LaVerne Ross and Robbie Jones
DescriptionFriends and Santa Monica community members LaVerne Ross (78) and Robbie Jones (62) talk about LaVerne's rich history in Santa Monica as a community activist, prominent and trusted master-cosmetologist, and a spearhead of the Juneteenth celebration in Santa Monica.
Subject Log / Time Code
Recording LocationVirginia Avenue Park
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00:02 My name is Laverne Ross. I Am 78 years old. Today is Friday, January 21st, 2020.
00:15 And the location is Santa, Monica, California.
00:19 The name of my interview or partner is Robbie Jones.
00:27 The relationship is a partner is a friend. She happens to be your friend.
00:35 Hi, my name is Robbie Jones. I am 62 years young today is Friday, January 24th, 2020 location Santa Monica, California name of the interview partner. Is Miss Laverne Ross relationship.
00:55 Community member friend and someone that I admire and adore
01:02 So Laverne man. Oh man, we've come a long way to get to this day. And I'm so excited. So I just want to kind of get through some things. I know you said you were 78 years young. I know we probably won't get through the whole 78 years, but can we just do Snippets today?
01:22 We can just do Snippets. Oh, okay. I'm going to just ask you to briefly tell me cuz I know it's a long story. But were you where were you born? I was born in the state of Texas the city Malone, Texas out from Waco, Texas. And when did you arrive in Santa Monica? I arrived on June 7th 19 and 57.
01:51 And how did you where did you go when you arrived here in Santa Monica? What are arrived in Santa Monica? First of all, I must say that.
02:04 Put on We got from the Greyhound bus station as I rode down Santa Monica Boulevard and saw the bar palm trees and Beverly Hills, California, I was actually mesmerised as we continue to the West Side I've already on the west side we came to Santa Monica about 11 this morning and I was picked up by family members who had recently been displaced from Belmont as they call it Belmont area doing that around the Santa Monica City Hall. They had purchased the house at 1715 21st Street in Santa Monica. And that's where they brought they lie got together and they were friends from Texas. They came out in 49 a few years prior to us.
03:05 I told my mom and I
03:09 Made the way for the rest of the family but they gave us a one-room house in the back for us to stay in so we stay there for a few months and that was basically the beginning of my Santa Monica experience 63 years ago. Wow, and that has made her footprint in Santa Monica. That's what I made my butt. So you were married or no. I was 15 16. Do I was a junior 10th grade level and I'm getting ready to go to school. The next week is Santa Monica High School Oye for Santa Monica. I'm a graduate to so you like Santa Monica High School when I know it's a bit was a big difference from Texas oag. I came from the Jim Crow South
04:08 And I definitely was a quite a difference in coming to primarily all.
04:18 Predominantly white school and came from all African-American school and Lubbock Texas where I moved here from Lubbock, Texas. We just all black and no one I got here. They said I can't believe you're from Texas. That's what do you mean? You can't say you don't talk like a southerner. What does that mean? It's a basically it went from there. But I enrolled in the 11th grade at Santa Monica High School and because I was known for
05:00 If you will ask by speaking ability in Texas, I immediately enrolled in some Theater Arts and drama classes cuz that was going to be my life. That was my life dream to be an actress.
05:18 Because my mom asked me where did I want to graduate from high school? And I said, she said you wanted to graduate from Washington DC in Washington DC for your brother and sister lives. I would you like to live in Santa Monica California. I said well in Santa Monica near Hollywood
05:40 She said it's almost and it's back door. I said, oh really? She said, well I said well that's going to have to be Santa Monica, California. I'd like to graduate so I didn't know what the score was, but she gave me a choice and I'm the reason my family the rest of the family moved to Santa Monica, California. So you later continue your education. Yes, I did. I first of all let me just say that I am Road in not yet had to take the the required subjects at Santa Monica High School because you have to have so many points to graduate from high school. As you know, you must finish so many points and it turned out that I had some extracurriculars that I could choose from and I chose the drama and my one of my favorite if
06:40 The favourite was dr. Evans. He was the head of the department of theater arts and as I spoke.
06:50 With the class 30 seconds. I thought it was 30 years. We only could speak 30 seconds. I thought it was 30 years ago during that time. He said you have the ability.
07:04 When you graduate from Santa Monica High School, don't you dare major in anything else? But Theater Arts. He said cuz you have the ability well.
