Hair Care in the Nineteen Thirties

When I was a young child living in New York and Westchester County my mother would take me in to New York City to Best & Co. on Fifth Ave. Our destination was the “Lilliputian Bazaar”, a department for children with clothing and a barber shop. I still remember my mother telling the barber that, “my daughter has painfully straight hair” and indeed it was straight and was cut in the short bob with bangs so frequently worn by little girls in the 20s and 30s. I always got a balloon after the cut, with Best & Co. written on it.

Later in life as an older teen, I remember setting my hair in pin curls with bobby pins every night. One day I was in the bathroom working with my hair for so long that my mother came in and threw me out, bobby pins and all. We both were laughing as we picked up all the pins.

Then the day came when I decided to go the permanent wave route for the first time. It was summer and we were in the little log cabin that my mother and father owned in the mountains of North Carolina. We had both made appointments in the local beauty shop to try a permanent wave. I was the first to go. The machine they hooked me up to looked like something out of a horror film. Wires hung down from a contraption in the ceiling. At the end of the wires were clamps that were fastened to curlers on the head, and then they threw the switch! Heat reacted on the evil smelling permanent wave solution and “voila” there would be curls - or frizz - depending on how lucky you were. In my case it wasn’t so bad as to be despairing, but it wasn’t so good either.

When I got home mother was eagerly awaiting my results. She said nothing - just sat at the table, tapping her fingers thoughtfully. “Remind me to break that appointment,” she said.

Pat Broman!
Southbury, CT © 2015

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