The Catt Box

 

'The Shop'

 

good_look_nook_2.jpg (11402 bytes)Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are those built around my mother's beauty shop....'The Good Look Nook'. It began in one small room in North East, Maryland, then moved on to Perryville, and we lived there for nine years (my bedroom in Perryville for nine years, was upstairs, upper left corner of the picture.....directly above a section of  the shop). 

the_shop_beginning.jpg (12594 bytes)Then my parents built a house in a town called Colora, Maryland...but I always told everyone it was in Rising Sun,,  which is only a mile up the road. I don't know if Colora even shows up on the map. But the shop was inside our home...it was a combination of an existing room and the enclosed front porch. A bathroom was added later on. (this picture was taken in November 1965 when the shop was just one room in Perryville)

good_look_nook_1.jpg (12560 bytes)I loved the beauty shop. I loved the women who would come in every week, sometimes twice a week. Those were back in the days when it wasn't just about 'getting your hair done'...it was about gossiping, complaining, friendship, the camaraderie between the ladies, and us! It was about socializing between the classes. In a beauty shop, you were 'one of the girls'. 

mom_in_pants_suit.jpg (13809 bytes)Mom's shop was decorated in white and gold colors...(tacky gold cherubs and sconces everywhere).....and a thick cigarette smoke 'fog' hung in the air like a pool room. And the shop was filled with all the smells.....hair color, perms (which would make your eyes water)....the hair spray, setting gels, and various perfumes that the ladies wore. Mom had a Coke machine and the Lance cracker guy would come in once a week to re-stock our crackers. And every week he would fill out the invoice to read "Good Looking Nookie"....he never tired of that old joke.

The girls would be sitting under dryers and in other places in the shop....drinking little bottles of Coke or tall glasses of iced tea from our house.....talking, laughing, showing off pictures, or reading magazines.  Some would bring in their own drinks and lunch, or trays of food for everyone. It was a real social event...and on certain nights 'the gang' would be there...the ones we were the closest to...the ones we had the most fun with. They would stay in the shop till real late at night. Mom would even go play Bingo with a few of them on Tuesday nights. 

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I remember the conversations about the 'controversial' Jacqueline Susann, and whichever book she had on the store shelves at the moment. The ladies of the shop would compare their own secrets with what Jacqueline wrote. But for a long time, the hottest book was "Valley Of The Dolls". They also loved romance novels or things that Truman Capote would write. (this second picture is of Mom's 'Jacqueline inspired' hair style)

I watched the ladies trade their own copies of books with each other, for the ones they hadn't read, yet. I also listened to all the 'reviews' on the movies of the day...."Last Tango In Paris"...."The Godfather"...."Doctor Zhivago"....."Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice".... "The Graduate".... "Rosemary's Baby"....and "Love Story". 

"Love Story" would make you cry. Of course, it was also discussed as to how much Ali McGraw 'cussed' through-out the entire  movie.....but 'Jenny dies'....bring your Kleenex! And no one ever quit talking about "Gone With The Wind".....ever!

  

But whatever was discussed, the favorites were always about the scandalous books, movies, Television shows, or the local gossip. And those were also back in the days when the store across the street from our beauty shop would still wrap 'feminine products' in brown paper wrapping. Times sure were different then. Choices were limited, as well....Kotex, Modess, or Tampax...that was it!

I remember the ladies being very opinionated, but in 'favor' of all the scandalous events and films and books. I don't remember anyone being upset about them. These women, once in the shop, seemed to be 'empowered' together....agreeing with the changes of the world and of the entertainment world. I could tell, even then, that many of those women were not allowed to state such opinions at home. However, at the shop, they could be who they wanted to be. They could agree with things....openly.

Mia_Farrow.gif (44080 bytes)There were those who watched the daytime soap operas, which my mom, at the time, didn't do...and some of the ladies would go into our house so they could watch their favorite soap. They would also discuss, in great detail, "Peyton Place"...and why Mia Farrow cut her hair that short...what was she thinking? But Mom, and Ermalee, would schedule their appointments around when "Peyton Place" would come on so they could rush in the house and see as much of it as possible, even if it meant turning Mrs. Reynolds' hair dryer back another 15 minutes....shhhhhhhh!

