My grandmother reluctantly started to wear Eva Gabor wigs at the age of 52. Her hair had been badly burned at the hands of a 1930’s salon perm and her thinning hair failed to cover her bald spots. Hence, a different style of Eva graced Mary’s head every single day. But, even with all her hair issues it never stopped her from inflicting home perms on me. There was no talking to my stylist, Grammy Knight. She would stand there forever adjusting her wig from side to side in frustration, until I gave in.
I can remember the smell of a Toni Perm like it was yesterday. Just seeing the little plastic squeeze bottle coming towards me still gives me nightmares. Did you know there were actually rules and instructions for those perms? My family knew their own version all by heart, as it had been handed down by word of mouth through many generations.
When the perm was over the towels were taken out to be boiled in hot water because they smelled. The scent was almost up there with Vick’s Vapor Rub– on the top ten most hated list. I remember being catatonic. My Grandmother? Grammy Knight went outside to shake her wig. It seems that her Eva Gabor wig wasn’t that comfy when she was stressed out. I finally nipped the perm in the bud in 1961. When the movie “The Parent Trap” came out, I went to the hairdresser with a picture of Hayley Mills’ pixie cut and said, “Do this!”
I was interrogated by their many patrons and hairdressers. They were horrified, it was so short I pretended to be Audrey Hepburn, from “The Nun’s Story,” for the next few months. The perms have traumatized me for years- in fact I still can’t talk about it LOL.
Hair Dressing Salon
The Hair Dressing Salon in Mr. McCaffrey’s building having fallen into his hands, William Chenett is prepared to execute hair dressing, hair dyeing, shaving, shampooing, the setting of razors, scissors, shears, etc. Gentlemen’s and ladies’ curling particularly attended to. He has spent a considerable park of the last 15 years in the leading establishments of New York, Montreal and Ottawa. Hair restorative always on hand.
September 14, 1869. Carleton Place
Longer version of this story in my book Menopausal Woman From the Corn