Sha-na-na! It’s Lola Allan! If you’ve had the pleasure of being served by Lola at Poor Calvin’s, you know she’s coined this phrase. “Sha-na-na” is her way of starting a sentence. Also ending a sentence. Explaining a behavior. Saying “surprise!” …Or using any other sort of exclamation. As surprising as it may seem, this flamboyant personality is also studying to get her Associate’s degree in “Science of Funeral Services,” attending mortuary school.
Mortuary school… how did you become interested in that?
I love people. When my grandfather died, he looked so natural, like I could hop in the casket with him. I find embalming wonderful, because it gives everyone one last chance to look at the body before it is buried. I just want to be there for people when they pass.
This is a male-dominated field. How are you breaking the mold?
I’m trying to break that stereotype. This field has been discriminatory against women because we are more nurturing, but I think you need that. You don’t always need stone-cold embalmers without feelings. Sometimes you need to show emotion- I won’t break down on the job, but a tear could come down.
Does it bother you to see bodies?
Nothing really bothers me, the only thing that does is taking clothes home with me after working- like my shoes and hairnet and gloves.
Not even when someone is fresh coming into the morgue?
It can smell rancid when we have to aspirate a person (release the air) to reduce the swelling, but it doesn’t make me nauseous. During my apprenticeship, the mortician did it so quick that I smelled it, and it took me by surprise- I actually took a step back.
At 41 years old, why now?
This was my second chance. Right out of high school I started mortuary school, but I worked three jobs and dated a football player, so with full-time school I had too much on my plate. I quit. Now 20 years later, here I am doing it again.
You’ve been working at Poor Calvin’s for almost one year. What appeals you about serving while you finish your apprenticeship?
Even though I’m a waitress I know the ins and outs of the front of house. I was a bar manager and worked at the Georgia Dome. It’s nothing for me to go up to people and talk to them. Surprisingly I was very quiet as a girl, but then one day, once I got on stage it broke me out.
What performing did you do?
I was a showcase dancer. Back in the 90’s I did exotic and gogo dancing in Ohio. It supported me through college.
Once you finish your apprenticeship, what part of funeral services do you want to pursue?
I would like to go to the scene of the crime and pick up the body to take to the funeral home. I see myself going out to California to start acting again, and then maybe I can open my own funeral home.
How has this made you feel about how you want your body to be handled when you pass?
Before studying, I wanted to be buried, but now I want to be cremated. And I want it to be a celebration when my time comes. There will be lots of dancing and sha-na-na!