07:16 So doing that time, I would like to just touch on this a little further as he said that it was coming up time that year of the next year for me to 4 to be the senior play. So I tried out for the senior play.
07:35 Hi, there were about four or five African Americans who tried out for it and I try it out and I was a top vote-getter. I was one of the first if not the first playing and that was a Bittersweet experience because the part that I tried out for I had to get the approval from the NAACP the National Association for the advancement of colored people. This was a bittersweet because I wanted to play it was the part of the maid and I had to get approved because that was doing the Rosa Park era during that time and you know it all white school to go to put her in as a maid. Right? Well, I wanted to play the part cuz I wanted the experience yes of playing of being in the the theater parts of it part of it and I went to
08:35 Mr. Davis, if you will and also the NAACP Brown who was over the the employment by African American employment office and they voted. Okay, if this is what you want, I don't know why you're rushing to be a mermaid, but I said, I'd rather be like her. It's been said, I'd rather play a mini than to be a maid and that's how that took off. And so I graduated from high school that year 1959 the next year. I believe it was 19 and 59 June 20th, and I had to answer your question to complete that answer.
09:21 I immediately enrolled in Santa Monica College in the theater arts department and it is like continued I eventually I majored in Theater Arts. I majored in a real estate. I majored in cosmetology. I made it made you made it over the years. I eventually got Maya associated in arts and also my custom etologia license as well and I transfer to California State University of Northridge and I did attend UCLA extension and I received my us at tificate of a complete bit of completion in cosmetic chemistry, and that's basically
10:11 Play part of his knee. Did you continue and get a master's degree? Eventually. Did I continue and get a masters? No, I did not get my masters. I have did my undergrad my graduate work I have.
10:27 Points units in word The Graduate work, but I have not completed that yet, right. So then you had your children. I know you have two beautiful children in retrospect after.
10:43 When I was there getting ready to graduate from high school in retrospect, it turns out that my
10:52 I met a gentleman who had been in the Korean War and he just finished his tour in the from.
11:05 Frankfurt, Germany
11:07 Anna friends that love her and I have a nice guy that I would love for you to meet I said, oh really what I'm thinking at that time it's almost prom time and I need a date for prom. Yeah, I'd he said she said yes this guy. I want you to meet him. I'm not going to give him your name and I will give he will give you your name. So it turns out that he call me one day it was on a Sunday afternoon.
11:41 I know I didn't like his approach. May I speak to Laverne Wilson my make name? Okay, and I said this is she speaking. He said what's happening? I said what do you mean what's happening? Who are you?
12:02 He said I'm Raven Ross and I was given your name by the spread. I was given your name that she thought you were a wonderful person that I should meet. And I said, oh, okay. Okay, is it well, I didn't mean to come on like that about what's happening, but I would like to know may I meet you personally? Well at that time I tried to be reluctant, but I said a little hard to get.
12:39 But I'm not used to just giving somebody I just met my address I said well.
12:47 Why don't you just give me a chance? I'd like to come by to see you. Okay, so he came knocked on the door.
12:59 And I didn't like what I saw and he knocked on the door.
13:05 He had on this brown suit and his stomach was sticking out and I went. Oh my goodness. I didn't say SL, huh? You must be and he said yes. Yes, I said will come in. So we sat and we chitchat a little bit reluctantly, but we chatted a bit. Okay and
13:31 He said there's this great movie that's going on at the Olympic Drive in cuz this was a drive-in theater. Right? And I said, oh he said would you like to send set the name of it is imitation of life with Juanita Moore. You have to ask my parents cuz that that time you do him just jump up and go out like the girls loved it had to ask but the parents gave me the okay and the rest is history. You got married the next day. No, we didn't get well he tried to reach for me when we were crying when they're the end of race girl did a mom that way I am a certain way and I went and I said, I would know I don't play that.
