"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

Beauty Shops

Drawing of a lady in a window, leaning over backward to let her long, long hair dangle down in the breeze to dry

     WHAT WOULD YOU THINK IF YOU were walking down the street on a bright, sunny day and looked up and saw a mop of long hair hanging out of a window? It was a common sight any sunny day back in the early 1900's if you were walking past Mrs. Kinnear's house at the corner of 8th and Ohio streets, where the Bess Stone Activity Center now is. Everybody had long hair in those days.

     Mrs. Kinnear was a short, dark haired, plump widow. She talked quite a bit. When you had your hair washed, it took a long time because all the drying was done by hand-rubbing and the sun. Your hair was first brushed vigorously, then soaped, rubbed hard, and rinsed over a tin-lined bath tub. Rain water from the cistern was soft and the castile soap lathered easily.

     Mrs. Kinnear had been known to rub salt on the scalp to stimulate it, but one young, black-haired girl, soon found she was turning into a red-head, and that treatment was stopped at her father's request.

     Mrs. Kinnear would have you sit on a low stool and hang your hair out the window after she rubbed your scalp good and

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hard. As the sun streamed through the window on the south, you would turn first with your face out and then with your face in the room; until your hair was dry. As people walked by, towards town, they often could recognize some of the owners of the hair by the color.

     It cost 25¢ for a shampoo including having the hair braided or "dressed". She would take several strands of hair, twist them and pin them on top of your head with hair pins. When you got home and removed the hair pins, you had a semblance of a wave. Some of the young high school girls called this process, "The Kinnear Kanob".

     Not long after Mrs. Kinnear was in business, Miss Hilda Lofgren started her shop in her home in the 700 block on Kentucky Street. Hilda was a tall, blonde, angular woman, who always carried an umbrella when she walked to town, whether rain or shine, winter or summer. She rinsed your hair over a china wash bowl. The wash bowl was one of those kind with a matching pitcher and waste jar. All three pieces were used.

     Hilda's widowed mother would help her by rubbing the hair dry and visiting with you with each vigorous rub, and each painful jerk of the comb trying to get the snarls out. Mrs. Lofgren was a large, strong, rather heavy woman. Once in a while, someone would whisper they had seen a male customer entering the house for scalp treatments, falling hair or receding brow, no doubt. These appointments were usually after working hours to avoid chance encounters with a lady customer.

     You didn't go to a shop oftener than once a month. For home treatment, it depended upon the season of the year, how often you washed your own hair. One girl in the neighborhood had a luxurious head of hair. She shocked us one day by saying she washed her hair in water only twice a year. She brushed it every night 100 times by count, and often corn meal was rubbed in her scalp and then brushed out.

     When drying your hair in the wintertime, you had to stand or sit over a floor radiator or sit by the open oven door in the kitchen. Devices for curling the hair were ingenious. Some recall cutting a tin can in strips, wrapping each strip in paper and rolling the hair over each strip. Rags were used. Either process, the hair was dampened first. Kid curlers came next. These were small pieces of wire covered with kid leather, and you bought them in a variety or department store.

     By the time beauty parlors started up downtown, curling irons were used to make the round curl. The irons worked like a scissors in that the hair was put between the two tongs, and wound around the outside. The iron was heated over a lamp chimney or a stove burner. Later, the electric curling iron appeared. With these instruments, you could also curl your hair at home.

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     When the Marcel Wave came in, the single heavy bar had to be handled by an operator trained in knowing how to make a deep natural looking wave, and not a round curl. The bar was heated over a rectangular shaped gas burner about six or seven inches long and two inches wide. Incidentally, the Marcel Wave started in France when Mr. Marcel, a beauty operator, followed his mother's natural wave to get the natural effect. The Marcel Wave is practically a lost art today as beauty schools no longer offer it. It takes too long to learn it. When the wave was in vogue, K. U. students would get one for a big party, then hurry back to the shop in a day or two to get a retrace for another party, or between times before their next shampoo.

     Mrs. Fay H. Brown, a past member of the board of the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association and former State President of the Kansas Cosmetologists Association, came to Lawrence in 1927 and purchased one of the leading beauty shops down town. She said there were shops in Topeka as far back as 1895. Marcel waving was all the rage when Mrs. Brown came to Lawrence. It was followed by comb waving and finger waving. Hair pins were used to hold the wave in a finger wave. Pin curls followed, and bobby pins held the hair in place.

