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  • Linda Ruminer

Lawler Millinery Shop

Tulare's women flocked to the famous and stylish millinery shops owned and operated by Mrs. Olive Lawler (Oli). Her first shop was in the original Leggett's Dry Goods Store, located on the north side of the 100 block of East Tulare Ave. The building was razed in 1975 to make way for the construction of Tower Square.

When the First National Bank of Tulare first opened for business in its handsome new domed building at the northwest corner of Kern and K Street in the early 1900s, Mrs. Lawler moved her millinery shop to the north end of that structure.

Olive Lawler and her husband, James, shared experience unique to Tulare and probably elsewhere, especially in those early days. They were married by telephone. Mr. Lawler was Tulare agent for the Sunset Telephone Company when he and his bride-to-be, Olive Ray, set their wedding date for July 19, 1896. But, their minister, Reverend B.H. Bateman of the Christian Church was in Santa Cruz, attending a church convention. That didn't stop them.

Along with friends, James and Olive gathered in the Tulare telephone office, while Pastor Bateman went to the telephone office in Santa Cruz. The minister read the marriage vows from Santa Cruz while they said their "I Do's" in Tulare. The wedding attracted statewide attention and was the subject of almost a full-page article in a Sunday edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

Mrs. Lawler was the mother of Doris Rogers, wife of Dr. Sherman Rogers, and grandmother of the late Tulare attorney Sherman Rogers Jr. James Lawler died in 1915, Olive, in 1957. She lived in Tulare as a widow for 42 years.

Until about 1950, no self-respecting woman would attend church, a wedding, or a funeral without a hat and gloves. She decorated her hats with feathers, plumes, buttons, bows, shells, artificial flowers, and stuffed birds.

An exhibit of her millinery shop can be seen at the Tulare Historical Museum featuring several of her unique hats.

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