BY GINNA PARSONS
TUPELO – This past fall, Lucy Barber began planning her retirement. After 46 years of washing, perming, coloring, cutting, teasing and rolling hair, she had decided it was time to turn in her curlers.
“But every time I thought about it, I got so depressed,” Barber, 79, said as she brushed customer Frances Black's hair. “I got on my prayer line to the Lord and I talked to him. You know, most women my age would need to take a nerve pill, but this is my thing. I just couldn't do it. The closer that Oct. 7 came, the sadder I got.”
So Barber left her shingle up at Lucy's Beauty Salon on South Church Street, where she can be found tending to customers two days a week.
“On Thursdays, I start at 9:30 and work about half a day. I start at 5:15 Friday mornings and go to lunch,” she said. “It's not a full-time deal no more. When I was full-time, I'd have 18 or 20 on the weekends alone. I was rolling then, wasn't I Frances?”
Barber has been styling Frances Black's hair as long as she's been in business -47 years this October. Black's appointment is always Friday at 10 a.m.
“There's no point in asking for that time for an appointment,” Black said. “That's my time.”
Barber has several regular customers like Black – women who come in once a week for a shampoo and set. She also does haircuts and permanents, but it's her regulars who keep her going.
“I make enough to buy my groceries, my gas and to pay my tithes to the church,” she said. “And I enjoy every bit of it – washing, and rolling and styling and talking. These are my people.”
Hairdos come and go
Barber was a late bloomer and didn't attend cosmetology school until she was right at 30. But right from the beginning, when she opened her first shop on Chestnut Street, she was a success.
“I worked 12 to 15 hours a day and on Saturday, too,” she said. “My poor little boys would come home from school and wash the breakfast dishes, I was so busy.”
And, oh, the hairdos that have come and gone.
“The pageboy, the shag, the necklines. And the beehive. Honey, when you do a beehive, you've done it all. We took up more time teasing – you was earning your money then. You had to tease it as big as you could get it. Once you've teased 18 heads of hair on a Saturday, it will nearly wear you out.”
But Barber's not completely shot yet. She thinks she still has a few more good years to give to her profession.
“All my life I've wanted to do this,” she said as she put the finishing touches on Black's hair. “I have no plans to retire. I'm turning that over to a higher power. I'll be here till I go to Pegues Funeral Home or the Rapture comes one.”
Contact Ginna Parsons at 678-1581 or firstname.lastname@example.org