Melba Mebane bided her time as she worked as a journeywoman employee inside the Tyler department store now known as Dillard’s.
Job openings were rare at the time, so Ms. Mebane settled for filling in for vacationing employees, but she got a chance to work in just about every department in the meantime.
Finally, a full-time position opened in the fragrance department, and she grabbed it.
That was more than a half century ago — and she has been there ever since.
Today marks Ms. Mebane’s 81stbirthday, and she has worked for Dillard’s for a total of 50 years, only taking off time to raise a child.
Born and raised in Tyler, she attended school in Chapel Hill and then at John Tyler High School because schools in her home town only went up to 10th grade at the time.
Her father worked at the railroad, while her mother stayed at home. She has a sister who still works as a Dillard’s model.
While attending John Tyler, she started work in 1951 for what was known as Mayer & Schmidt in downtown Tyler. It was common at the time for high schoolers to spend half the school day on campus and the other half at a job, for which they received class credit.
She started at Mayer & Schmidt as an elevator operator.
“It was only two floors,” Ms. Mebane said with a laugh. “Anybody can do that.”
She worked throughout the store before finally landing in fragrance.
“It was such a good store, nobody left,” she said. “It was hard to get a job there. Everybody wanted to work there.
“I had to work everybody’s vacation before I could land a spot. I worked everybody’s spot. I’d just stay there a week. But it was interesting.”
Dillard’s took over Mayer & Schmidt and moved the store south to the spot on Broadway Avenue where it remains today, as has Ms. Mebane.
“And I intend to still be there unless something happens to me,” she said.
She works eight hours a day, five days a week.
“I just love it,” she said. “Every time a new smell comes in, I go for that one. I just like to work, and I like people. That’s my lifestyle. Sometimes I think something is wrong with me because I like to work.”
Ms. Mebane is single and has one son. In her spare time, she enjoys attending First Baptist Church and going to her grandchildren’s sporting events in Bullard.
“I go to every football game they ever play in Bullard,” she said.
She doesn’t do Facebook or any other form of social media.
“I don’t have a computer,” Ms. Mebane said. “I can’t even do that. Any of that fine, fancy stuff, I do not do.
“I just get in my car and get going, wherever I need to go. I run around with my friends. I stay busy.
“I just try to stay healthy.”
Most subjects for this column come from business cards randomly pulled from a briefcase. Send cards to Managing Editor Brian Pearson at 410 W. Erwin St., Tyler, Texas, 75702, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.