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My Childhood "Tale of The Beauty Shop Babes"

Updated on August 21, 2017
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

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Everyone knows one. Every small town has one. I am not talking about a brothel, but something with a lot more pizzazz, zing and fiery gossip. Say hello to the beauty salon. In the late 1940s through the evolution of women's suffrage and other female-related battles, the beauty salon was once deemed the beauty shop. Now think about what I have just written.

When was your last visit to a beauty shop as a customer? And for that matter, why? If you were under the impression that a beauty (salon) and (shop) carry distinguishing differences, you would be right. Let me wax philosophical. The beauty shop was the center pole of any small town, America. And not to compete with men, (who flocked to the barber shop every Saturday morning) but American females not only wanted, but realistically, needed a central location for them to congregate without being hassled by their husbands for secretly-plotting how to slide on rib roast for their husbands.

The ladies of a time gone by were wise, I tell you. These sharp-minded ladies wanted to "come out" of their hum, drum, regimented lives and have a place where their hair could be cut, styled, permed, even dyed. What a radical idea, a woman daring to dye her hair. Beauty shops were all about the women. Nothing but women, so help me God. And even now, in our ego-driven society may never know the fullest extent of what women who stuck to the beauty shop (like flies once the lid wasn't removed) to talk about secret things that no male should ever hear.

I don't know about you, but could be the beginning of a sizzling quarter paperback sold in most drug stores. I mean it. This thesis has all of the crucial ingredients that says, "Best seller." Women talking about women's issues. Women talking about talking about women. And when the "money spot" reaches a few chapters, bam! Onto another chapter.

When I was at the awkward age of nine, I went with my dad to the men-only barber shop one Saturday morning. What a treat. Even the idea of getting to go to town from where we lived in rural northwest Alabama was like going to Heaven. But my dad, a total disciplinarian, said, "see that seat right there? Put your butt there. Don't talk. Don't move." I did just that. I was my hometown's first "Living Mannequin," dad could have promoted me. I could have raked in the dough, but riches just passed me on by. And doggone it. I was good at this gig.dis

The men-only barber shop. Plenty of vulgar jokes, hard cursing like a sailor on leave (matter of fact, I did see one sailor waiting for a crew cut), men smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars and no "No Smoking" signs--the few men with asthma didn't smoke, but coughed out a tune that would have made John Philip Sousa jealous. Some guys who were friends with my dad didn't meet for a haircut because of their baldness, but for some good old rib tickling and one-line zingers that most had a sexual overtone. My dad laughed with the best of them. Dad never knew it, but I admired that part of him being a man. I did.

I confess. In my latter teen years, I practiced using profane jokes and words. But no one (friends included) admired me for doing this. They only laughed at me and not with me. I wish that I had known what I was doing wrong? I know that nine year old's are mostly stupid, but most grow in mentality. Obviously not me.

My dad had this gift, so to speak, of lighting up one of his unfiltered Camels, take a draw, and as he exhaled the smoke, told a short joke all the same time and all without one cough or strangle. Oh, the men who didn't smoke, just sat and chewed their tobacco or enjoyed a dip of their snuff. The two barbers, Mr. Lloyd Killingsworth and Mr. Sam Carter, (their real names) loved the comradre as well as the vulgar jokes, men staring outside of the huge window ogling those late 1950s women who all wore dresses due to someone telling these gals that it was no appropriate to wear pants in public.

Yep. Smoking, cursing, telling lies like drinking water was the inteior of our men-only barber shop. And if a mom was to get his son a haircut, she simply walked him to the front door, opened it and suddenly she was gone as fast as DC Comics' The Flash--aka/Barry Allen. It was like, to me, that in this time, women from our hometown, Hamilton, Ala., were literally afraid to be seen near or inside a men-only barber shop. Maybe these gals were afraid that the "appropriate" ladies of town would see them and like a hungry mongrel eating a stolen t-bone, rumors about the nice gals would be started and then the nice gals' character would be besmirched.

If you ventured to set foot inside a beauty shop at this same timeframe, you would find pretty much the same atmosphere--all but the smoking. That was another battle for women in years to come, but I just happen to find out that most beauty shops were built where they had a side alley and guess what the alley was used for? Smoking of cigarettes for the brazen, brave ladies who loved to sneak a puff while their hair was set in curlers and needing some nicotine to settle down.

Beauty shop gossip was not that vulgar as it was for the men in the barber shop. But when a woman was retelling a juicy bit of adultery, she never used the "F" word. She merely placed her dainty hand over her mouth and whispered it to her best girlfriends who all in pure harmony moaned, "Ohhhhhh! I'll be." Vulgar talk and proper women did not curse in public or in the beauty shops. I will go to my grave believing that (these) gals were afraid that some men's clubs had bugged the beauty shop to keep tabs on these early female revoluationaries.

But as did the men, so did the women unload to their female friends about how sorry their husband was in always wanting to drink a cold beer or three instead of going out once in a while for a steak. Women of this generation could never educate their hubbies that a housewife has a need to be taken out and romanced just like she was accustomed to when the husband "swept her off of her feet." What brings me to this thought and it too is women-related: (these) gals who were often disappointed by their husbands although appreciated him making the money, secretly wanted him to be the Don Juan who she fell in love with in the back of his '55 Chevy--and doing things then that would make her body quiver and shake as she softly yelled a few hundred "yes's" and "that's it, Curt," before he took her home.

