Pearlie and Lawrence Hall owned the East Side Cleaners for a number of years. Courtesy photo
2/23/2003 Halls gave back to city: Dry cleaners were active residents
By KEN HALL/Special to the Daily Sun
The history of African-American entrepreneurs in Corsicana is rich with many anecdotal stories of the times they experienced. Doctors, shopkeepers, barbers, funeral directors and others provided much needed services to the community during a time when segregation was still prevalent in Texas. Of all of these none seemed as important as dry cleaners, for the need to look sharp was a must.
After serving in World War II, Lawrence Hall obtained a job with the former Leonard Brothers Cleaners in downtown Corsicana. Meeting a fellow worker, Vernett Lovett, they talked about going into business together. Roughly around 1951 Hall and Lovett left Leonard's and purchased East Side Cleaners on East Fifth Avenue from Harlan Powell, who had decided to leave the business. Powell became a respected educator for many years after, primarily at G.W. Jackson High.
The business did well and in 1955 Lovett opted to leave and pursue his own ventures with his family in Dallas. Lawrence bought his share and continued with his wife, Pearlie. Along with basic clothes cleaning and pressing, alterations were also provided by them.
The Halls were Corsicana natives, both graduates of G.W. Jackson. After a long courtship they married March 7,1946, and welcomed their son, Kenneth, into the family a few years later. Active in the community, particularly at Second Mission Baptist Church, Lawrence served on the deacon board, senior choir and was superintendent of the Sunday school for over 30 years as well as a Sunday school teacher. His civic works included adjutant of the Coleman-Lofton American Legion Post, Jackson Ex-Students Association and the board of directors of the East Side Community Center (now MLK Center).
Pearlie, too, was active at Second Mission, participating on the deaconess board and Abyssinian Auxiliary. She held the position of church clerk for 46 years. Pearlie was no stranger to civic duties either, participating with the United Way, the Navarro County Action Committee, the Navarro County Committee on Aging, Corsicana Band Parents, Jackson Ex-Students Association, election judge for Precinct 201 and a member of PTAs at
Jackson, Lincoln (now Carroll), Drane and Corsicana High. She had the distinction of serving as president of the City Council PTA for two one-year terms.
While the cleaners did well for a number of years trade eventually declined. The decision was made to close the cleaners in 1968 and Pearlie went to work at High School Cleaners, then owned by T. E. "Dink" Irvin. Later that year Lawrence sold the shop and joined his wife there. On a side note, the new owners of East Side Cleaners ceased operations not long afterward.
Lawrence worked steadily at High School Cleaners until he retired in 1985. He passed away Feb. 7, 1989. Pearlie continued to work, leaving High School after a time and moving to Curington Cleaners, finally retiring in 1997 but continuing to do volunteer work. She joined Lawrence on July 25, 2002, at rest from her labors. They were married 42 years. As of this writing Vernett Lovett still resides in Dallas.
The strength of any community has always come from the willingness of its residents to become involved and give something back. Those who were touched by the Halls treasure their memory and know the works left behind speak for themselves.
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