14:23 No touching feeling that we had a beautiful at afternoon. He was very gentlemanly like very very much. So turns before we got married. He whined me he died me. He took me to the Greek Theater in always had seized can they are roses are orchids on my arm. That was the one thing that that man really impressed me. Wonderful. We got married later years to years later and we had our two children a year 2 years later. The rest is the rest is history. Why you have a spark so many questions in me. I think I want to ask. So what was so you went to see your Imitation of Life and soul. What was the climate like in Santa Monica? Was there racial tensions or where you able to park in the front of the the
15:23 Theater of the The Outdoor Theater, did you have to park in a certain area? Oh know at that time that the drive-in theater was not as
15:35 Prejudice as some of the southern wind, okay, I probably didn't notice it that much because it was not as enhanced as it was in the South but we at that time yes, but climate was not exactly as I look back it was not
15:57 In Santa Monica big cuz
16:01 The beaches as you already know that on the beach, we didn't call it the Inkwell. We call it the black Beach and that is where we would go and we conjugated pretty much in that bay area. Isn't that area V 50. This was mine was like the mid-fifties and even part of some of his than that, but him if I really had time to really just think about it. I point out several things that I might have experienced. I know as I ran for the senior high school vice president.
16:50 It turned out that it was not the it turns out that as I ran for that. It was some prejudices going on there with the competition. Will that can happen? Anyway, I went with competition among your. Be a peer group, but the jobs were not that good. My mom left a $0.50 per hour job at a place called Biscuit Hill in Lubbock, Texas and it turns out that when she was happy to come to make a transition to California where she would getting to be getting a dollar twenty-five an hour and it turns out she was getting $12 a day then course, we know as I noticed in research. I noticed how what the median income was when he gives the white the blacks in that and it was way above her 1250 an hour and that alone I know.
17:50 What is some of the difference is cuz she worked here for as a maid domestic person that says she work that were times. Where is her boss is did not treat her exactly the way that we have felt or she felt that she should have been treated as pressing leaving the Jim Crow South right? So let me ask you, you know, I know one of our other great connections is that we're both for cosmetologist and in cosmetology. Oh, yes, so did that your mother's experience in working domestic influence you into going into cosmetology that goes way way way way way back yet. She had an influence on me because as she would
18:47 Curled or straightened the Kink as she would straighten the kink in Texas. I noticed how that would go on. So I'll learn how to do that. And as at four years old, I made my own doll with a courage are bottle and I don't know if you know how they used to bring ice as the ice was brought in a rope. It was a rope Cut the Rope was like hair and I would untwine the rope and comb it and I could curl it with what you would call.
19:23 Leather they had Lubbock curlers, you would curl your hair with the leather curlers while I would curl that dolls hair and it would be just as beautiful as you ever. So from four five six seven eight nine and I collected my first amount of 50 Cent ahead at at nine years old and Amarillo Texas. Wow, baby have 10 curling iron. It was like a close pin it would open and close like a clothespin and I would sneak and put it on the burner and I would burn curls into the head to the hair until I got proof right side and perfected it right eventually. I brought back here and I was getting $2 a head when they would get it getting $4.50. I would get him to Ansley what they called.
20:23 Play I Was bootlegging in California. Okay, so I went into cosmetology and that's so that you can be professional. It was a family my aunt was a cosmetologist and my mom just naturally did he write yes. I was encouraged by the family encouraged me. She was a cosmetologist and she started here in Santa Monica and then went up into the bay area of North and so yeah, then I ended up getting my cosmetology license. But before that I remember coming to you to get my hair done that I asked her wig had an experience with your prom your sin. Yes, and you wouldn't let anyone touch your hair except a person named Laverne Ross exactly because I had taken to the wonderful celebrity stylist in Hollywood.
21:23 And when is it Julio Salon or everybody brag about him? He did Diana Ross. He did everyone and that was my only wish for prom. My grandmother asked me where you want to go get your hair done. And at that time they were wearing the three tone hair light brown medium brown dark brown. So Julio set out and I had hair past my shoulder. Yes. Yes set out to do my hair. Now my aunt was doing my hair and her kitchen prior to that and then when I got old enough, I was doing it myself well and coloring it myself going to get the box of color from the drugstore went to Julio Julio have me in his shop over 8 hours when he finished with me. My hair was less than it about an inch long and it was blond skunk blonde in the front and bright red in the back and I just cried member remember that and I took charge.
22:23 How to go ahead and go to the prom but my cousin Gwen brought me she felt so responsible because she referred me to Julio and she paid for all of that when she took me and got the beautiful head wrap fortunately during that time. We were wearing head wraps. So she bought a peach head wrap to match my peach dress and I got through the prom successfully everybody thought that I meant to wear that and I didn't step in my close friends. They know they knew that my hair was something that happened. So I promised myself when I go to grad night the next month and I have got to hear my hair, right? And I knew you were the only one who could do that because Laverne was turning out in Santa Monica. Everybody was gorgeous. Well, I still have the picture of one of the South as rested with the the color own color. I still have your pictures that from me and you did it so beautifully, but this is what I want to ask you.
