The women's restroom had been a fixture in the basement of the Berkeley County courthouse in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia for as long as anyone could remember, and so had the women who tended it.
But, cramped for space to store court records, the county commissioners had decided to close the facility July 1 and fire the mother-daughter team of restroom matrons.
Eighty-five-year-old Velma Stout and her 66-year-old daughter, Lena Butts, weren't the only ones who were upset over the imminent closing of the facility they had complemented with easy chairs, pictures and lamps. In April, 193 regular users signed their names on a large piece of cardboard, which was then given to the three county commissioners.
The other week, impressed by the outpouring of public support, the commissioners reversed their March decision and decided to keep the restroom open and the women employed. They found $10,000 in the budget to pay the women and came up with additional storage space in the cramped courthouse basement in Martinsburg.
"The ladies were delighted, mainly for the public," said Jan Sutherland, administrative secretary to the commissioners. "Some of the elderly ladies come downtown to shop, rest there for an hour or two, then continue shopping."
On behalf of herself and her mother, Butts said, "We're very happy, both of us . . . . We were kind of surprised they were going to close it. A lot of ladies come here every day . . . . One woman this morning said, 'My gracious, I'm glad they kept it open.' She was in a real hurry to get in here."