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Word & Image: Dee Schaefer, 70, Retired College Professor 

"One day I saw a student demonstrator challenge a lady who was wearing a long mink coat. I decided then that I could no longer wear my coat so I gave it away. With it, went some of my memories of Richmond."

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Scott Elmquist

A resident of Minneapolis, Schaefer visited Richmond in June to participate in the Road Scholar program at Virginia Commonwealth University. The visit, her first in 47 years, sparked memories of a summer nearly five decades ago.

"In 1969 I was teaching French at St. Catherine College, a private woman’s college in St. Paul, Minnesota. I had the summer free and a colleague had heard of an invitation for teachers in the North to come to teach at Southern colleges. So I volunteered for a position at Virginia Union University. I drove to Richmond in my 1969 jade green Ford Mustang.

"On campus, I lived in a dormitory that wasn’t air-conditioned. I ate in the cafeteria where I had my first collard greens. I felt that I was unique since I was the only white woman on the faculty and in the dorm. My students were protective of me and wanted to know everything about “Mademoiselle.” It was a wonderful experience.

"Once a week, on my day off, I’d drive downtown to Miller & Rhoads department store and order a salad at the Tea Room on the fifth floor. I would then go to the salon and have my hair done. Afterwards, I would stroll around the store. One day I spotted a muskrat coat with a soft brown leather belt. It was absurd because of the how hot it was that summer. The store clerk was very gracious and let me try it on. It fit. But I didn’t have enough money. “We’ll open an account for you,” she said. So I left Richmond without it. At the end of the summer the coat arrived in a Miller & Rhoads box, carefully wrapped. I wore it for many years and then had it restyled from a long coat into a short jacket.

"One day I saw a student demonstrator challenge a lady who was wearing a long mink coat. I decided then that I could no longer wear my coat so I gave it away. With it, went some of my memories of Richmond."

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