My grandmother, whose name I share, was widowed on March 27, 1934, and left with two children to raise alone. She devoted her life to Bonnie Mae and to my father, Carol — not remarrying until after both had left the nest.
She had a beauty shop (they were not called salons then!) on 16th Street in Amarillo, Texas, for many years — it was called Gem’s Beauty Shop, as this article notes. The name Gem came about when my granny was quite young — her sisters were named Ruby and Pearl. When she asked her parents why her own name was not Opal or some precious stone — her father told her that she was a rare “Gem” named Sylvia. And so, for her whole life, the family called her Gem.
Back to the beauty shop: I discovered Newspapers.com this week. And in searching the old Amarillo papers online, I found this interesting story on Wednesday, June 19, 1940. It was a wonderful little window into my grandmother’s world.
The photo in the center was made in Amarillo in the 1940s. How handsome she was, this Choctaw lady. On the right, she is on her horse — the caption on the back said, “Gem on the Rio Puerco”.
I remember going to her beauty shop and getting a shampoo with “egg shampoo” and a special creme rinse. Then she sat me up in her chair before the mirror and trimmed my wispy little red hair. Ladies in the shop would remark on my “pretty red hair” — and my grandmother would say, “Sylvia Dow is a strawberry blonde.” She was the only person in the world to make me feel beautiful.
15 January 1993 – 24 March 2010
They are both gone now, but how can we forget them!? I have never been in a more loving home, full of joy and laughter.
I trekked across the country for my first visit with Ollie and Dorothy some years ago, arriving in Arkansas just before dinner time. Directions to the Caldwell Ranch were confusing to me and I passed the house by several times. Finally, I saw someone standing in a driveway and stopped to ask if he knew where the ranch was — he said with a big grin, “You have arrived. This is it.” And he pointed ‘over yonder’ to a gate with the sign above it!
Such wonderful memories of time with these two family sages. Showing Ollie that I was not a city gal by driving his tractor all over the field to help feed the Pet Cows. Picking okra from the big garden. Backing the tractor into the barn crooked, and then locking old Tex in the barn with it — how Ollie laughed at my parking job! Watching Ollie stammer and fiddle while trying to tell me that old Mr. Horry, the Black Angus bull that I adored, had been sold to the hamburger factory!
Dorothy’s Charlie Pride Pie and the picnics she always made when we went up to the cemetery in the hills. Her strength and good cheer in the face of adversity. Her persistence and tenacity in maintaining a household and caring for her family after being somewhat crippled with a stroke. Such a role model. Such good memories.
Ollie D. Caldwell
Born 2 August 1923 in Gladstone, Garland Co AR
Died 2 May 2009 in Malvern, Clark Co AR
Dorothy Farmer Caldwell
Born 22 October 1923 in Cornersville, Lincoln Co AR
Died 8 June 2007 in Malvern, Clark Co AR