23:23 You know you and I later on as I after I got my license and we end up working together, but prior to that you own the beauty salon on 18th and Broadway at the Phila Macy and charity club building. Tell me a little bit about that real quick though the beauty salon in Boaz Al shabaab. I remember Laverne prior to that. That was where you got that beautiful hairstyle was Laverne's unique beauty. I'll never forget it and prior Ave following that I open after working there for 16 years. I moved to a Ralph's mix the Flamingo and he eventually sold that salon to me and I open it up as Laverne's in Vogue beauty salon, and wow.
24:23 Your it just spent up from there at that was where I got my master cosmetology license and I was able to two people were able to get their license to the beauty salon because I became a master cosmetologist and
24:44 I just had a lot of experiences there on 18th and Broadway next to the barbershop and I pulled out I retired from that after a total total of 64 years in the hair industry 64 years in the hair industry. And just when we had a lot of fun, we had working with Leonard Leonard's barber shop next door and Leonard on the beauty shop as well. We had a lot of fun there Christmas exchanging gifts and Vernon of being one of them people and and the Ralph as you say Ralph came in close close close to Killeen Killeen Killeen. I work with choline clotile Willie Willie Clark all of those in the
25:44 All the beauty salon, but colon you and I worked at the at the other dates arrive all the lights all the way up on Pico and 9th. The the little modern net was on 20th Street next to Jack the Barber and then the one that we're Claudia Claudia. That was the house of Troy. Okay. Yeah. That was my mom work there. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that was good old days really the good on a community where we
26:21 Did not really look to any of the say that the establishment we did our thing with black businesses and we just became an incomplete family. Absolutely everybody knew everybody and every as I remember my mom she wouldn't she said I remember your friend do my hair and so she always with Lady to Claudia or someone else do my hair because she said I didn't act right in her chair.
26:51 So anyway, but I want to ask you during that time. Do you remember do you remember during that time? Do you remember other businesses that you mention the Bel Mar you had your friends there? Were there other businesses in that area? Yes. There were one that was called. That was the cleaners that everybody took their clothes their own Olympic and then there was Estelle.
27:24 But let me just think of it there was one something that was called the pool hall. The pool hall was there on the corner of 20th and Olympic everybody went there. It was a dance called a pool hall restaurant. And then of course there were other restaurants across the street that was in that area. I do pain down on by The Beach area. Do you remember any businesses and that is
27:54 I know they had a club down there right there. Bonita. Yes. Yes, they have the club there, but I'm try that were many many business in the Belmont area my relatives who did eventually moved to Las Vegas their their home and one of the aunts had a a business. It was near the city city hall name of this street. But it okay Main Street was mainstay. I think it was the main street that was for her aunt on the business and there's her and of course, you know, the Tucker Tucker. The real estate that was later. There was a right up the street from Belmont Belmar Belmar Dr. My pediatrician My Den light.
28:54 He owned by Glee across from the Civic Auditorium on Belmont as we know the church, which was CME pillion Chapel. Yes.
29:09 I'm trying to think of a good barbecue shop that was there for years and years and years cuz I didn't know they had already been displaced when I moved here. I thought I had been this place. I was they were already this place when I moved here and then just as they got settled in their home, then the freeway set down in the middle of the next development for African American people. That's how I was going to ask you. Do you remember when the freeway came through run it over places. Do I remember it and 19 + 58 they were more things down and they will cutting streets down right by the house where my mom the house is still there, but a shaved a right on the side of the house that that they lived at my mom lived in cuz I got I didn't get hadn't gotten married then cuz that was in 58 I didn't get married until 6.