     Permanents came in during the early 1920's. They were very expensive. In Kansas City there were only two or three shops with the reputation of not ruining your hair or burning it off. Not only were there those hazards, but you risked all of your hair possibly falling out months later, or getting your scalp burned in the process, due to excessive heat. If you felt you might be getting burned, you would signal the operator who with a bellows would blow on the hot spot.

     About 1920, short hair was coming in. If you decided to make that momentous decision, whether to cut or not to cut, and you decided to cut, you had a permanent at the same time.

     My first permanent was in Kansas City and it cost $35. It took a full day. Mrs. Brown says the first ones came from wrapping the hair in paper pasteboard tubes. When the paper became brown, your hair was "done". The operator would then take a pair of pliers and crack the pasteboard tubes. Many a permanent came out fuzzy. Brilliantine was used generously, to take out the fuzz and dryness of the hair.

     The "Frederick" wave was considered one of the best. The price was one dollar a curl and some heads took as many as sixty curls. The spiral wave was followed by the Croquinole, in which the hair was wrapped around horizontally. The popular home permanent was the "Nestle". A set cost $15. There were five spiral rods to wrap your hair, and one electric heater. It would take five or six hours with long hair as you could only do five curls at a time.

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     Beauty prices in general have been steady with a gradual rise, except during the Depression. One cutrate shop here was known to have charged 15¢ for a shampoo and 25¢ for a set if you dried your hair at home. Hair drying in a shop was done first by hand, and then the arm dryer came into existence. It was portable and was moved around over the head with the operator rubbing the scalp to hasten the drying. The modern dryers today do not even need heat, but some heat is used merely for the comfort of the customer. Needless to say, they are much easier on the hair.

     There were few legal restrictions on beauty shops in the early years. You could complete a beauty course in six weeks. Now it takes nine months. If you had been practicing the profession, you were exempt in taking the course. You could hang up a shingle with no experience. No license was necessary at first. The operators' uniforms have changed little, except color is now often used instead of white, and materials are mostly drip-dry. There used to be only two kinds of nail polish -- clear and natural. Manicures were 50¢; now they are $1.75 and up.

     Going back to the early 1900's, any makeup was looked upon with disfavor. If you were known to use it, you were just not the right kind of a girl. So, you would rub your cheeks real hard, or pinch them. Red crepe paper, moistened, was rubbed on the cheeks too. One young girl living in a small town, bought rouge in Topeka where the druggist wouldn't know her or tell that she used it. Lip sticks were not in existence, so you bit your lips and moistened them often.

     Instead of "teasing" the hair, you "ratted" it. Toilet water and perfume were in liquid form only. Deodorants were unheard of and when they finally came on the market, you consulted the family physician before you were allowed to use them. Beauty shops made their own liquid soap by shaving bars of castile soap and mixing the liquid in gallon glass jars. Brilliantine, to make your hair shine, was used as early as the 1890's. One home recipe was:

"Eau de Cologne -- 1 oz.
Glycerine -- 1 oz.
Clarified honey -- 2 oz.
Rectified spirit -- 4 oz."

and if you think curling fluid is recent, back in 1890 was this home recipe:

"1 oz. borax
1 drachm gum arabic
1 pt. hot water
2 T. camphor."

     Hair coloring was sub rosa. It was done to cover up the telltale grey hairs. Rinses and bleaches and dyeing were all done

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behind closed curtains. Lemon juice, peroxide, and camomile tea were used for blondes, either at home or in the shop.

     Wigs were rare in those early days. And if they were worn, it was a dead secret. Today, the modern woman comes into the shop carrying her smart looking wig case, discusses how she wants her wig styled, and makes the appointment when to pick to up. The price is at least double the regular price for a shampoo and set. The re-do is done on an average of once a month. Wigs are a convenience today for the woman who wants to swim in the daytime and dance that night.

     One K. U. alumnus visiting in California this summer, met a former sorority sister of some forty years back. The first night they were at a party together, she was a blonde; the next time they met, she was chestnut haired; and the third time, a redhead. The lady was never caught in swimming, so the visitor is still wondering whether her real hair is grey or white. "Only her hairdresser would know for sure."

Printed in Journal-World Nov. 12, 1965

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