Funny thing about life. Couples like those that I have just spoke of, get married, "Curt" gets a good job, brings home the bacon and "Jenny Takes a Ride," but it is on the "Ho, Hum Express," and both fall more silently and deeper into that rut that causes husbands' nerves to burn out and mental faculties go to ashes. No wonder the "Jenny's" of this time frame were heading the nearest beauty shop to confide in best, single girlfriends about this impending marital tragedy, divorce or her married girlfriends who just signed her divorce papers somewhere in Juarez, Mexico for only sixty-three dollars tax included.

Usually, "Curt," and other burned-out husbands who worked on some assembly line or insurance office was beat when he dragged home from work and then came Saturday that for some reason, these husbands thought that God created Saturdays just for them. I would wager that this was the earliest reason why the beauty shops were built in the first place--so chained-up housewives could have a reason to get to town. And get their hair done. It wasn't the gals' hair that needed doing. This was a great ruse. This was the most-ingenius solution to married ladies having a place to be free if only for a couple of hours.

Of course, driving the family car was another battle for these eager females, so with enough arguing and proving her metal, women were allowed to use the family car, but a daughter was always sent just so a woman driving her car did not take on the look of a common whore or prostitute. This is why most men would drive their wives to the beauty shop and claim that the wives were being "escorted" out of respect for their womanhood. Mercy! A woman driving by her lonesome. What would the church say?

I would be willing to crawl "out on a limb" here and not because I am full of testosterone or another Alan Alda, but because I have fell off of some mighty tall limbs in my life. I have the scars to show you. But this is my point: If the higher up's at any given prosperous beauty shop, you would discover (at no surprise) that a lot of these same "customers," with all-American names like: "Donna," "Martha," "Peg," and "Margie," would be apt to plot (without knowing it) any government overthrow. Who would be the wiser? These gals were and are very slick. This is why I would advise you, the male who does not know the truth about beauty salon babes, to stay your distance. You have no business inside an all-female beauty salon--if that be possible in today's tolerant government.

The hairstylists with equally-tough names such as: "Billie Blaze," "Delilah Blade," "Red," and "Blond Mama," were to be feared by all living things on the earth. Example: have you, a normal guy, circa age 22, and made the human mistake of walking into any all-female beauty shop and watched how silent the shop became? What about the surprised and glazed looks that you received? Just what was the crime that you committed? Did you also know that you were mere inches from being roughed up, shot down, and kicked to the side alley to bleed.

I made this mistake once. Just once. And I was only 13 at the time. My mom, a hard-working seamstress at a then-prosperous textile plant in a small town named, Detroit, Ala., a scant 25 minute drive from Hamilton, where I live and my mom always worked hard--day in and out. Daylight 'til dark. Never offered one complaint to her parents, my dad, or even God. She knew how to endure and pull ahead with whatever load that she was burdened with.

But when she became more at ease within the world system, she told, (not asked), my dad to take her to a beauty shop on the courtsquare in Hamilton. This was an all-female shop. And my only task was to sit in the pick-up truck while my dad went to visit with his vulgar-talking buddies at the barber shop. Yes, an all male shop.

I grew impatient. I was a terrible judge of time. Oh, I knew how to tell time, but didn't own a watch. A terrible predictament. In what I thought to be another hour and the time that my mom should be walking back to the truck, I caved and slowly walked to the glass door, opened it wide and walked back to where my mom was sitting underneath a dryer.

The silence was so loud that I almost covered my small ears. And children at age 13 have small ears. Mom was having a good time for the first time in years. I didn't come to the shop to put a damper on her joviality. But the shop owner and her good female cronnies, all gave me a plastic smile with plastic lipstick (I could only assume) and the owner managed to say, "little guy, are you lost?" Which caused the entire flock of females to cackle and cluck in laughter.

"No, just looking for my mom," I replied while looking down at the green tile floor.

"I'm right here, son. What's wrong?" My mom asked. And if I had needed her, she would have ran like the wind to help me. I loved her that much.

"Just wondering when dad will be back from the barber shop?" I said.

Then she motioned for me to walk over to her so she could whisper to me what I asked. After a minute, I felt better--but I also noticed that the beauty shop babes and hens all stretched their necks (all ages past 34) trying to see what I had said and what my mom said.

Good thing though. If one of those beauty shop babes had just made an improper motion for them to harm me in any way simply because I was a male and had gonads and other reproductive private parts, it would be a hospital trip for them thanks to my mom who was my son first and then I was a young man.

In years to come, I learned how much that I loved my mom for always protecting me, but I also learned in my early 20s that I wish I had met just one of these beauty shop babes. You really need me to elaborate?

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© 2017 Kenneth Avery

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    • kenneth avery profile image
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      Kenneth Avery 8 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Linda,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I can relate to you in the cutting hair remark. When I did visit the men's barber shop, which has now been upgraded (in bigger cities) to the unisex hair salons, I would get more entertainment by just listening to these colorful guys share their work, life, and hey, I wish that I had copied down all of these stories--I would be talking to you from my home in Destin, Fla.

      Write anytime, Linda.

    • kenneth avery profile image
      Author

      Kenneth Avery 8 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      RoadMonkey,

      You are right. But if you are living where I am, I don't know of any authentic beauty shop as used to exist in our

      small town.

      And certainly not any of those "babes" (in my eyes) who loved to talk to female clients (in that day) but thank you for your comment. I appreciate you so much.

      Write soon.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 9 months ago

      The barber shop and the beauty shop will continue to exist in some form, if only so you can talk to someone "like" yourself.

    • Linda Courtney profile image

      Linda Courtney 9 months ago from Bensalem, PA

      Loved your tale. Oh the gossip. For some reason to this day I sometimes say I'm going to the "beauty shop" to get my hair cut. It's ingrained in me.

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