Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Beauty Parlor, The Footstool, and Vahan Topalian

Bzdigu hon gurna nsdil.  Marash Girl swivelled in her chair.  Sitting in the station two chairs over from Marash Girl was a girl no older than 6 having her shoulder length hair trimmed.  Marash Girl wondered if it was the little one's very first haircut.  Marash Girl still remembers her very first "professional" haircut.  Her mother (Jennie) had taken little Marash Girl to the "beauty parlor" on Bowers Street right next door to the electrical shop, Newtonville Electric, run by Dad Peter and Uncle Paul in Uncle Vartan's  (Rev. Vartan Bilezikian) 19th century brick building (he lived in the  upstairs apartment) right across the street from the H.H.Richardson designed Newtonville train station.  Little Marash Girl was excited to have her hair professionally cut in a "beauty parlor" (that's what they called those places in those days); and well she should have been as she never stepped into another one until she was 20 years old and her friend gave her a birthday gift:  a haircut at a "beauty parlor" (by then, known as a hair salon) on Newbury Street in Boston.  [That certainly changed things up, as it were, for in those days, the girls were all wearing their hair long.]

Marash Girl still remembers the blonde furniture that was tastefully arranged throughout the first "beauty parlor" she ever entered.    She remembers that furniture because, when the shop closed, her mother purchased some of the furniture to use in their newly built sunroom at 474 Lowell Avenue in Newtonville.  One of those pieces lives on today in Marash Girl's own living room.  And why is that?

In the early 1960's, Boston's urban renewal demolished many of the antique brick houses on Beacon Hill in order to clear the way for what is today's Government Center.  Vahan Topalian, (1886-1983), well known Armenian intellectual and collector, and Marash Girl's very close family friend (he came for supper every Saturday night) was forced to leave his town house / library / museum (Armenian Cultural Foundation) on Beacon Hill (18 Somerset Street) and put all of his precious life long collection of antique books, antique lamps, antique oriental rugs, antique oriental pillows, antique furniture . . . in storage!  Topalian asked his good friend (Marash Girl's father) Peter if he could use the attic at 474/476 to store his things, or at least as much as would fit --  of course, Peter acceded.  Marash Girl still remembers admiring the beautiful antiques that were then stored in that attic, among them a very special oriental pillow, a pillow that tugged at her heart every time she went up to the third floor. She asked Mr. Topalian if he would gift her that pillow, the pillow in flat woven, geometric patterns of oranges and reds, but he refused. (It must have been more valuable than Marash Girl, in her innocence, had guessed).  In its place, Mr. Topalian offered her an antique pillow in blues and pinks, not quite what young Marash Girl had hoped for, but a pillow that to this day sits in Marash Girl's living room atop, yes, the footstool from the hair salon on Bowers Street, the blonde wooden footstool, emptied of its original cushion, spray painted flat black (the style of the 1960's),  re-invented as the base for the beautiful antique pillow that Mr. Vahan Topalian gifted Marash Girl on that day so long ago.

1 comment:

  1. I must take another look at that foot stool and pillow!