Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Then Anderson learned that Lane's Tavern, a late-Forties time capsule that, unlike Gil and Ethel's, actually stood on West Colfax, was about to be demolished. When the building proved too rotten to move, she had architects prepare detailed drawings so that a complete replica could be created. She snapped up the metal skin of a Thornton gas station. She's still angling for a church, a firehouse and a motel.

"And we'd love to have Davey's Chuckwagon Diner," she adds, "but we never will--it's doing too well as a restaurant. You never move a building unless it's about to be destroyed."

Five years and $3 million from now, they hope, the Colfax Hub will exemplify what constituted a community gathering place during the fleeting period after the general store and before malls. "That's what's so interesting about the twentieth century," Ellerman says. "There's such a major change in what you see on Main Street."

"Coffee shops, for instance," adds Anderson. "And the changes in those, going from a time when sandwiches were good and the coffee was known for being bad, until now, when the coffee everywhere is good but you can't find a decent sandwich. Beauty shops, in the modern sense, outside a woman's home, didn't even exist until the 1930s and didn't become popular until after World War II. Bars could be community gathering places. And cars...well, there was an exciting moment in time when suddenly any Joe could own one. Hey, what if we put the bar next to the church?"

"No, no--remember? We put the church near the one-room schoolhouse so people can get married and then go have their reception at the school," Ellerman replies. "We've gotten some negative comments about representing Lane's as history. It was getting to be a raunchy bar by the time it closed. But there was also a time when it was almost a family place."

"Yeah, and so what," Anderson says. "History is not all nostalgia. If you wanna go to Disney World, okay, but we'll have our dark parts."

Some of the darkest parts of Lane's Tavern --the bar back thick with grease, the booths carved with crude Eighties graffiti--currently rest in the attic of the center's collection/conservation building, waiting for the Colfax Hub to come to life. They're crammed in next to molded plastic chairs from the Sixties, ancient variety-store display racks, a complete set of Popsicle-stick religious art done by a tuberculosis sanatorium patient in the late Forties, a Swanson's TV-dinner box--"representing the amazing changeover, when TVs became prevalent and freezers became big enough to hold this box," Anderson says--as well as cartons and cartons of paper, and drawers and drawers full of hats and shoes and walking sticks and buttons.

"We got a federal grant to preserve all this stuff," Anderson says, "and I am so proud of it, I even show it off to the firemen when they come to do their safety check. Look at this," she says, opening a six-foot-tall cabinet full of 900 milk bottles. "And this"--a Jayne Mansfield-shaped water bottle--"for the man who has everything. I can't wait to fit that into an exhibit. What could be more twentieth-century?"

By the time the very big beehive is complete, two hours have passed, and Ethel has been able to illustrate her favorite point about the difference between 1961--when she and Gil opened for business--and now.

"Back then," she says, "customers were our friends. I had wanted to be a secretary so badly, but I'm not sorry it never happened, because here I met everyone in the world and I got to know everything. Now, with Great Clips and Supercuts, your little butt is in and out of that chair in fifteen minutes or your boss wants to know why."

At Ethel's, your little butt is in that chair as long as she wants it there, through interruptions from five generations of the Gomez family, longtime customers--the only kind she has--who come to shoot the breeze, and lunch. Everyone who comes to Ethel's knows to take a seat and make herself comfortable, since hairdos never happen fast around here and there's going to be plenty of juicy conversation in the interim with a lot of detail. A baby crawls across the linoleum. A stooped woman with white hair discusses the strange weather. Ethel, sucking on a lollipop, answering the phone, limping around in a foot cast because of a fall she took--and her landlord will hear about it--covers the big topics: Romance, Marriage, Kids These Days, and The French Twist: Is It Back? Is her own hair long enough?

Ethel believes in talk.
"It's something Gil and I shared," she says. "We took turns. It would be my turn, and I would vent about every exasperating thing that happened to me, and strangely enough, he would listen."

Although Gil and Ethel's had two front doors--one for women and one for men--and a wall separated them while they worked, Gil and Ethel usually ate lunch together, discussing every nuance of their many clients and three children. Through three decades, there was a certain dependable rhythm to it all--and then, Ethel remembers, there was change. And not just the big incidents, either, such as the building being scheduled for demolition, or Gil's death, at 64, from a heart attack.

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