Vonda's mother was one of the countries's greatest fans of television soap operas. Her most uttered phrases were things like "I have to go home now; I don't want to miss my stories". Vonda had often thought she took after her mother in this way. One difference was that while her mother's soap adventures were fiction, Vonda's were real life. For the most part, some of Vonda's "stories" were not as dramatic as those on T.V. but some appeared to be. Her everyday life was an adventure. Her "soaps" consisted of true life experiences, humorous happenings and memorable moments she wanted to share.
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By Vonda Wallace
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Vonda Wallace
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE PROFESSION
I am in total agreement with the old cliché, "I'm a Beautician, not a Magician". Although beauticians are artists at designing and styling hair, we believe we are very much needed in other areas as well. We have come to be known as Consultants, Counselors, Consolers, Confidants, and really just good listeners.
In the small Southeastern Missouri town in which I live, a person's hairdresser is one of the most important people in his or her life. Hairdressers rank right up there with Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Bankers, etc. you might not believe that, and as you snicker, allow me to give you an example of our importance.
In the "Heartland of the USA", the weather can be quite catastrophic, There can be a thick layer of ice topped roads with a foot of snow, howling winds and bitter cold temperatures of zero degrees, but still they come. Four wheeled drives fill the parking lot or line the streets of the Beauty Shop. I guess one could say women are like mailmen: Through rain, sleet snow, etc; the "females" will be delivered.
We beauticians have heard many stories. Happy stories, sad stories, dangerous stories, humorous stories, and just in general, stories. Many value our opinions, and not necessarily just concerning hair.
I have had many experiences while working in the beauty shop. Numerous times throughout the years I found myself saying, " I should write a book". So here it is! "Beyond Beautician" is filled with real happenings, true stories of my personal experiences and those of other hairdressers of whom I am well acquainted. You can call us what you want, hairstylists, hairdressers, beauticians, beauty operators, or cosmetologists. In reality, it doesn't matter since all of these titles have the same meaning. We are people doing our best to make other people look their best.
I never really knew what I wanted to do or be when I graduated from high school. I decided on going to Beauty School mainly because of my older sister, who by the way is four years older than me. She was a hairdresser and a good one at that. Many times I would watch her work and create hairstyles, the whole time thinking "That looks like fun to me."
I graduated from high school in 1972 and started beauty school that same year. Although roller sets and teasing or backcombing (same thing) was the technique desired by the majority, blow drying and curling iron use was just becoming popular. I learned how to fix hair before I ever started beauty school. As previously stated, I watched my sister hour after hour as she created hairstyles. You have to have a natural talent for styling hair. Not everyone who goes to school to learn to do hair is good at it, but my sister is one of the best. She graduated from beauty school at the age of sixteen and has been very successful in this profession. I lucked out I suppose, because I also have a natural talent for hair just like my sister. I like what I do and I have always have had a good hair business I am not bragging, I am just thankful that I have a profession that I like, pretty much be my own boss, choose my own hours, make decent money and have lots of friends. I have had good times and have learned a lot from different experiences in the salons where I have worked and am still learning new things.
In 1973 I graduated from Beauty College and got married that same year. I don't know why, I just did. We were married six months when I began my first job as a hairdresser, but the money was not that good. I kept telling myself it would get better. My husband would work some, so with both our salaries, we did alright. We lived in a little house in back of his parent's big house, so our rent was cheap. I just wasn't happy. He had been a good friend of mine until we got married,
Things began to change. He was too controlling and jealous and all I wanted to do was go back to my Mom and Dad, back to Brushy Creek and my country home. I can remember feeling freedom as I lay in the sun on the roof of my Dad's car. No money, but freedom! It was a great feeling! I told myself I would never make that mistake again.
I soon got another job where my sister, Dee Dee, worked. Although the shop was small, it was very busy and the money I made was good. I learned a lot while working at Bobbie's Beauty Shop. I loved working with my sister and I loved the people I worked for. Bobbie and Dee Dee went to beauty school together and through the years the three of us have developed a friendship and bond that can never be broken.
Chapter TwoTHE SHAMPOO
I was blessed with a hump on my nose, better known as the "Wallace Nose" which I inherited from my dad's side of the family. It wasn't all that bad, but I sure got a lot of teasing in high school, especially from the boys. I was often called Roman nose or they would say something like "Hey Vonda" and when I would turn around they would yell, Duck!" I realized they were only teasing, but at the same time, it really bothered me. I guess that's why they did it, boys being boys. I swore to myself that someday I would get my nose fixed. I spent countless hours looking at my profile, trying to imagine what I would look like without the hump.
I now had a good job at Bobbie's Beauty Shop, the time had come and my excitement grew. I was going to get a new nose! I ran across a magazine article describing how to see yourself with a different shaped nose by using black construction paper and a black magic marker. Oh yeah, I did this! I colored my hump with a black magic marker and put the construction paper on the side of my nose so the marker and paper would blend. I would then hold a hand mirror to look in another mirror. Voila! Over and over again, I would scrub the black off my nose and reapply it to see how much of my hump I needed to have removed. One of my clients told me of a plastic surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee. I had no insurance and not much money but I had determination, so I made an appointment. I turned to Mom and Dad for help and their reply was, "Sis, we don't have that much money, but we will help you get it." They cosigned with me for a loan of $2,000.00 at the bank. I was about to make monthly payments for my new nose. My dream was turning into reality.
