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Thelma Lawyer

Oral History interview with Thelma Lawyer

May 2012

Thelma LawyerThelma was in charge of setting the table for all meals, tea tables and breakfast trays.  She decorated tables and trays with flower arrangements she created, helped with the serving, and was responsible for all activities taking place in her domain, the butler’s pantry.

Cathie Campbell interviewer

An Oral History interview with Thelma Lawyer revealed a tall, slim, soft-spoken, humorous, dedicated employee of Pansy and Parker Poe at Pebble Hill.  After Pansy’s death in 1978, Thelma was asked by Parker Poe to go with him to Mayhaw, his residence after Pebble Hill transitioned into a Museum open to the public in 1983. 

Thelma remembers meeting Pansy.  “I liked her when I first met her,” Thelma’s eyes twinkled, “and I think she really liked me, too.”  Thelma lived in a second floor room at the Waldorf, a building at PHP where meals were served and lodging was available.  “I would run up the hill every morning at 7am to squeeze fresh orange juice for the breakfast table,” she reminisced.  Thelma attended to breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and brought breakfast trays to family and guests.  “Every day there was tea at 5 pm, sometimes in the Morning Room, out on the porch, or in the Drawing Room or Big Room. 

Thelma remembers the china used for various occasions and could point out exactly what was preferred by Pansy and Parker for serving meals and tea.  “I loved my work here,” said Thelma, age 87, as she saw Pebble Hill again in May of 2012.  Asked about the GE refrigerator in the Butler’s pantry that was never plugged in and only used through the years for dry storage, Thelma replied, “That’s right.”  Fresh flowers were arranged by Thelma for the tables and trays.  “I never was as good as Alice (Massey)”, Thelma modestly shared, “but I made my tables look good.”

Thelma’s eyes moistened as she visited every room and remembered an enjoyable time working for “Miss Pansy”. “She would always introduce me to her guests, ‘This is Thelma’.” Thelma not only worked at Pebble Hill in Thomasville, she also traveled to Shawnee Farms in Kentucky and to Maine in the summers with Pansy. “Those of us who went traveled by car. My children remained home with my mom.”

Thelma and close friend Betty Metcalf, whose husband, Jerry Metcalf, also worked at PHP and at Mayhaw, toured the Main House and even the linen room where Thelma saw the beautiful table cloths and napkins she had used on her tables and trays. “I really enjoyed my work,” she said again.  Thelma was truly a trusted employee reliving the long relationship of loyal service, friendship, and mutual respect.

Thelma and companyBetty Metcalf, Thelma's long-time friend, brought Thelma to Pebble Hill for an afternoon of reminiscing. Pictured left they are pointing out Thelma's handwriting in the menu book to Museum Manager, Barbara Cohenour.

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