Hair today, gone tomorrow?
by Barbara Morison, Becketwood Member
My hair was always a challenge. When I was a little girl, it was stick straight and dark brown. I wore it in a bob with bangs straight across my forehead. My brothers used to tease me by calling it my “Geronimo” hairstyle.
When I was twelve, Mother took me to Ella Rustad’s Beauty Shop. The shop was located on the basement level of an apartment building at 43rd and Nicollet in Minneapolis. This was to be the site of my first permanent wave. The permanent wave machine looked like something from outer space. It had hideous long metal arms with terrifying wires and heavy clamps at the ends. After that torturous experience, I emerged with a head full of frizz – more teasing from my brothers.
Teenage years brought hair angst and obsession. Every night before going to bed my girlfriends and I felt compelled to set our hair in pincurls fastened by a crisscross of bobby pins. We eventually got used to sleeping on pincurls, despite our sore scalps. The soft curl was definitely worth the pain – the price of beauty.
When the cold wave and Tony Home Permanent came on the market, we were elated. However, the ammonia fumes were noxious and required many deep breaths at an open window. And, it took most of a day to administer the permanent, carefully parting the hair into thin segments to be wrapped in slippery tissue paper and rolled on small plastic curlers that fastened with rubber bands. Although a permanent wasn’t exactly permanent, it did last several months.
During the 1940s it was decided that women needed a little lift. That’s when lightweight metal rollers came on the market, followed by their plastic counterpart. Both styles featured a cover that snapped over the roller and were completely miserable to sleep on.
In the 1950s someone came up with the brilliant idea of Spoolies. Remember those? They were pink rubbery things that the hair got looped around, with a top that clamped over the curl. I can’t think of anything more ugly than a head full of Spoolies, but again – that’s the price of beauty. My friends and I wore them dutifully.
The rollers kept getting bigger and bigger. Some girls slept with their hair rolled in orange juice cans. We all carried big aerosol containers of hair spray in our handbags in case we needed a touch up on our highly-teased and backcombed tresses. The 1960s were the years in which our hairdos were bigger than we were.
Whoever invented the blow comb should get an award. No more sitting under the Darth Vader helmet of an electric dryer. No more stiff necks and scalp injuries from sleeping on rollers. Just a few whisks and you’re good to go!
I’m happy to report that I still have my hair. Only now it’s almost pure white. I haven’t sat under a dryer for thirty years. With a monthly haircut and a soft perm from time to time, I feel pretty good about my hair. Finally, I have earned the beauty – without the pain.