About one week before my nose surgery, I just happened to watch 60 Minutes on television. BIG MISTAKE!! This particular episode just happened to be about rhinoplasty surgery gone wrong. I saw some really bad jobs such as the tip of the nose falling off, but I was still determined. I had the surgery and came home with some bandages, black and swollen eyes, but I was so happy. No more Roman nose for me!
Upon arriving home from my nose surgery, I went to the beauty shop to do my hair. I had it shampooed and set with rollers and clippies. While sitting under the hairdryer, reading a magazine, something fell on the page I was reading. My heart sank, I panicked, jumped up and ran to the other room before I realized the tip of my nose had not fallen off, it was a mere clippie. Everyone in the beauty shop laughed when I told them what I thought had happened.
At my 10yr class reunion, no one noticed my new nose. Imagine that! But I knew and I have never regretted having it done.
As a hairdresser I did my best to give the client what they wanted. Sometimes I could, sometimes I couldn't mainly because their hair wouldn't allow it. They would come to the shop bringing pictures of Farrah Fawcett, Joey Heatherton and Dorothy Hamil to name a few. Farrah Fawcett's style was the most popular style in the 70's. Girls would come in with fine, straight hair wanting Farrah's hair. We would do the best we could. Curly perms were popular too, or fros. I would go to hair shows, learn new things, and buy different working tools to use all with the idea to stay up with the new looks and please my clients.
My main business was my weekly clients. Teasing or backcombing was popular. I could fix someone's hair one week and the next week they'd come back in with it looking almost the same as when they left. I'd fix it again for another week. This was okay, I knew that would make as far as my pay and I could depend on my weekly clients to be there.
I'd go out with my friends, mainly on Friday night. I remember there were several Saturdays that I really didn't feel so great from the night before.
On one of these Friday nights I met someone. He was a charmer and very handsome. We clicked. He was wearing a ring that was so neat. "One of a kind" he said. He had made it. I liked it so he gave it to me. I thought "How sweet!"
The next week at work one of my favorite clients came in. I started fixing her hair and suddenly she noticed my ring. "Where did you get that ring?" "From a friend" I said. "He made it." I couldn't figure out why she was acting so peculiar. Well, needless to say my client, who was married, was having an affair with "my friend." I did not know this but found out several months later as everyone else did. I had given him the ring back earlier because he asked for it and said someday I'd understand. Hey, no explanation needed, I just really liked the ring!
Seeing people weekly as we do is almost like a therapy session for them. We need their problems, their joys and we see pictures of their children and grandchildren. WE LISTEN!
We've worked during earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and UFO sightings. Bobbie was telling me that one time during a tornado she and four of her customers got into the bathtub, while they sat there waiting out the storm, Bobbie introduced them to each other. In another salon I worked at a few years later we all went into the supply room that used to be a bank vault. The salon had previously been a bank. It was a "SAFE" place to be when the sky turns dark and eerie looking. Yes, I've worked during fires, flooded shops, gas leaks and most certainly shampoo hose get-a-ways. Oh that's fun!
I had a blind date with a guy whose mother had an appointment with me that day. I guess I was nervous. The shampoo hose got away from me. We both got soaked before I could turn it off. I was so embarrassed. I went on my date, but didn't like him much anyway.
Sometimes we hairdressers make house calls. I remember a time more than a quarter of a century ago we did just that. Bobbie and her husband, my sister and I took a little drive about 20 or so miles away to give perms to two elderly women. Bobbie and her husband told Dee Dee and me that one of the ladies we were going to perm had led an interesting life. A MADAM? Worked for Al Capone? "WOW" this will be an adventure! It certainly was! The former Madam was dressed in knit slacks, old tee shirt, no bra and had a cigarette dangling from her lips. I wrote a book, she said, and I want to show it to you, here's a picture of me when I was younger. I couldn't believe how beautiful she was in her youth. Her book was her story, her experiences and on the cover was a picture of herself dressed very classy and sitting in a chair. She had lived a very colorful life.
I am who I am, but I am also who I am depending on who is sitting in my chair. Is she a minister's wife, a stripper, a school teacher, a preacher, a player, a postmaster, democrat, republican, Catholic, Baptist or Pentecost? You must be thinking, "What does it matter, they are just getting their hair done?" But it does matter, at least it matters to me. All of my life I have been told, "The customer is always right." Even if it isn't true, they believe they are, so they need to feel comfortable and relaxed as well as the hairdresser. Hairstylists must have multiple personalities in order to converse with the different types of people who come into the salon.