These were back in the days when your patrons were your 'bread and butter'...you could count on them every single week, no matter what. They would schedule an appointment around the beginning of the week for the 'shampoo and set' and then schedule for later in the week for a 'comb out'. That way they would look 'fresh' for the weekend. They came for their appointments in any weather...rain, snow, ice, wind....it didn't matter. Many of them had a 'standing appointment'...same time, every week...and we never changed it unless they asked us to....that was their time slot!

I liked listening to all the different methods they had for preserving that massive 'hair sculpture' on their head. One lady said she slept while sitting up...and she would have to. I never figured out how she kept her balance. You would not believe how high what_were_they_thinking.jpg (14985 bytes)her hair was piled up, while shooting straight off the back of her head.....and she loved it that way. There was no way she could lay her head down on a pillow. She often remarked that the only time she would get to lay down was to lean back in our shampoo bowl while getting her hair washed once a week. Another lady described how she would wrap her hair in toilet paper. Another lady found that silk scarves worked for her. (this is a picture of my mom, her brother, and her sister. What were they thinking?)

I was a shampoo girl in Mom's shop for many years. I have big, strong hands and they loved my shampoos. And remember, back then, women would have their hair washed only once a week....and with all the setting gels and hair spray, can you imagine how their head would itch? I remember watching Mom run a pencil down through that 'big hair' in order to scratch an itch on her scalp. So, I would get in there and scrub 'em to death...and was 'tipped' very well for my services. They appreciated feeling like they had been 'shampooed', and with me, they did feel it!

good_look_nook_7.jpg (13377 bytes)These wonderful ladies were a huge part of my life. They watched me grow up, they used to sample my cooking and baking, they listened as I sang "Allegheny Moon", and played the organ. One of the women taught me how to crochet when I was about ten years old. I still crochet to this day, thanks to her. All of the major events of my life were shared with those women. They encouraged me, taught me, cared for me, and talked to me. (the woman in this picture is 'Pud'...and is pronounced as though you are going to say the word 'pudding', only without the 'ing'....and that is her youngest son, Tommy. I've known this woman for so long ...she was with me when I had my Polio vaccination)

The lady who taught me to crochet was obese...and she was supposed to be on a diet...she was always on a diet. Well, we would get the biggest kick out of her. Her husband would drop her off to get her hair done, and the first thing she did when he left was buy several Cokes and several packs of Lance crackers and just eat the entire time she was there. She would let me sit on her lap....and I loved her, too.  She worked as a waitress and she would always reach into her pocket and give me a dime every week. 

When I knew I would be going to Europe for 11 days, when I was 16 years old, a very sweet woman, Jeanette, helped me by giving me tips and hints for traveling abroad. She was born and raised in Paris, France, and had a very thick French accent. She was also the first woman I ever knew to have 'breast reduction' surgery.....and boy, that was talked about for years....

Anyway, Jeanette was also one of the 'wealthiest' women to come into the shop. We all knew it...and it was very obvious by the jewelry she wore and the car she drove and the things she would talk about.....including her infamous 'theme parties'. I loved her. I didn't care anything about her money .....she paid a lot of 'attention' to me....and that was more priceless to me than any money she possessed. She never bragged of her 'wealth'...she just looked very classy and 'comfortable', but I would always hear the comments from the other ladies. In spite of the gossip I heard from them, I always formed my own opinions of them.

Misc30.jpg (17738 bytes)Jeanette did not have children of her own, and she sort of put me 'under her wing'. I remember one time she told me she had flown home to Paris, France and she was seated on the Concord right next to Marlon Brando...and this was around the time of his controversial movie "Last Tango In Paris".....and the buzz that went on about that......tsk, tsk, tsk....

good_look_nook_4.jpg (12888 bytes)I also saw the ladies who were physically abused, and our shop was a place where they came for friendship. No one 'did' their own hair back in those days. So, they would always make their visits, no matter how bad they looked....black eyes, missing teeth. Nothing stopped them from coming in. I still have old 8mm movie film footage of one of the ladies who really took a terrible beating from her husband. It took her weeks to heal those marks, and she had a tooth knocked out from that particular beating. I remember the 'story' she told of wrecking on her bicycle. (this is a picture of her and my mom)

good_look_nook_10.jpg (12740 bytes)We also had the alcoholics and the drug addicts, as well. Some of them would come in drunk and fall asleep under the hair-dryer, and we would take turns as to who would wake them up. If we didn't wake them up, only parts of their hair would be dry. I remember Mom and a few other ladies swapping pain pills and nerve pills...I never really understood it, but I did see it all the time. Diet pills and Valium were a big hit in the shop. Mom lived on Lance crackers, coffee, cigarettes,  and pills.

