102. Hair Makeover

In case you’re too young to have experienced it, this is how we used to get our hair curled in the olden days.  This contraption was called an electric permanent wave machine.

My mother, Josie, operated a beauty shop for 20 years or so, and until I was about 12 years old, this is how my sister Joan and I used to get our “permanent waves”.

The procedures for setting up, winding the hair, applying the chemicals, attaching the electrical rods, timing and cooking the hair, and cleaning up afterwards was probably similar in complexity to the execution of criminals in the electric chair.  And, like electrocution, it was something you didn’t want to have done frequently.

We never got a permanent oftener than once per year.  This is because the process turned our hair into frizzy steel wool and it took all year for it to relax, at which time Mother would do it all over again.

Mother had naturally curly hair herself so she never really had a chance to experience the ordeal on her own.  Instead, she went about the task with gusto and good will. One time she even did it to one of my little brothers who suffered lifelong post-traumatic stress as a result.  He was still talking about it 50 years later to anybody who would listen.  Mom kept trying to tell us “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”

This form of torture during the 1930s was eased out by a fabulous new discovery called The Cold Wave.  The Cold Wave was the cosmetology breakthrough of the century. It allowed straight hair to become curly without heat and electricity.  And without as much frizz.  My mother and the ladies who came to the shop were beside themselves with joy, and so were Joan and I. The only real drawback was that we couldn’t wash our hair for several days after and until then, we smelled like sauerkraut juice.

Flash-forward 70 years.  Enter my granddaughter, Josie Warden.  Josie was named after my mother, and it shows.  Josie’s interest in hair is nothing short of electrifying.

It wasn’t at first though.  Until she was in 9th grade, Josie would only allow her hair to be combed in two different styles.  The usual way was pulled back tightly into French braids which ended in long pigtails.  Think Amish colonies.  The second which she would occasionally accept, involved a pony tail worn like a geyser gushing out over her left ear.

Josie’s wardrobe in those days consisted entirely of garments purchased in the Boy’s Department. Any effort to get her into a dress was met with ferocious opposition.  When she was 14, she was junior bridesmaid in her sister Elizabeth’s wedding, and at her insistence, instead of a gown, I made her an alternative pair of satin pants and top.

Right after that though, hormones, the opposite sex, or high school influence kicked in. The big makeover was launched and has never concluded.

I think Josie is a blonde but no one really remembers for sure.  Her hairstyle, color, and presentation vary from week to week, sometimes from day to day.  So does her wardrobe and accessories.  Just when she becomes recognizable, it’s time to get changed and we start over.

At least hair is easier to manipulate now than it was during earlier eras.  To show you what I mean, check out all the hairstyles you may catch Josie wearing.

My Mom definitely would have approved.

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9 Responses to 102. Hair Makeover

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    What fun to hear about your Mom! Do you have a pix you could add of the electrical contraption?
    I remember the days before hair dryers that came in the 60’s. We used to have to wash our hair at night and sleep on big rollers with much effort. And also before hair rollers, we’d put our hair into little circles and put bobby pins to hold them while they dried. We also appreciated hot rollers that we’d wear around to curl our hair. And every hair had to be in perfect place.
    Linda Lewis

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Josie looks cute with all those hairdos! I especially like that dark one with the green… future possibility??? 🙂

  3. Joy Opsvig says:

    Hahaha, this post made my day! Loved all the different hairstyles Josie! 😉

  4. Josie Warden says:

    Hahaha oh my god!

  5. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    I have a picture of that permanent machine. I think I sent you one once. Look in with your 50th anniversary things.

  6. Gretchen Covey says:

    I didn’t know Grama Josie ran a hair salon! Sounds like hair care was electrifying! How fun that Great Granddaughter Josie has beautiful hair. I love the video with different hairstyles! Great job, mom!

  7. Rene' Melchior says:

    great blog! oftener? I don’t know that I’ve heard that one before.

  8. SandyT says:

    Do you know the origin of the picture? I remember getting a perm like this when I was a little girl and it looks just like me at that age.

  9. donnabrendel says:

    I saw this machine at an antique store yesterday. I figured it must have failed its trials in the factory and never actually got used by the general public. I can’t believe it really did get used. Thanks so much for sharing your story! My Grandma also used to say, “It hurts to be beautiful,” when I sat for my perms as a little girl, but there was no machine involved, thank goodness!

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