There are two subjects hairstylists are taught to avoid in the workplace. I am sure other professions have been told this too. Politics and religion are fighting topics! I have been asked flat out "who did you vote for?" "What church do you attend?" I want to say, "None of your business," but instead I just say, "Two things we were taught never to discuss ..." Nine times out of ten I would have voted for the other man anyway and my religious beliefs would be totally opposite. I am sure that in larger salons in the bigger cities, these are not issues, but where I come from, Southeast Missouri, people really do cry out "SHOW ME." I have witnessed loud arguments about politics and religion among clients in the salon. I always thought how silly these outbursts were. To me religion and politics are similar. This stems from a memory of mine, the true heart of the child within and that I still am. When I was barely three years old, we were at church and several people were discussing being Democrat or Republican. I knew I was something too, so I shouted out "I am a Pentecost!" "Out of the mouth of babes" PS: 8-2 I was only a baby bit I can remember the feeling that something was going on. I could feel the friction among the people. Democrat, Baptist, Catholic, Republican, Pentecost, Methodist, etc... WOW! All of these labels! Why all the fuss?! Are we not all God's creations anyway?
Chapter ThreeTHE PERM
Mannequin heads are used a lot in beauty school. They are used for the students to practice rolling perms, roller sets, cutting, finger waves, pin curls, etc. Although Bobbie did not use her mannequin head for practicing anymore, she kept it for other useful purposes. Since Bobbie traveled alone sometimes, she thought it would be aa good idea to pretend she was not the only person in the car by creatively positioning the mannequin head on a box in the passenger seat I suppose this made her feel safe.
Bobbie's sons are also creative, especially the oldest one. One day he came by her house and just happened to notice the mannequin head. An idea began forming in Barry's mind so he asked Bobbie if he could borrow it. It was no longer any use to Bobbie so she said he could just have it. Being the practical joker he was, Barry could really have some fun with this! Barry and a couple of friends were always running trot lines. Barry let one of the two guys know what he had planned but the joke was on the other guy. He did not have a clue. They all three go to the lake to run the lines, they were going to leave the lines overnight, go back the next day and pull the lines up to get all of the fish they caught. Barry returned later that night to tie the mannequin head to the trot line. He then went back home to get a good night sleep so he would be ready for the next day's big catch. The three amigos were in the boat. Tom was pulling the line up when suddenly the head surfaced. Poor Tom almost had a heart attack right then and there. Barry and the other guy began laughing. Tom did not think it was very funny. The old mannequin head had served its purpose. It had been a practice head in beauty school, an extra passenger in a car with Bobbie and last but not least, it's ultimate use as a trot line practical joke for Barry. What a life!
After many years of me, Bobbie and Dee Dee being together in the salon, Bobbie decided to retire. My sister and I wanted to have a surprise retirement party for her. We would invite all of her clients, family members, and friends. We wanted it to be special, just as special as her.
Bobbie had special shoes she wore at work. She always left them at the shop and would slip into them as soon as she arrived in the morning. They were her favorite shoes and they did have a history. Dee Dee and I wanted to get our hands on those shoes so bad to fix them up and present them to her at the party. Somehow we got them without her noticing. We decided to leave them as they were and spray paint them gold. The hairs that were embedded in the soles were also sprayed gold. As we presented the golden shoes to Bobbie, the little hairs in the shoes were twinkling and glittering. What a memento! Dee Dee and I had planned everything perfectly for Bobbie's retirement celebration. We listened to numerous songs so that we could choose the perfect one to be playing when Bobbie and her husband walked through the door. We decided upon Kenny Roger's all time hit "Through The Years." The big night came! Bobbie's husband had told her that he was taking her out to eat. As they walked in the door, I anxiously turned on the eight-track tape player. To everyone's surprise, rather than the much anticipated heartfelt and romantic song, "Through The Years" Kenny Roger's began belting out "Let's Go Out In A Blaze Of Glory, All Good Things Must End." We just let it play anyway. Maybe it was the more appropriate of the two.
After the presentation of the hairy golden shoes and after the mix-up of the entrance song, Bobbie and her husband, Lee, danced to the song "Through The Years." When the dance ended there was a round of applause, a toast to the handsome couple and last but not least, Bobbie was roasted by several close friends and co-workers. Although it was a little sad, everyone had a great time because they knew they would still get to see Bobbie when she came to the shop to have her hair done. I must remember to ask Bobbie the next time she comes to the shop if she still has her golden slippers.
Excerpted from Beyond Beautician by Vonda Wallace Copyright © 2010 by Vonda Wallace. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Profession....................1
Chapter 2 The Shampoo....................7
Chapter 3 The Perm....................13
Chapter 4 The Cut....................17
Chapter 5 The Portrait....................21
Chapter 6 The Neutralizer....................25
Chapter 7 The Color....................31
Chapter 8 The Highlights....................37
Chapter 9 The Straightener....................45
Chapter 10 The Stylist....................49
Chapter 11 The Client....................53
Chapter 12 The Updo....................57
Chapter 13 The Set....................61
What is a Hairdresser?....................67
The Finished Style....................69
Chapter 14 My Roots Are Showing....................71
Life Of S.C. Wallace....................73
About the Author....................99