Hairspray

I just had my memory joggled by a FB post by a friend, so I thought I’d take a moment and jot down my memories of my mother’s beauty shop that was one half of our renovated 2 car garage when I was a kid. The other half was the Red Room, which I’ll also describe for you.

In the late 60s – early 70s, my mother did hair in her shop at our house. She’d gone to cosmetology school in the early 60s (one of two choices: cosmetology or business school) then gotten married and proceeded to pop out me and my brother. My father worked at Robert Shaw – Fulton in Oak Ridge [TN] as a machinist. This plant was a part of the war effort and also the space exploration effort. My father worked on a steel box that was used to collect rocks from the moon. Isn’t that the coolest?

My mother opened the shop to make money while my father’s union was on constant strike circa 69-71 or so. I don’t remember why (money, no doubt) but I do remember my parents being stressed out and my dad being home all the time. So they converted the 2 car garage and mom opened the shop. My father left Robert Shaw – Fulton around that time and got into the real estate biz.

Anyway, my mother had this shop, complete with a full wall station w/ washing sink, hydraulic chair and two hair dryers. My brother and I used to play on the hydraulic chair. I remember the coating of hair spray on the back of that chair. You could flake it off like plastic. The station filled the whole wall on one side and had a black sink. The hydraulic chair and hair dryers were lilac and white.

My mother taught me how to wash hair properly as soon as I was tall enough to reach that sink. She’d do my hair in a bouffant and I remember sitting under the dryer with rollers in my hair. I have a picture somewhere of me asleep under the dryer. Since it was a bit past the hey day of the bouffant, my mother mainly had old ladies coming to the shop. I think she charged $4 for a wash/set. They’d come in once a week. (The thought of not washing my hair for a week makes my skin crawl!! I’ve always been a daily washer. I’ve got a greasy head.) One lady I can vaguely remember was Nelly, who had tinted red hair and wore a short bouffant. I think she was one of my mother’s favourite clients. I remember her as being tall, but I was only 5 or 6 at the time.

The door to the shop went into a laundry room, then another door went into the Red Room. The Red Room was a large family room with a fireplace along one wall. The hearth went almost to the ends of the wall. The house was white brick (which I love to this day) and the fireplace/hearth was made of the same brick. The room was paneled with grey paneling that had black seams. Red carpet ran wall to wall. It was a mediterranean themed room, so the furniture was low and fat, covered in red velvet. It was a sectional, with a low square black topped table at the corner. All the cushions came off that sectional, so we used them for forts and such. There was a huge square black lamp on that corner table that looked like it was carved from lava. We also had a large console TV in there and we always put the christmas tree in there – displaced from the front room, where it had previously lived until the new addition.

This was also when we got a new, 7′ fake tree from Sears. It was my job to put it up every year, which I did until I left home in the 80s. When my mother decided she didn’t want that tree any more, I snatched it and now it is MY tree. This thing is at least 40 years old by now, and still looks awesome. And it’s still my job to put it up every year. :)

I remember riding our pedal tractors (got of pic of those, too, somewhere) in there before the carpet was laid – probably the first Christmas it was built (I’m thinking it was probably 70-71). I also remember being stung in the eye by some insect in there and being stung on the hand by another insect at a different time.

The most important thing I remember about the large console TV in that room is the day they reported Elvis was dead. It was summer (yes, Aug 16, 1977) and I was watching something on TV, when a crawl came across the bottom announcing that “Elvis Presley was found dead in his Memphis home, Graceland”. My mother was in the laundry room or the (now defunct) salon and I ran to tell her. She came out and we stood in front of that console TV and cried over Elvis.

My mother did hair until the mid 70s. She was having trouble with her eyes, so she went to the ophthamologist and it was decided that the hairspray fumes were causing the trouble, so she closed the shop. Of course that wasn’t the problem, my mother has posterior uveitis, an inflammation of the uveal tract that causes the pupil to deform (hers looked like a crescent moon), blurred vision and floaters. Once it was more or less under control, she’d have occasional flare ups and I remember her steroid eyedrops in a little pink labeled bottle (I believe it was Pred Forte.) The disease caused her to have cataracts which she had removed a few years ago. As it turns out, my mother has had several auto immune diseases (ITP for one) and a current one that is ravaging her motor control and has ruined her mobility. Of course her sub par doctors have no idea what to do, so she takes Lyrica for the symptoms but they are not doing anything to stop the disease. Buuut, my healthcare rant can wait for another day.

I just wanted to write about the hair salon that I grew up in. This is why I know so much about hair. My mother taught me all about colour and stuff when I was kid. I’ll dig through the archives and see I can find some pix of the salon and Red Room.