Mrs. Doris Hill, affectionately known as Mrs. Avalon, turns 100. She and her husband Ezra Hill were the owners of Avalon Shoe Store— a black-owned family store formerly located at Old Town Mall. They served the community for more than 50 years.
“It was one of the first stores to give Black people credit,” said Nia Redmond of the East Baltimore Historical Library. “It was the Black people’s credit card in my mind.”
Avalon Shoe Store operated on the premise that their customers deserved the very best, although they could not always afford it.
“We came up with credit so that you could have the very best that you could afford and pay weekly or monthly. It paid off, and it helped me raise my family and helped others have charge accounts and pay what they could, ” said Mrs. Hill.
She tells the story of how teachers pitched in to buy her shoes so she could attend school as a child.
“I never thought then that here I am shoeless, and one day I would own a shoe store,” said Mrs. Hill. “I remembered what my teachers did for me.”
In the past, Mrs. Hill was the recipient of the Afro American Newspaper’s Unsung Heroine Award. She shared, with a humble smile, “they said it was impossible to count the number of pairs of shoes Mrs. Hill has given to the community.”
Today she is grateful that she has lived long enough to experience complete happiness. “All my life, all I have ever wanted was to be me, to learn me. I am happy I know that now. For the first time in my life, I am doing what I want to do and how I want to do it.”
To those who want to learn the secrets of living a long life, she says: “Take care of yourself because age is not important. The mind— your thoughts, are more important. For me, everything must be positive. God hears everything we say, so we have to speak the truth.”
Mrs. Hill cautions us not to stress and, as the adage goes, “not to sweat the small stuff.”
“My husband and I never had an argument. I don’t argue,” she said. “I give you my point of view, and that’s the end of it. I never tell anyone what they should do. Instead, I say what I would do. For example, if it were me, I would do such and such. Then I tell them to pray about it and do whatever they think is right.”
To those who have considered elders invisible, have underestimated them, or have counted them out, she confidently says, “I am a senior, but I am not senile. Trust what I say. I can still walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Happy Birthday Mrs. Doris Hill!