30:09 He won but that freeway people were Seventeen hundred people 1700 families and majority of the African American people just as they got settled out in their homes in their apartment when they got settled down from Belmont and found a place out and what they called in the peacock order it became the Pico neighborhood later for the one that I work for the Pico neighborhood associations, but that neighborhood they uprooted them again, and apparently they didn't have neighborhood community meetings and workshops because of black said they did not know anyting about it. They looked around and there it was that they were being moved out to West LA and moved to Venice. I move to Compton I move to watts
31:04 In that area there was no neighbors. We had no neighbors you look around we made that a baseball field the middle of where they wear redeveloping the Redevelopment the area for 10 Freeway. Well, it was right next to my mom's house. So we would clean it off and just play there until they finally pulled those things down for it to be the complete 10 Freeway to talk about two more things real quick. Nothing mean to cut you off, but I want to make sure I get this in I understand that you are Miss Juneteenth. Oh and I want to just know refli. I want to know that I want to know. How did you become Miss Juneteenth? I know a little bit cuz I know I worked with you on one of the major Juneteenth several of them. But the first one when we had the parade that was so exciting for me and then I want to ask you about it, but I do and I don't mean to cut you off.
32:04 But when you miss when you mentioned the parade that was a little different that was the Pico neighborhood associations the parade when all the way down Michigan and turned on 17th and with all the way out. I'll look it up the hill. Yes into the Virginia. Okay, just address of the Pico neighborhood is Juneteenth. We brought that I brought and my mom brought it from Texas. I never knew when there would not Juneteenth at the Comanche Crossing that was for a 25,000 people would meet for the week for that whole week the 19th of June. We never call David Juneteenth it eventually evolved in the fifties at Juneteenth. It was always like the Fourth of July. It was always a 19th of June. That was what I was
33:04 9th of June. I kept wondering why wouldn't when dr. King's the holiday came in are in 19 and 50 and 86 for dr. King and we were working to try to get it in Santa Monica as it as we do here. I come to find out wait a minute.
33:28 This is Ron. I I thought it was being run by Christian and Jews and I was a little annoyed by that. I said Doctor K. We don't have anything that ever get American people spearhead in Santa Monica except for the gym gym and maybe the n-double-acp. Why can't we spearhead something? But at that time the Christian and Jews and applies with the nrdc they were working together, right? But when I saw it pretty much
34:01 Predominantly the Christian of the Jews there's yours. And I said what why can't somebody started something like Juneteenth and I said, wait a minute you grew up with it as a child. Why can't you start it? So that was when I contacted the n-double-acp no, no. No, I contacted the city of Santa Monica add at that time. It was not she was not the city manager and she had not become. Yes. She had become the assistant city manager. I went to her and I asked if she knew giunti about une Jeune take pictures, of course, I would like to create one in Santa Monica and I need three things. I need a nonprofit. I need the people. I feel that I have them that since I have been over the entire Pico neighborhood for housing. I think I have the people, but I need money.
35:01 Had need money and I said and I'm coming here to you to see if you could assist with putting on the first Festival if you will, but it was going to be the first picnic. She said Laverne you have saved our life I said, how does that how is that? She said the state of the federal? I'm not sure if it was a sterile. I believe it was government said they will if there's money that comes into the City and it cannot be issued it cannot be allocated unless they have something culturally.
35:42 A picture or culturally designed for cultures and you we don't always know what ever get American the wall but you have saved Our Lives aren't perfect and I said but I don't want to give it up to the city of Santa Monica want to give it to the end in double ACP or the National Council of negro women and the rest is history. They when I took it to the NAACP and a a PCP said some of their board member said well, I don't know what Juneteenth have Texas holiday have to do with it with California. I got to go to work tomorrow. That was one of our main people now I got to go to work tomorrow if y'all can do what you want to do, but we don't I don't know how we could do that. We put it on and it was perfect. And then after that they wanted to own the whole thing, but that's okay because you still missed you.
36:42 We love that celebration every year not just want to ask you. What do you think about this? New Belmont project? Isn't this a dream it is this history documentary because we have Rich history about the African American people in this will have you are part of so they have this Belmont art and history project it is it is time for a little less late is late, but it's better late than never and as I said at one of the breakfast they did not intend to exclude but they forgot to include because the history was here and whatever happen if it's gone. Now most of that is gone but a few of us was still here like yourself and I we're here to still give some of the history and they are all right and different Pockets that we can continue to bring cuz I love the idea of this multi-purpose are feeling coming in.
37:42 I am just truly I am just elated that is wonderful. And I'm elated to LaVergne. I think it's a great opportunity for us to tell our story that I thank you so much for telling your story today. And I personally know because I'm a friend of yours and a cold hurt in the p&i. Thanks for sharing as I would I am just delighted to have given it is plenty more to go. I know that I did just wanted to do my part you did. Thank you so much. You're well. I'm glad to be here with you. It's an honor. All right.