All her prep time results in a look that oozes effortlessness. She has it down to a science. That beauty thing. But the best part, she doesn’t made a big deal or any deal about it all. She just knows that a good presentation is worth the work. And people notice.

rpi weekend

RPI Reunion Weekend 2015

Recently we get the annual mailing for our college reunion. I look closely at the pictures. It looks like Sandy right there front and center. Later when I talk to her she asks if I’ve seen the mailing. “Is that you?” I ask. She acknowledges so and we both laugh over the hair. She has nothing to do with the mailing or the photo choices but there she is because the effort she made that day is on solid ground. It still sells.

I learn a lot from her. Even now years later and all of those in between, if I feel too lazy to make an effort, I say to myself, “Nash would do better.” (We become known as Nash & Jett because two Sandy’s with the same middle name even if spelled differently just doesn’t cut it). And I’ll take a few more minutes to primp and enhance that outer beauty.

Inner beauty depends on the best you can give the outer to help it shine. Just that simple. Thanks Nash!

 

 

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