One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is going to the beauty parlor with my mother.
For many years, Mama had a standing Saturday morning appointment at Beauty Bazaar in Dothan, Ala., with Bryan Wiggins, her hairdresser. Bryan and Imogene Grigsby were co-owners of the beauty shop, located in a shopping plaza about a quarter of a mile from our home.
Beauty Bazaar was a typical hair salon for the times: you walked into a room filled with chairs for cutting and styling hair and beyond was another room with nothing but vinyl-covered chairs with big dome-shaped hair dryers attached overhead.
When we got to Beauty Bazaar on those Saturday mornings, I always made a beeline for the hair-drying room where there was a Coke machine that sold 6-ounce Cokes for a nickel (the 10-ounce Cokes were a dime). After getting my drink, I’d go back to the other room and sit in the chair next to Mama’s while she got her hair washed and rolled and listen to the grownups talk.
Every Saturday, Bryan and Imogene would caress my thick, blond hair, which hung to my waist, and tell Mama not to ever let anyone cut it. My mother was actually the only the only one who ever trimmed my hair, usually every three months and almost always on a Saturday night right after she washed it and before she rolled it on socks.
(For many years, I thought all little girls had their hair rolled on socks – mismatched items culled from assorted sock drawers in the house. I also thought all older girls, like my sister, had their hair rolled around two large empty orange juice cans.)
When I got a bit older, Beauty Bazaar moved to a new location, farther from our house but closer to Mama’s office. Her standing appointment moved from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon at 5. Three other women also had regular appointments with Bryan or Imogene around that time: Willie Mae Godwin, Mary Bastein and Margaret Murphy.
These four formed what I could only describe as a club. They gossiped about other women (Bryan and Imogene provided much of the fodder for these discussions), swapped recipes and child-rearing stories and talked about work.
These women, in their 40s in the 1970s, were of another generation – all born before the Great Depression. They all played bridge, never wore pant suits, worked outside the home when their own mothers had been homemakers, and they could all, if push came to shove, ring the neck of a chicken, pluck it, prepare it and serve it up for Sunday dinner.
They met once a week for about two hours to have their hair “done” – washed, rolled, combed out, teased and sprayed – and to cultivate their friendship, which reached beyond the beauty parlor.
I can remember Mama picking extra peas, butterbeans or squash when she went to the pea patch in the summers to take to Willie Mae. In return, Willie Mae would send Mama home with a real pound cake, the kind made with six eggs and two sticks of butter.
Many weeks I accompanied Mama to her Friday afternoon hair appointment and I can remember thinking that when I got big, I was going to go to the beauty parlor every week just like she did and have someone fuss over my hair and talk with my friends and laugh at their stories.
But I’m of a different generation, one that makes appointments on the fly, taking an opening when one is available with my stylist, whose last name I don’t even know. Most of the time, I’m in and out in less than 30 minutes and if I have time for her to blow-dry my hair after it’s cut, I consider myself pampered.
I know now I’ll never have a standing beauty parlor appointment anywhere with any stylist in any town. I’ll never be a member of that club. But I do envy the woman who is.
Ginna Parsons is Daily Journal news editor.