By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
In June, the staff at the Richmond Register celebrated the career of Mayme Foland, who served in the classified department during the majority of her 28 years at the newspaper.
There to celebrate were family and friends, including her husband, John, who was working at the Register in 1978 when his duties as an advertising representative sparked a romance that would span 33 years (and counting).
Although she had originally planned to retire this month, doctors found tumors in Mayme’s lung and bronchial tube in May. One of the tumors was cancerous and inoperable.
A series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments expedited her retirement to June when the side effects became too exhausting, she said.
After six weeks of treatment, the cancerous tumor in Mayme’s lung has shrunk, and she’s doing a lot better, she said. She’s scheduled to check in with her team of doctors soon, however, to find out where they go from here.
John retired in May to be by her side. He’s always been there, said Mayme, ever since that autumn day in 1978 at the old Behr’s Dress Shop.
How it all began
In the fall of 1978, John was hired as an advertising representative just months after the newspaper moved from its downtown office to its current spot on Big Hill Avenue.
Around six week into the job, John was asked to handle accounts for his colleague Susan Kidd, who was taking a short-term medical leave.
“She (Susan) left a very detailed list,” he said. “And on Tuesdays, I was to call Behr’s and ask for Mayme.”
“It was the hottest dress shop in town,” Mayme said of Behr’s Dress Shop, then located in Shopper’s Village off the Eastern Bypass. At the time, JCPenney and other clothing stores were still downtown, she said, and Behr’s was more convenient for shoppers.
John had been in the shop several times, Mayme recalled, and they always missed each other.
“But one day, I looked up and he was standing at the register, and he had this gray cowboy hat on — so I didn’t know if he had hair or not,” she said.
“Western wear was in at the time,” John interjected.
Although they were both 27 at the time, Mayme said when she saw John’s hair, it was gray, and she just assumed he was “married with four kids.”
“It wasn’t gray,” John interrupted.
“Well, okay, it was peppered,” Mayme conceded before continuing her story.
Mayme quickly got the scoop on John from a co-worker who knew him, and she learned that he was single. But having just gotten out of a bad relationship, Mayme wasn’t ready to pursue another man, and plus back then, “you just didn’t ask a man out. I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words,” she said.
During the weeks following their first meeting, Mayme and John had a few chance encounters.
In addition to his job at the Register, John worked one night a week at Convenient Food Mart, just down from Behr’s off the bypass.
Mayme happened to drop in there on a night John was working, “and I had no idea he worked there,” she said.
As a single mom, Mayme would take her 6-year-old daughter Amy to Colonial Inn (Waffle House is there now), which regularly prepared homestyle meals. But little did she know, John liked to eat there several times a week as well, and he walked in one night while she was dining.
“I think he had his cowboy hat on,” Mayme said. “My friend told me he was coming through the door and I was tore all to pieces.”
Around Christmastime, Kidd returned to work and stopped in at Behr’s.
“Did you miss me?” she asked Mayme.
“Well, not really, I kind of like John,” a lovestruck Mayme replied.
“I’m going to go tell him,” Kidd declared.
But instead of just telling him about Mayme, she tricked him into believing he was in trouble, John said.
The late Harry Johnson, then the newspaper’s advertising director, called John into his office one day and said, “We need to talk. We have a problem.”
Johnson went on to explain how advertising reps do not steal other reps’ accounts, John recalled. This went on for several minutes.
“I thought I was fired. I thought I was in big trouble,” he said.
Johnson finally broke down and told him, “The lady at Behr’s has a thing for you.”
Kidd continued to pick up advertising from Behr’s, where she encouraged Mayme to ask John on a date, “but I chickened out,” Mayme said.
John also had visited Behr’s a few times to ask her out, but could never catch her at work. So finally, John called her during the day and got her on the phone.
“And I told him ‘no,’” Mayme said. “But will you take a rain check?”
It was weeks before they would meet up for their first date at Taco Tico.
When asked why she made him wait so long, Mayme said, “Well, you have to play hard to get.”
On their next date, Amy came along with them to the movies and over the next year, the two began seeing each other on a regular basis. But no one at the Register had met Mayme, so for the first part of their relationship, people referred to her as “The Phantom Lady,” John said.
It wasn’t until an office Derby party when Mayme met John’s co-workers. The couple forged friendships with members of the staff and after a short stint working in Eastern Kentucky University’s public safety office, Mayme was hired at the Register to work in classifieds part time.
On June 14, 1980, Mayme and John married at EKU’s meditation chapel and at that time, the reservation along with a cake and snacks provided by the university cost the couple only $50.
Most of the wedding guests were members of their “Richmond Register family,” they said.
In 1982, Mayme gave birth to their son Jonathan and in 1985, she was hired full time at the Register.
During her years at the paper, she was an administrative assistant to the publisher, worked in composing,and eventually ended up in the classifieds department, where she remained until her retirement in June.
John worked at the paper until 1987, when he moved on to a job at a local manufacturing plant. He said his most memorable moment at the newspaper was “getting to see Mayme every day.”
Mayme said during her years at the paper, she met a lot of people, many of them just “over the phone.”
“The job had its challenging moments,” she said, but she was grateful for all of the folk she worked with and met during her time at the paper.
Pam Bowlin, the person hired to take Mayme’s place, said people are still calling the office and asking about her.
“I got a compliment the other day by someone who told me, ‘Well, you’re almost as good as Mayme,’” said Bowlin with a laugh. “She is definitely on the hearts and minds of a lot of people.”
In total, at least one member of the Foland family worked at the Register over the past 35 years.
“The Register is a family unit,” said Mayme. “Even those who don’t work here anymore, they’re like friends and family, even now.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.