We also saw the ladies who led 'alternative life-styles'...and though several of them never actually admitted it, there were all the 'indications' and the whispers. My parents didn't concern themselves with that bit of information, but some of the ladies were horrified by it. We just tried to schedule their hair appointments around each other. 

We also suspected those who were having affairs and those who were contemplating divorce. One woman managed to keep her entire pregnancy a secret. She was a tiny little lady, quiet, but a regular....saw her every week.  I went to school with her daughter. Anyway, one day her daughter called and cancelled her appointment, her mom had just given birth to a baby boy the night before. WHAT? No one even suspected she was pregnant! How on earth did she get that one past us? She never looked pregnant to us!

good_look_nook_3.jpg (19094 bytes)I've seen just about every walk of woman imaginable. Women groomed themselves differently back then. They would shave off their eye-brows and 'pencil' them in. Now....this could really liven things up in the shop. Some of these ladies were not very  consistent...and you never knew how they were going to look from one week to the next....the 'deer caught in the headlight' look....the 'surprised' look....the 'Groucho' look....the 'pitiful' look, or the 'scared' look.  The trick was to not laugh at them when they got there. (this picture is of Terry, a girl who worked for us for a few years....tweezing someone's eyebrows)

good_look_nook_9.jpg (12110 bytes)I can remember during the daytime hours of  New Year's Eve, too....boy, that shop would be packed...and all of us were in there trying to get them done and out of there. One New Year's Eve was on a Saturday, one year....and Mom did a record '51' patrons that mom_with_lights.jpg (36664 bytes) day....that was also talked about for years. But the big hair-do that day was the classic Beehive, or some kind of 'up do'....as long as it was 'big hair'....only this time, they had these battery operated things that would light up these clear strands of some sort of plastic. So, in the dark, these wisps of string would light up the women's hair. (this is a picture of Mom with one of those 'light things' in her hair)

good_look_nook_8.jpg (18499 bytes)To get those women 'done and gone', one of us would shampoo them, another person would 'set the hair'....put them under the dryer. And when their hair was dry, another person would do the 'teasing' of the hair....then, when their turn came, all my mom had to do was sit them down and smooth out their hair, or 'sculpt' it into whatever style they were getting. It was crazy in there...but a lot of fun and we were dead tired when it was over....but Mom and Dad would still make it to the Fire House Dance that night. 

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There were so many hairstyles back then, but among the favorites was 'The Flip'...and I saw so many variations of it. And everyone had the back of their hair teased up high. The ideal length for 'The Flip' was around the shoulders. That was the length everyone wanted. I have seen women 'covet' those deep, fluffy flips....and trade secrets on how to achieve that look.

Then we have the fashions they would sport. It was all I could do, at that young of age, not to stare. We have all seen the woman with the really high 'Pope' hair....stark red....the classic 'Beehive' sculpture...and you could always count on a few of those women to actually stick those 'pipe cleaner Bubble Bees' down into their big Beehive hair-do....so they looked like they were 'suspended'....flying around their heads. Yeah, that was a real 'man magnet' there. What man isn't turned on by a woman sporting a 'Beehive' with fake Bumble Bees suspended around it? I think that was 'early birth control'.

But these particular ladies, and we have all seen them, would have those 'dagger nails'....at least four inches of curled up, horrid finger nails with eight coats of nail polish on them. And remember, this was long before acrylic nails were popular.....so, these ladies really grew these things. They would be 'over-endowed' in the chest area, and hide it under a huge sweater or sweat shirt. They would wear skin tight slacks, or 'leggings' of some sort....little gold slippers, and the biggest purse you've ever seen....more like a 'young suitcase', if you ask me. They had tiny, thin lips, with red lipstick on them, blue or green eye shadow, on just the lids, big chunky jewelry, and a fabulous and 'busy' cocktail ring. Their skin was white, their teeth were yellow, and their facial features were very sharp....and they were always holding a cup of 'cawfee', and calling you 'doll'.

They smoked too much, laughed too loud, and spoke in a very "New Yawk" accent....they drove long Cadillacs, loved Liberace, had a small dog, tolerated an unromantic husband, lived in a 'ranch style' home, played 'the numbers', and knew someone  named Bernice. God love those women!.....

 

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February 16, 2001 Copyright Cathy Palmer-Scruggs