Pioneer Potluck: About water, hair cuts, perms and kitchen sinks

  • By Grannie Annie
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2014 3:04pm
  • LifeFood

1940, on the farm in northern Colorado

Do you know how lucky we are to have running water and never worry about it? Our farm had a cistern and water was hauled to us every two weeks. I grew up with a warning from Mom almost every day — drink all the water in your glass, don’t pour it down the sink. Don’t run water unless you use it. So we usually drank cold fresh milk from the refrigerator. We had plenty and besides my Dad said it was good for us!

Mom washed our hair once a week while we were standing on a chair at the kitchen sink. In the summer and spring we would go out into the warm Colorado sun and let it dry. (Never heard of hand held blow dryers.) It didn’t take long for my fuzzy white cotton hair to dry. Ginger had thick curly beautiful auburn hair. It would take a long time to dry while we lay out on the cellar door. I loved her hair and always wanted to brush it. She would let me brush it “just a little bit.” I spent long hours in front of the mirror wondering what to do with my straight as a string hair. Ginger and Elaine would just brush theirs and it would look beautiful. Elaine has curly dark brown pretty hair that dried into ringlets.

Mom had a friend that owned a “hair shop” — our words for beauty shop and beautician (hair lady). Mom would go every three months and have her thick black hair “permed” and I finally talked her into getting mine “permed.” I think I was in the fifth grade. Up until then I endured the bobby-pins in my hair almost every night during school so I would have curled hair.

The trip to Fort Collins was exciting enough but getting our hair permed was really exciting. We would climb up in the big chair and the pretty lady with beautiful hair and red lipstick in a white smock would put a cape around you, then she would swing you around and lay you back in the chair and wash your hair. What a privilege!

Then she lifted your head and fixed the chair and cut, snip and trimmed. She would take you over to a big monster dryer. It was a big chair with a lid on it, that blew hot air on top your head and made you sleepy. Then we had to go back to the swivel chair and the pretty lady would put thick green goop perm solution all over your hair, roll the hair into big tin curlers.

Then she would roll another big monster machine out with millions of long wires swaying and swinging. They had clamps on the end of the wires. They were clamped to the tin rollers on your head. She would flip the switch and the thing would start humming.. When you could smell your hair burning, they turned off the switch and unclamped the clamps and unrolled your hair and I’m not sure but I think they washed it again and put your head back under the dryer so you could finish sleepy. When it turned off you woke up and we were beautiful after she combed it out.

I really liked my hair with the fuzzy curls all over my head. Not to be left out Ginger wanted a perm too, so both of us got to go the next time. They washed, cut, snipped and set us under the dryer while Mom went to the Five and Dime store (Woolworth’s) “for just a minute.”

When she came back, Ginger and I were singing at the top of our lungs underneath the loud hairdryer, not knowing everyone in the shop could hear us sing “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” The dryers made so much noise we just figured no one could hear us. Mom hurried over and “shuuusssheed” us, but not before everyone in that hair shop was smiling and making comments about our (my inability) ability to sing. We had several of those types of perms in the hair shop before Mom decided she could give us “Toni Home Perms” (we just called them “Toni’s”). It cost much less but I really missed sleeping and singing under the hair dryer at the “hair shop.”

The reason for this story is this week we have had a fluctuation of power because of all the wind. The water well switch has suddenly stopped turning on and off. (It actually is more complicated that this!) So as I write this Bob, John and Dan are “pondering” the problem with the switch and hopeful we will have water again. Bob told me this morning that it is much better on his knees in the bathroom switching switches than in past years, usually having to go down the hill to the pump house by the lake in this wind, hard crusted snow and ice. I agree … we are lucky. (Somewhat.)

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